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Destination Space

Entry updated 12 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Tv film (1959). Paramount. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Produced Alford (Rip) Van Ronkel. Cast includes John Agar, Charles Aidman, Whitney Blake, Cecil Kellaway, Gail Kobe, Edward Platt and Harry Townes. Written by Van Ronkel. 51 minutes. Black and white.

An attempt is being made to launch a mission to the Moon from Earth's Space Station, which has been nicknamed "Benedict's Billions" in ironic tribute to its head, Jim Benedict (Townes), because of its immense cost. However, the flight is aborted when a meteor strikes the station and disrupts the launch. Benedict is then summoned back to Earth to face questioning from a hostile senator who doubts the value of the space station; Benedict also visits with his girlfriend Jane Kramer (Blake) and discovers that the wife of another astronaut, Kim Reynolds (Kobe), is secretly in love with him. After Benedict returns to the station to supervise another launch attempt, the Spaceship's nuclear engine malfunctions, threatening to lead to a ruinous explosion, before spaceship commander Dave Reynolds (Aidman) removes the ice that is causing the problem and prevents the catastrophe. Despite this second setback, everyone remains determined to launch a successful flight to the Moon.

This long-unknown film was evidently produced as the pilot for an unsuccessful tv series, rejected by CBS in favor of Men into Space for obvious reasons: instead of focusing on a heroic astronaut like Colonel McCauley, this series would have foregrounded Townes' frail-looking bureaucrat, constantly struggling to keep the space programme on track, and the pilot also displayed an alarming tendency to feature failed space missions rather than successful efforts – though one could argue that this would have made the series more realistic than Men into Space, wherein McCauley always triumphed in the end. With most of its length devoted to extended conversations and a contrived romantic triangle on Earth, Destination Space is further weakened by its heavy reliance on footage taken from Conquest of Space (1956), even though the earlier film's spacesuits are conspicuously different from those worn by the new characters. Still, the film does stand out as a rare example of the genuine Spacesuit Film, endeavouring to portray Space Flight in a thoroughly plausible manner, and it unusually emphasizes the tremendous expense of space travel, an issue overlooked in other films of its era. It also offers a lengthy defense of America's need for a space station, which was then being considered by NASA as a short-term goal for America's space programme. [GW]


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