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Space Documentaries

Entry updated 17 October 2022. Tagged: Film, Theme.

Documentaries about the future of Space Flight have sometimes included fictional sequences employing actors as astronauts venturing into outer space; these are effectively sf Spacesuit Films, even though they are classified as nonfiction. An early German example is Wunder der Schöpfung (1925; vt Our Heavenly Bodies), which includes a journey through the Solar System and nearby Stars by Spaceship, and was the first film to invoke Relativity. In the 1950s, as the United States and the Soviet Union launched embryonic space programs, more such documentaries began to appear One noteworthy example was an episode of the Television series Walt Disney's Disneyland (1954-1958), "Man and the Moon" (1955), which concluded with a vignette depicting a manned flight to orbit the Moon that observes, on the dark side of the Moon, evidence of Alien intelligence (see Disney on Television). Other Disney Tomorrowland-focused segments of this series which took the form of space documentaries are discussed in the entry for Ward Kimball. The Russian director Pavel Klushantsev also produced two documentaries with excellent special effects, Doroga k Zvezdam (1957; vt Road to the Stars) and Luna (1965; vt The Moon), that depicted projected Soviet achievements in space. Douglas Trumbull's Cinerama film To the Moon and Beyond (1964), shown at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, so impressed Stanley Kubrick that Trumbull was called to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Later space documentaries have tended to focus solely on actual space flights, employing the wealth of available footage showing American astronauts in space and on the Moon, but a few may still include fictional episodes; one example of interest is the television documentary Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun (1993).

One notable Japanese contribution to this small subgenre is Ginga Uchū Odyssey ["Galaxy Space Odyssey"] (1990). Alternative 3 (1977) is a hoax "documentary" of sf relevance. [GW]

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