on 31 January 2007
The series follows NASA during the Apollo moon-landing programme; each episode focuses on a different aspect, designing the spacecraft, training and the missions themselves. There is also an episode that focuses on the wives of the astronauts, which I thought, was a good idea.
The missions are all well done in the same quality as Apollo 13 movie.
Apollo 12 is my favourite in the "Is that all there is" episode but all are very good.
The extra DVD is good with the documentary of the making of the series although I would have liked it to be longer.
In short, if you liked Apollo 13 you will like this.
When I was in the first grade in Orlando, Florida our class would go outside to watch the Mercury flights take off from Cape Canaveral, so the American space program made a big impression on me as a child. Of course, now I have a daughter who is surprised to learn that human beings have walked on the moon while I remember "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." being interrupted by a news bulletin about the fatal fire that killed the crew of Apollo 1. My father was stationed in Japan for most of the Apollo flights, so except for Apollo 11 we did not get to see a lot of what everybody saw back home. Consequently, for me "From the Earth to the Moon" is a combination of vague memories and new information.
Having also watched "Band of Brothers," the other HBO documentary in which Tom Hanks had a significant hand, I am struck by how these two mini-series have essentially redefined the term more towards its original meaning. Unlike landmark mini-series such as "Shogun" and "Winds of War," where each episode picks up the main characters pretty much where they were left at the end of the previous episode, "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Band of Brothers" clearly offer up distinct episodes in telling the story of the Apollo space program. The only constant characters are really Eugene Cernan (Daniel Hugh Kelly), the one Mercury astronauts who never got to fly and ended up heading the program, and the fictional television anchorman Emmett Seaborn (Lane Smith), who represents an amalgam of all the newscasters who were big boosters of the space program.
Most of the episodes focus on a specific Apollo flight, but there are also episodes on different topics, like the development of the lunar module. There are episodes that of surprising comedy, such as when the crazy Pete Conrad (Paul McCrane) takes Al Bean (Dave Foley) and Apollo 12 to the moon, and one devoted to the pathos of the shattered lives of the wives of the third group of Astronauts. The episode on Apollo 13 is interesting in how it effectively avoids covering the same ground as the movie. We never see the astronauts, we only hear their voices, and since we all "know" the story now the focus of the episode is to show how the space program was confronted with the "new" brand of journalism that was not going to be spoon fed information and heroes by NASA. However, my favorite was the episode in which Lee Silver (David Clennon), a professor of geology, teaches the astronauts how to read the story of rocks as the test pilots being sent to the moon learn to be "scientists." There are lots of familiar faces in these episodes (the proverbial too many to name), but for those who remember the indelible bad boy characters created by McCrane and Clennon on "E.R." and "thirtysomething," there is a special joy in which them play good guys.
"From the Earth to the Moon" is not as informative as a documentary, but it certainly focus on the actual nuts and bolts of sending men to the moon. Actually it does this in a rather engaging manner, and the way in which it combines NASA technology with human drama is one of the strengths of the mini-series. Almost all of the astronauts come out of the series with their images as heroes intact (providing you do not ask their ex-wives), the exceptions being Buzz Aldrin (Bryan Cranston), who really wanted to get out on the moon before Neil Armstrong (Tony Goldwyn), and Alan Shepard (Ted Levine), who we always knew was the grand old S.O.B. of the space program. But even so both men merely come across as being decidedly human. Whether you actually were around at the time to go outside and look up at the moon knowing there were a couple of Americans walking around hitting a golf ball, picking up rocks, and dropping a hammer and a feather at the same time, or this is all just history come alive, you should find this an excellent series of adventures in and about outer space.
To my knowledge, this fantastic series was only shown once on British TV, and tucked away in a lunchtime slot on Saturdays. A shame, as From the Earth to the Moon really made the Apollo era come alive in a way that a straightforward documentary could not. Each episode - fronted by Tom Hanks - takes a different view on one aspect of the Apollo missions, and all of them are compelling viewing. Faultless, big-budget production values make this an attractive series to watch. A welcome release on DVD that won't disappoint.
on 9 January 2007
Only shown once when it was the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. This is a wonderfully detailed look at the era, going behind the scenes at the triumphs and the tragedies of the pre & apollo years.
