Episode 8

AstronautsThe Orbital Workshop crew has been in space for months, and cabin fever has set in. Mattocks has gotten into the habit of having long, meaningful conversations with Bimbo the dog. Ackroyd talks to himself in the mirror. Foster talks to a tape recorder, and then plays back the tape and has conversations with herself. Even Beadle, frustrated because no one seems to listen to him either on the ground or in orbit, mumbles to himself in ground control. But what happens when the isolation even begins affecting Bimbo?

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), and Bimbo (himself)

Notes: The second season of Astronauts was produced by Central Independent Television (inheritor of ATV’s broadcast franchise and facilities after a sell-off of some parts of the company and the loss of ATV’s Astronautsbroadcast license). ATV signed off for the last time on January 1st, 1982. Whereas the first season had neither a theme tune nor incidental music within the episodes, there was now a “spacey” theme tune over the open and end credits. Other than that, one can be forgiven for thinking that no time had passed at all. The second season was produced in 1982, before the ATV-to-Central handover.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Episode 9

AstronautsFoster and Ackroyd gradually become aware that Mattocks is keeping things from them, and so is Beadle. The two are exchanging scrambled, coded messages during the overnight hours. When answers are demanded of Mattocks, he tries to stall his crewmates with a cover story, before finally giving in and revealing that he is taking spy photos from orbit, monitoring both Soviet and American military movements. Worse yet, Mattocks’ dossier for “Project Sparrowhawk” includes contingencies for everything from an attack by enemy spacecraft to “survival priorities”, and Ackroyd threatens to scuttle the whole mission and reveal all to the world if the spy project isn’t shut down.

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), and Bimbo (himself)

Notes: Astronauts finally grudgingly steps into the modern space age when Ackroyd says that the food resembles “reject towels off the Space Shuttle” (which, by the show’s 1983 airdate, had already undertaken its first orbital test flights, whereas Skylab, the inspiration for the show’s fictional space station, had fallen out of orbit in 1979). This is an unusually topical episode, but it dealt Astronautswith a topic that had been a reality since the 1960s. Various actual Soyuz missions had been thinly disguised military spy missions from orbit, while the United States Air Force had planned (but ultimately cancelled) a manned military space station in the ’60s called Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), and the U.S. Department of Defense had plans for entire Shuttle missions devoted to classified “national security” tasks (including spy satellite deployment).

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Episode 10

AstronautsOn the eve of his wedding anniversary, Mattocks becomes obsessed – thanks in no small part to his crewmates egging him on – with talking to his wife, which would end a months-long ban on the crew receiving news of their families and personal lives left behind on Earth. When Ackroyd receives word that his divorce has been finalized, Mattocks begins worrying about the state of his marriage since he’s been in orbit.

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), Mary Healey (Valerie), and Bimbo (himself)

Notes: This episode states that Mattocks and the others have been in space for four months.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Episode 11

AstronautsAs the crew deals with the latest equipment failure, an unfamiliar voice is heard over their air-to-ground radio link: a Soviet cosmonaut has piloted his Soyuz capsule within a mile of the space station, and is trying to contact them. To nearly everyone’s amazement, Foster knows enough Russian to respond and maintain a conversation (including a bit of long-distance chess). Paranoia begins to seize Mattocks and Ackroyd about their Russian-speaking crewmate, though the only thing more disturbing than a chatty cosmonaut sharing the sky at close range is when he falls silent.

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), Jeffrey Wickham (Rudy), and Bimbo (himself)

Notes: Suddenly, Astronauts has continuity – mention is made of “Project Sparrowhawk” from two episodes ago, and the fact that tensions are running high in the Cold War on Earth – and a bit of peaceful politics.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Episode 12

AstronautsWith just one week to go before the mission’s end, Mattocks is seized by a sudden profound belief in God, and even confesses that, during the initial launch to the space station, he has no idea how he saved himself and his crewmates from certain doom. He now attributes this – and just about everything else – to the Almighty. Ackroyd, in the meantime, is growing more and more depressed, not wanting to return to Earth at all. And this leaves Foster to worry that neither of her crewmates may be fit for the journey back to Earth at all.

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), and Bimbo (himself)

Notes: The crew has been in orbit for 5 months, 23 days at the beginning of this episode

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Episode 13

AstronautsOn the morning of the crew’s return to Earth, Mattocks receives a personal message from his wife Valerie. As Ackroyd and Foster continue to worry about whether or not their commander, still flush with newfound religious enthusiasm, is in any kind of mental state to fly them home, Mattocks proceeds to fall apart. The private message was an admission that Valerie has been less than faithful during Mattocks’ six month stay in space. Can Beadle convince the astronauts to return when all three of them are now convinced that they have nothing left on the ground with living for?

written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie
directed by Dick Clement

AstronautsCast: Christopher Godwin (Mattocks), Carmen Du Sautoy (Foster), Barrie Rutter (Ackroyd), Bruce Boa (Beadle), Mary Healey (Valerie), and Bimbo (himself)

LogBook entry by Earl Green