Journey into Space: Operation Luna Audio CD – Audiobook, 2 Jun 2011
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Audio CD, Audiobook
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About the Author
Charles Chilton was born in London in 1917. He was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in the First World War and his mother died in the 1918 flu epidemic. He started work aged fourteen, for a company that made electrical signs, but left in 1932 and got a job in the BBC record library. From here, he worked his way up to becoming a full-time producer. After a few years presenting music programmes, Chilton joined the RAF when World War Two broke out, and was sent to Sri Lanka to run the forces' radio station. On his return, he produced some of Alistair Cooke's first broadcasts from America. Chilton himself then spent some time in the United States, writing and producing several series of American Western history. The most successful was "Riders of the Range," which was first broadcast on the BBC Light Programme in 1949 and ran for six series. It was replaced by the show that would bring Chilton international recognition: "Journey Into Space." The serial was commissioned by Head of Variety Michael Channing, and was initially planned to be twelve episodes. It ran for three series, was translated into 17 languages and attracted huge audiences: at one point, almost 8 million people were tuning in. Chilton was to go on to produce many more hit shows, including "The Goon Show" and "Oh! What a Lovely War," which was adapted first as a stage musical and later as a film directed by Richard Attenborough. In 1976, Charles Chilton was presented with an MBE, and the following year he retired from the BBC. He died in 2013.
Top customer reviews
Journey to the Moon (Operation Luna) was penned by BBC producer Charles Chilton and originally broadcast in weekly 30 minute episodes from September 1953 to 1954. Set in 1965 (a pretty good estimate for the first moon landing), it charts the attempt of Captain Jet Morgan (Andrew Faulds, later a Labour MP), Doc (guy Kingsley-Poynter), Stephen `Mitch' Mitchell (Bruce Beeby) and Lemmie Barnett (Alfie Bass) to land a spacecraft on the moon. But what will they find when they get there? And will they be the only ones there? The series was originally 18 episodes long but the first four episodes (which took place on Earth) were not very well received by listeners. Popularity increased when the rocket `Luna' blasts off on its journey in episode 5. The series was re-recorded for broadcast in 1958 when all the original tapes were erased, omitting the first four episodes , giving us the 13 episode series that was to become known as `Operation Luna'.
Part of what makes Operation Luna such a joy to listen to is simply the quality of the storytelling and the strength of its very well-defined characters. Jet Morgan is courageous and strong, Mitch (an engineer) is practical but short-tempered, Doc is calm and intelligent. How radio-operator Lemmy Barnett ever became an astronaut is anybody's guess, but what he lacks in his knowledge of the solar system he makes up for with wit and resourcefulness.
Chilton's script is hugely inventive and filled with plenty of very sound science and philosophy at a time when landing on the moon was still a distant dream. There is also some neat social and environmental commentary provided by a mysterious `voice' first heard by the four crew members in episode 9. There are plenty of dangers for the four men to face during their voyage. In one high point in the story, all power systems aboard the ship have failed and Luna is stuck on the moon for a number of weeks, plunged into darkness and running low on food and oxygen. Jet reads from H.G Wells' classic novel `The First Men in the Moon' to keep their spirits up. It is a superb, imaginative production, rightly regarded as classic radio.
The BBC released this series on CD a number of years ago, but only in a small run and at rather a high price. Thankfully they saw fit to do so again and this new release contains every 30 minute episode in its full glory on 7 discs, and at an attractive price. The quality of the transfer to CD is excellent, given the age of the production. The first disc also contains a PDF file with a 16 page booklet about the series. Also included is a half-hour documentary about the series and the last remaining very brief snippet of recording from the original `Journey to the Moon'.
The series is set in 1965, the year in which Chilton believed humans would first walk on the Moon. It was first broadcast in 1953–1954 .
Jet's father (Sir William Morgan) launches his A.24 rocket from the Rocket Research Station at Poker Flats. But something goes wrong, and the rocket heads towards Las Vegas, out of control. The rocket hits Las Vegas, killing at least 35 people. The result is the closure of the Poker Flats site.. Meanwhile, Jet joins Mitch in his Operation Luna project – a rocket to reach the Moon.