This was an amazing time for those who were young enough to remember it. There was a special feeling of hope, optimism and the spirit of adventure. People born after this era just don't understand the awe and wonder of the event and even more unbelievably there are a lot of Conspiracy theorist wackos out there who think it was a hoax and done in a studio.
This wonderful short series takes you through the pre Apollo era with the Freedom and gemini flights and the men who flew them. This DVD set of 12 one hour episodes brings that spirit of the time alive again. The series covers other aspects of the Apollo moon missions including NASA's relationship with the media, the effects and pressures on the wives of the astronauts and quite a detailed look at technical aspects and things that went wrong like the Apollo 1 fire and Apollo 13 near disaster. These fit in well with the overall story, but there is humour in these programs as well. Some of the episodes aren't as strong as others but it is done accurately and lovingly by people who cared about this special time and also portrays the lack of interest which crept in after the hiatus of the unlucky apollo 13 mission.
Sadly there is little input or telling of the Russian space program and a lack of input about the development of the huge Saturn 5 rocket with Werner Von Braun, both of which would have made this more interesting. The extras aren't all that interesting. There is a 30 minute documentary about the making of the show with interviews with the actors and Tom Hanks. The other extras are just a couple of pages of reading material which is poorly put together covering a history of the moon and famous astronomers. Highly recommended nonetheless.
on 17 January 2011
After the success of Apollo 13, self-confessed space-geek Tom Hanks set on a very daring and challenging task. Having told the tale of perhaps the most dramatic of all the Apollo missions, he attempted to tell the story of the entire history of the Moon landings. As someone who has recently become interested in these monumental events from before I was born, I was excited to see a dramatised version of the great stories behind these missions.
So, with an unprecedented budget for a miniseries, 12 episodes were shot by HBO, telling the tale of the Apollo program from its inception to the moment when Eugene Cernan climbed back into the Lunar Module of Apollo 17 and closed an all too brief period in human history. The low regard in which many people now hold the Moon landings post Armstrong and Aldrin can be summed up by my own mother's comment whilst I watched the episode 'For Miles and Miles': 'What was so special about this mission?' I replied that it was incredible that Alan Sheppard had returned to flight status and how he became the only one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts to set foot on the moon. Only then did I realise that I should have said: 'Two people walked on the Moon, isn't that incredible enough?'
Nonetheless, the story is told in the most satisfying way. Rather than simply film a launch and mission with landings and splashdown etc, each episode tells the tale of a certain aspect of the endeavour to reach the Moon and the characters behind that. People often forget that behind the 12 people who have actually set foot on the Moon were many other astronauts and literally hundreds of thousands of people working towards making the missions a reality. As each is special in its own way, I think it fitting to put down a few words about each:
1: Can we do this: Perhaps my favourite of the series, the first episode kicks off with footage of Yuri Gagarin's historic first spaceflight and the shockwaves this sent through America. This in turn helped JFK realise that the only way to win the Space Race after this early set back was to beat the Russians to the Moon. The dramatisation of Alan Sheppard's Freedom 7 flight (in a capsule that had technology comparable to my Renault Laguna!) is superb and precedes the planning behind the Gemini program which was used, essentially as a testing ground for Apollo with three of the most important missions dramatised.
2: Apollo 1: The tragic fire that killed the intended crew of Apollo 1 and the inquest behind it is a harrowing story and reveals the pressures NASA faced in brining Kennedy's dream to life. A dark but very well played episode.
3: We have cleared the tower: Another little favourite of mine! This episode is framed by the Apollo 7 flight which was essentially, a long test flight of the new spacecraft and a tentative step back into space, nearly two years after the last Gemini flight and the first since the tragedy of Apollo 1. The mission itself was very unspectacular so the episode tracks a fictional documentary team interviewing many of the ground staff. Learning about the role of the backup crew, the capsule manufacturers, the launch crews and the medical people is fascinating. However, of particular note is the tale of Guenter Wendt - the ex-patriot German pad leader responsible for organising the capsule prior to launch. His ruthless organisation and discipline were much love by the astronauts who held him in the highest regard. This episode tells some of the story of this man for whom it voz his vay, or ze autobahn.
