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