A Russian astronaut trapped in space in a faulty rocket, has five hours to live when his radio makes contact with Marie, a hunter's wife also trapped, in a blizzard swept area of Canada. ... See full summary »





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Episode cast overview:
Nicholai Soloviov
Katharine Blake ...
The General
Deputy Commander
Martin Sterndale ...
Brenda Kaye ...
Michael Adrian ...
Ivan Craig ...
Michael Peake ...
Heather Lyons ...
Hermione Gregory ...
Reed De Rouen ...


A Russian astronaut trapped in space in a faulty rocket, has five hours to live when his radio makes contact with Marie, a hunter's wife also trapped, in a blizzard swept area of Canada. Her daughter is dying of diphtheria, he as a doctor can help her. Written by grunsel

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Release Date:

12 March 1961 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Doomed Soviet Doctor-Astronaut saves life of Canadian girl
5 September 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Imagine a Soviet rocket malfunctioning on take-off leaving the pilot circling the earth with just six hours left before re-entry and death.

Imagine a cabin in the Canadian wilderness, a young girl has a high fever, her father treks out to seek medical help leaving the step-mother desperately trying to call for help on the radio-set.

Imagine that by a freak of radio-waves the Canadian and the Russian find themselves talking to one another.

If you can imagine all that then imagine this. Patrick McGoohan performing his entire role in close-up with what resembles a full-face Formula 1 drivers helmet on. The only physicality he can use is to contort his facial features and hold his gloved hands in front of that same face. Acting through a letter-box in fact. Typical of McGoohan to make everything as hard as possible for himself!

The hour long TV movie (or Play as they called them in 1961) has a wealth of period detail. The Cold War is implicit. The Soviet staff back on earth are desperately trying to find a technology that can save McGoohan from his fiery fate. They are all wearing military uniform. The young girl in the cabin in Canada is suffering from diphtheria. How many of us in the 21st Century First World know what that is anymore? McGoohan is isolated in Space but every ninety minutes his orbit puts him in radio contact with Katherine Black. His initial hysteria on finding himself sitting in his tin-can, like Major Tom, is calmed when Black speaks to him. He explains that he is a medical doctor as well as being an astronaut. From her description of the symptoms, the girl has diphtheria and Black must perform a tracheotomy and he explains to her how to do it. He is also desperate that she write down 'readings' that will tell the Russians what has gone wrong with his mission.

On his second orbit he is initially obsessed with his 'readings' but then is reminded of the girls condition and is glad he could save her life, recalling his own family back in Russia.

On his third orbit he is pretty much back to being hysterical as his isolation and fear take possession of his soul. His screams as his craft burns up are heard by the helpless Black over the radio. She has faithfully written down the 'readings' but it is obvious the authorities will never allow them to be passed on to the Russians.

Back at the Soviet Ground Control it is stated that the failed mission will be hushed up so as not to embarrass the Government. In a final twist it also is also apparent that a female-in-uniform, Natasha, who has been present throughout, was the wife of 'The Man'.

McGoohan is identified as 'The Man' in the actual credits rather than by the character's name. The production takes on three locations. The space capsule is important in the first scenes. In one sequence, rotating the camera creates the impression of the spaceship righting itself, from our viewpoint. The Soviet Ground Control contains numerous flickering oscilloscopes. The cabin has two areas, one contains the radio used by Katherine Black. The other has the bed with the sick youngster. I became fascinated watching Black struggling to remember to press the prominent button on her radio when the time came for her to deliver her next line! I got the impression she got fed up with the whole pretence halfway through!

McGoohan's struggle to emote from the confines of a motorcycle helmet is equally riveting! His lines become almost unintelligible at times as he tries to communicate his desperation. Mind you he switches between English and Stage-Russian so perhaps some of it was in that pretend language! McG gets across the key-note of the piece quite successfully however. That theme is the common humanity shared by a world riven by the Cold War.

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