4: 1968: Telling the story of what had been an horrific year for the USA with Martin Luther King and RFK assassinated and the Vietnam war getting out of control, the Christmas flight of Apollo 8 to the Moon, in the words of a message sent to the crew 'saved 1968'. The tensions, stress and unusual and unexpected nature of the mission is told out in fine detail.
5: Spider: Another gem of the series. Framed mostly by Apollo 9 and Apollo 10, this mission charts the story of the Lunar Module. The idea of a separate craft descending to the lunar surface started (as many great ideas do) as just some daft, far-fetched idea and over the course of many years was made reality and turned into a magnificent machine. I love focus on the unsung heroes without whom, there would never have been that giant leap for mankind.
6: Mare Tranquillitatis: Rather self-explanatory, it documents the historic Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin's hopes to have been the first man on the moon and his secret communion on the Lunar surface as well as the near failure of the mission.
7: That's all there is: Another superb episode, this one documents the Apollo 12 mission but in particular, the close-knit crew who and their relationships with each other. Told from LM Pilot Al Bean's perspective, the episode is both warming and in parts, hilarious.
8: We interrupt this broadcast: Coming just three years after Apollo 13 hit cinemas; HBO did not want to simply re-film the movie and so told the story of changing world of media behind the scenes. In particular, it contrasts the techniques of an old-fashioned 'stick to the facts', no frills reporter, and a young upstart, determined to tell the human story. An interesting episode without doubt, but the film Apollo 13 makes much better viewing.
9: For miles and miles: This episode tells the story of Alan Sheppard, grounded due to a medical condition since his historic, first American space flight and his return to flight status. He became the only one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts to walk on the Moon and at the time, the oldest man in space. Like episode 7, it brings smile to the face.
10: Galileo was right: Framed by the Apollo 15 mission, this one tells of the scientific training the astronauts experienced and how it turned test-pilots into geologists. Very informative and a humorous nod to the scientific community who bemoaned the 'throttle jockeys' of Apollo who (at first) would struggle to tell igneous from sedimentary.
11: The original wives club: A brilliant episode featuring the most unsung heroes of them all: The unpaid, uncredited and unthanked wives of the Apollo astronauts and is a thoroughly interesting tale of these women; their requirement to appear to be the perfect, all American women, looking after their husbands and raising perfect families and the strain this put on them. Mainly featuring on the wives of the so-called 'New Nine' (the next intake of astronauts after the Mercury Seven) and how their lives unfolded and framed by the Apollo 16 mission, this is (at worst), the third best episode of the series.
12: La Voyage Dans La Lune: A curious episode that skips between the final lunar mission (Apollo 17) and the famous silent film La Voyage Dans La Lune (A trip to the Moon). As a film nut, I enjoyed the slightly self-indulgent foray into the story of what was then the crazy dream of a madman and the bittersweet look at the final footsteps on the moon make a fine end to the series.
Over all, it is a brilliant mini-series. Rather oddly, with Apollo 1, Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 being the most interesting missions of the program, it is the more unheralded ones which provide the best episodes. This is down to the brilliant decision to use the other missions as a framing device for the (more?) interesting and less told tales behind man's greatest adventure.
One slight criticism is that, whilst re-watching these episodes with my wife, I found myself having to explain certain little points to her during the first three such as who certain people were and what this mission was etc. It does help to have some background knowledge first. Also, I had expected slightly better extras from a 'Signature Edition' but the 12 hours of footage that precede it are brilliant enough to look past that (as it should be).
A great mini-series that will inform as much as it will entertain and should be enjoyable so anyone interested in space. Bravo!
on 19 March 2008
From The Earth To The Moon is one of the best US TV series I have seen, it does help that I am fairly interested in Space but this series is very well done.
It covers the whole Space Race of the 60's and early 70's from the Mercury and Vostok era through to Gemini and Apollo, the special effects are very well done, the Space scenes very realistic, it all looks great on HDTV.
It was interesting for me to see the Gemini missions as I did not know much about them, on one of the missions disaster was only avoided by a few seconds as the craft spun out of control, there was also the first docking in space and the first US space walk so Gemini was a productive era in Space for the Americans.
The moon scenes are also worth mentioning as they were very well done, I thought the effects in general had a slightly magical touch to them really capturing the beauty of Outer Space there is also the bonus disc covering the effects and how the series was made, overall this series is very good has a feel of quality to it and these amazing stories are of course all based on true stories, recommended.