The Dish (2000) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A remote Australian community, populated by quirky characters, plays a key role in the first Apollo moon landing.

  • In the days before the July 19, 1969 space mission that marked humankind's first steps on the moon, NASA was working with a group of Australian technicians who had agreed to rig up a satellite interface. That the Aussies placed the satellite dish smack dab in the middle of an Australian sheep farm in the boondocks town of Parkes was just one of the reasons that NASA was concerned. Based on a true story, The Dish takes a smart, witty, comical look at the differing cultural attitudes between Australia and the U.S. while revisiting one of the greatest events in history.

  • Cliff Buxton returns to the tracking station in the Australian outback where, in 1969, he was in charge when NASA designated it their main southern hemisphere contact with the first Apollo moon mission. He recalls how town pride, the shaky electricity supply, a worried NASA official, and even romance played a part as tensions mounted with the world depending on them for pictures of the first moon walk.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Parkes (Australia), has a huge dish in the middle of a sheep paddock. It will transmit the first landing of humanity on the Moon, and the famous Neil Armstrong's moonwalk. They will be the ones broadcasting the moonwalk to a world audience which will remain the highest for many years to come.

    Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) goes back to the satellite station and remembers it all. He was the chief scientifical supervisor, but then NASA took over. Not all employees accept that, and some of them are quite rude to NASA's representative and chielf operations director.

    The Mayor of the town of Parkes, Bob McIntyre (Roy Billing) acknowledges that this is the moment for him and his town to perform a great deed. Australian Prime Minister (Bille Brown) arrives, with a full gathering of people among which is American Ambassador (John McMartin), who insists on seeing the premises himself. Back at the station, Rudi (Tayler Kane) is one of the funniest characters. He's given a gun, becuase NASA demanded armed security, but when his sister Janine (Eliza Szonert) appears, and notices it, he begs her "not to tell mum, or she will come to take it from me." Janine is constantly providing home-made food for the dish's personnel, because she has a love interest in one of the mathematicians who work there. He is very shy, though, and it takes him a lot of time, mocking and coaxing from his workmates to ask her for a date. Rudi keeps changing the names of the areas within the complex "A, B, C...".

    The McIntyres prepare themselves for their outstanding visitors, However, the eldest daughter Marie (Lenka Kripac) is constantly making rude remarks, the son Billy (Carl Snell) knows about the technical data about the landing and tries to explain them to his father - who can never fully grasp it-, and the wife May (Genevieve Mooy) is worried most of all about her dressing. Another fun moment is when she asks her husband to choose among two dresses, one blue and another one lemon-coloured. McIntyre keeps on saying that it is a yellow dress, and May corrects him saying it's "lemon". When McIntyre introduces his wife to the ambassador, he is so nervous that he introduces his wife saying "she's the lemon".

    There are two main events at the station: 1- One of the employees does not charge enough fuel to one of the power stations. There is a sudden blackout and the station computers lose all data, so the staff at the complex loses all communication with Apollo 11's crew, because they cannot pinpoint the dish towards the rocket. However, nobody wants to admit their mistake to the NASA, in fear that they will leave them out of the broadcasting team. Finally, they find the location just in time.

    2- One of the reasons why Parkes was chosen was its perfectly stable weather. However, all of a sudden, a gale starts. Nobody expected such strong winds in Australia, - least of all the weather forecasters - but neither the dish nor the station had been designed to stand them. They decide to take their chances at broadcasting, because Armstrong has overruled a programmed sleep and has decided to go out of the rocket sooner than expected. If Parkes does not broadcast it, nobody will see it. The wind gets so strong, that the station crew is afraid that all the structure could collapse with them inside the building. However, they finally do it. Cliff remembers his late wife, who had suppported him through the years and dedicates his success to her memory.

    Back to the present time, a white-haired Cliff Buxton is told-off by more efficiente security guard who doesn't recognise him. He tells them that visitors are only permitted through the main gate. Cliff says that it doesn't matter, and leaves the premises whitout more ado.

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