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"Moonbase 3" Departure and Arrival (1973)

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Very strong introductory episode

Author: benkidlington from North West England
16 September 2011

I was pleasantly surprised by how good this first episode is. It sets the scene very well by introducing us to the harsh realities of living and working in space. Namely that one small mistake, or simply failure to deal with problems can have catastrophic consequences. The viewer is left in no doubt that the lives of all people on the moon base critically depend on unfailing diligence and a duty of care from all people in the chain of command. Fortunately, by the end of the episode we are reassured that the lead character, the director of the base is made of "the right stuff" as he stamps his authority on his team, whilst at the same time showing complete loyalty to them.

Some of the dialogue certainly comes across as dated when viewed with 21st century sensibilities, but the acting is generally good and the characters work very well together. The plot is intriguing and offers plenty of drama with an interesting twist at the end.

The episode's initial theme of Europe as an "underdog" space power, somewhat behind the US and Russia whilst facing constant financial constraints and threats of cutbacks and closure is however not dated. In fact it now seems quite prophetic, and given the current Eurozone crisis perhaps rings even more true in 2011 than it did almost 40 years ago.

As such, a gritty realism persists throughout the episode and it's refreshing to see issues such as funding pressures, human foibles and psychological burnout tackled in such believable ways.

There's also quite a bit of extra-vehicular action, with scenes both on the moon's surface and in space done quite well. There's plenty of model work used for panoramic scenes, as to be expected from a production of this era.

OK, so the Moon's surface shouldn't really bounce back after an astronaut has stepped on it, but I can't help but find the lunar scenery to be charmingly well presented, given the no doubt limited resources of the BBC props department of the time.

Overall, just an excellent episode of a classic sci-fi series, leaving the viewer wanting more.

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