A group of starry-eyed applicants are auditioned to undergo intensive training in Russia before being flown 100 kilometers up into near space. Here, they will spend up to five days orbiting...
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A group of starry-eyed applicants are auditioned to undergo intensive training in Russia before being flown 100 kilometers up into near space. Here, they will spend up to five days orbiting the Earth, conducting experiments and quite literally watching the world go by - or will they? Unbeknown to them, they won't be in space at all... They won't even be in Russia. They'll actually be in a disused military base at a secret location somewhere in the UK, possibly the most audacious, complicated and ambitious practical joke in television history. Written by
Had its moments but not enough of them to be essential viewing...
The simple concept behind this show is to grab a bunch of Reality TV wannabes, don't tell them exactly what show it is they've applied to be on, weed out all the people with half a brain, and tell the people that are left that the Russians are two years ahead of Richard Branson in the Space Tourism business, and that four of the lucky "contestants" will win the chance to become the United Kingdom's first ever "space tourists" and get a trip on "Earth Orbiter One" into outer space.
Those of you reading this with half a brain will probably already be aware that this has to be a hoax, and you are quite right. The would be "cadets" are fooled into thinking they have been flown to Russia for 3 weeks "training", when in fact they haven't even left the UK, and that "Space Orbiter One" is actually a simulator prop left over from the Clint Eastwood movie "Space Cowboys". The question is, how far can Edemomol (the people behind "Big Brother") and Channel Four push their luck before the "cadets" cotton on and realise they've been had? There are certainly plenty of "plot holes" within the program, which begins its ten episode run by giving us some idea of how the producers converted a disused American airbase in Suffolk into a Russian space facility by cleverly changing all the plug sockets and sticking up Russian signage everywhere and going on a shopping trip to Moscow to buy up genuine Russian products such as shampoo, tampons and toilet paper. Actors were hired to play Russian guards and space lecturers, with one of the few concessions to reality being to hire "Val", a genuine former KGB agent and fitness expert to put the "cadets" through their paces.
"Hang on a moment.." I can hear you saying, space travel takes a lot longer than three weeks to prepare for, and what about weightlessness in space and zero gravity? How are they going to simulate that? That's why they were very selective in who they picked for this show in the first place. The "cadets" are told that they are not going into "outer space", but are in fact going into "inner space" on the outer edges of the atmosphere, and that in any case, the ship has been fitted with "artifical gravity generators". Rather surprisingly, these "cadets" brought this story without question, along with many others along the way - 80% of what they were told was true, but about 20% was complete bulls**t. White Lycra bodysuits were purchased from fetish-wear and sex shops and presented to the "cadets" as genuine space-wear, and they were told that the Russian city of Minsk was named after a pioneering space monkey called "Minsky". Just to make sure that there weren't too many doubts among the "cadets", three actors were planted among their number very early on with instructions to help dispel any doubts the contestants might have and try and convince them it is all real.
Having chosen the four lucky "winners" (actually three contestants and one of the actors), they launch off into space for a five-day mission and 24/7 "Big Brother" style live coverage, which rather inevitably includes a number of fake "tasks" (or experiments) designed to help liven up an otherwise boring space mission. As gullible as ever, the cadets became convinced that it is possible to generate electricity in space by way of a kiwi fruit! The final insult came with a fake funeral for a fictitious Russian TV dog actor called "Mr Bimby" and a hopelessly staged "accident" with the ashes resulting in a dust-buster being used to clean up the mess. By this point, the "cadets" had already started to wise up. Presenter Johnny Vaughn moved in not long after and revealed the hoax. It's hard not to feel sorry for them in some ways, but for each day they spent in "space", each contestant earned £5K (£25K each) and they will actually be taken to Russia for real and receive the next best thing to a real space-flight, a trip up on the "vomit comet" aircraft that NASA and Russia use for their real space-training of astronauts. At the end of the day then, the "cadets" did quite well out of this show, even if the viewing figures on C4 were a complete disaster. This show definitely had its moments. I quite enjoyed it. 7/10
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