Jet is the rocket's pilot, and he and Lemmy travel to Australia to meet Mitch at the secret Operation Luna base. On arrival, Mitch takes them to meet Smitty, the team's doctor. But he's dead!
Doc Matthews replaces Smitty (who died from a coronary), and Lemmy is to be the radio operator. Mitch spots a plane flying around the launch site, suspects spies are active, and advances the launch date.
The rocket "Luna" sets off for the Moon with Jet, Doc, Mitch and Lemmy aboard. The crew loses radio contact with Earth. Lemmy hears odd 'music' on the radio. Contact is resumed, and a tiny meteor hits Luna. While the ship does no sustain damage Lemmy hears the strange music again outside the ship and panics.
Luna turns for the Moon landing, and Lemmy hears the 'music' again during the final approach. The crew narrate their first moonwalk by radio to Earth on October 22, 1965. While exploring a crater, Jet vanishes from sight.
The crew experience strange things. Jet has visions of the past and the future. The music disturbs Lemmy again. Doc sees a strange dome over a crater, and writes an odd diary entry without realising. Their last week on the moon passes without incident, but as they prepare to leave for home, the ship completely loses all power.
The crew are stuck on the Moon and unable to trace what has caused the power failure. A fortnight passes, with the air temperature rising in the absence of air-conditioning. The crew sees a UFO on the televiewer on the seventh day. They hear strange noises on the tenth. When they have just enough oxygen to reach home, power is restored to the ship. The UFO lands outside.
Mitch is inquisitive and enters the UFO, where an alien intelligence posseses him. Luna takes off and orbits the Moon; on the far side, the crew encounter a fleet of UFOs, which pursues them.
The UFOs accelerate Luna to an incredible speed, and the crew blacks out. On recovering, they find themselves out in deep space, with no sign of the Earth or Moon. In the distance, a planet is approaching.
The crew land Luna on the planet and discover that it shares many of Earth's characteristics. For example, oxygen atmosphere, drinkable water, carbon-based vegetation and ice-caps at both the poles. After studying the stars one night, Jet deduces that they in fact are on Earth, but that they've travelled thousands of years through time. Jet discovers a prehistoric stone knife near Luna. This suggests that they've travelled back in time. But there is some confusion over this when the crew discover the tracks of a great tank-like machine near their ship. One morning, a UFO exactly like the one seen on the moon lands nearby, and a voice asks: "Hello Luna!" The crew talk with 'the voice'. They learn that the strange music they've been hearing is from a strange, omnipresent power that 'the voice' and his people use to drive their ships. 'The voice' warns them that they are in great danger, and persuades them to enter the UFO, which takes off. Eventually it lands again, in a city of domed buildings. They learn more about 'the voice' and his people. They are a peaceful, scientific race from the opposite side of the universe. They learnt to travel through time when their solar system was threatened by its expanding sun. The crew explore the city, and are disturbed by a close encounter with a sabre-toothed tiger. The creature does not attack them, but they now realise that they have travelled back through time instead of forward. They enter a domed building, walk down a long dark tunnel, and emerge in a huge underground city. They are invited into another building to meet 'the voice', but are terrified by what they find inside...
'The voice' consoles the crew, who are embarrassed by their shock, and guides them to another dome where they have a meal and beds to sleep in. Next morning, 'the voice' tells the crew about the Earth's native 'forest creatures'. They are destructive and hostile animals, and promises to help the crew get back to their own time. While preparing Luna for take-off, the crew are horrified to realise that the 'forest creatures' are, in fact, prehistoric humans.
'The voice' is not pleased to learn that the crew are descended from the 'forest creatures', but in the end agrees to help them as arranged. Luna takes off and is accelerated by the UFOs; the crew blacks out. They start to ponder on the nature of time. They become concerned about their shortage of fuel, and whether they will remember their adventures when they reach their own time.
The crew return to the Moon in 1965, but with no memory of their adventure on prehistoric Earth. Their rations have been replaced by water and an unknown bread-like substance. Doc's diary contains a detailed account; and there's a prehistoric stone knife on board Luna.
A great slice of nostalgia. Dramatic music and hammy acting. Recommended if you like old school pulp sci-fi, with moralistic overtones.
Most recent customer reviews
It's a classic sci fi adventure with a strong Dan Dare-ish feel to it.Read more
Money well spent.