A Russian delegation visits Moonbase 3 ahead of a groundbreaking manned mission to Mars, and with his base under constant threat of being shut down by budget cuts – and the potential embarrassment of the breakdown of the Omicron 4 weather satellite – Caulder is surprised when the Russian commander invites the Europe to participate in a manned mission to the outer planets of the solar system. Such a mission isn’t in the European space budget, not by a long shot, but Caulder doesn’t reveal that little bit of information. Tom Hill personally takes on the Omicron 4 repair mission, but finds himself in life-threatening danger when a misalignment of his space capsule’s docking mechanism leaves him stuck to the satellite without a way to bail out of his capsule. Caulder immediately starts to plan a rescue mission, but the only pilot who volunteers to rescue Hill is one of the Russians, and this creates an international incident that gets Caulder relieved of his command. Always critical of Caulder’s command style, deputy director Michel Lebrun relishes a shot at command, but given the chance, will he reverse Caulder’s rescue mission orders and leave Hill to die, or allow the mission to proceed and possibly end any chances for the proposed outer planets mission?
written by John Lucarotti
directed by Christopher Barry
music by Dudley Simpson
Cast: Donald Houston (David Caulder), Ralph Bates (Michel Lebrun), Fiona Gaunt (Helen Smith), Barry Lowe (Tom Hill), George Pravda (General Trenkin), Milos Kirek (Colonel Gararov), Peter Bathurst (Director General), Madhav Sharma (Rao), Mary Ann Severne (Sandy), Perry Sobolsky (Mather), Christine Bradwell (Ingrid)
Original title: The Dark Side Of The Moon
Notes: Probably the best episode of Moonbase 3 to be produced, Castor And
Pollux takes its title from the names of the mythical twins in the constellation of Gemini. Ironically, the Gemini spaceflights of the 1960s inform much of the episode’s details: Gararov’s hand-held maneuvering jet strongly resembles the one carried by Gemini astronaut Ed White in the first American space walk in 1964, while Tom Hill’s constantly-spinning predicament may have been inspired by the Gemini 8 mission, which nearly resulted in the deaths of astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong in 1966. Even the design of the space capsules themselves is reminiscent of Gemini hardware. The scenes of Gararov’s rendezvous and spacewalk are extremely realistic, and are even thoroughly explained in other characters’ dialogue, the one possible criticism being that the shadows of such details as ladders, hand-rails and exterior gantries do not move, a dead giveaway that the camera – not the vehicle – is spinning. (If the vehicle had been spinning, the shadows would have shifted constantly as the capsule’s orientation changed relative to an unmoving light source such as the sun.) The most surprising piece of forward-thinking space science is the mention of the “Grand Tour” alignment of the outer planets, a fairly recent (as of 1973) discovery which resulted in the real life Voyager missions. Where Moonbase 3 comes uncannily close to predicting such “future” political developments as a unified Europe with a single standardized currency, it falls down a bit on its political predictions by depicting the Russians as members of a communist (and possibly still Soviet) state, with characters referring to each other as “comrade” (though the Soviet Union is not mentioned in dialogue as still being in existence).
LogBook entry by Earl Green