Part 7 of 12
Date of airing: April 26, 1998 (HBO)
Apollo 12 — the most boring and forgettable mission of all, because the two most essential things that happened during the mission was the call for SCE to auxiliary, as well as Al Bean smashing the camera on the moon, giving nothing but emptiness back to Earth. It’s kind of interesting how this episode is going to be in a sharp contrast with the next one, or maybe just the film APOLLO 13 itself. Apollo 12 seemed like a perfectly executed mission, in which everything went as it should be, if you exclude the little moment of panic during the liftoff, when lightning hit the spacecraft and served the three astronauts a couple of seconds of heart attacks. Apollo 12 seemed like the mission to tell yourself that moon landings aren’t that exciting anymore, because you don’t know anything about the science behind the missions, or aren’t interested in it, so you lose interest in the entire program, simply because nothing exciting happened during the mission as it was executed without faults. Apollo 12 was the mission that might have started the rumor of NASA losing some of its money, because the Russians have been beaten, so why should we continue to go to the moon?
The contrast is ridiculously intriguing, and damn, would the show have been great, if it had find a way to join Apollo 12 and 13 somehow, and show that the space missions are never easy, and that even Apollo 12 had moments so tense, your heart would have jumped out of your chest. Even if it didn’t look like for almost the entire episode, thanks to the ludicrous easiness of the crew and how Al Bean commented from the off that the three have been best friends through flight training, the actual mission, and then afterwards. Damn, Al Bean, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon talked and hung around each other like they were a set of triplets, never to be separated, always being with each other, experience the same adventures, having the same interests, talking the same words while doing the same jobs. If this had been a porn parody, it would have been certain that the three guys were all into each other, intertwined and laughing and happy, and definitely not ashamed or embarrassed over how dirty they are, never humiliated by the thoughts they expressed with words. I almost can’t believe that the three were indeed best friends forever, because the Apollo 12 mission must have ran like a well-oiled machine.
Because barely anything worthy mentioning happened in this episode, what can there be said about this hour? Maybe Paul McCrane took some of his cocky attitude into the character of Pete Conrad, or maybe Conrad really was this carefree and friendly and funny and on-the-nose and freaking foul-mouthed during training. Maybe Dave Foley was a little too youthful for his character, as his face looked like he was a proper astronaut with some experience, but his voice sounded like he was about to spend a hot summer with a 17-year-old in a random small town during 1950s America, before getting killed by a murderous shapeshifting clown. And maybe I would have loved to see more of Dick Gordon, because what FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON hasn’t managed to do yet is giving examples of what the command module pilot was doing, when the commander and LEM pilot were on the moon. Dick was obviously working on something, but dammit, I’m interested in seeing what the command module pilot is doing when the real action is happening on the moon, and I’m especially interested in learning what they do and think about when they are alone for a day or two. The lunar missions got only longer with each Apollo flight, so it’s even more important to showcase what happened in the command module, and what this kind of loneliness and isolation can do to someone professional as an astronaut, who was trained to be in isolation for an extended period of time.
Plus points for all the funny moments of the episode through. “Survey — Her Activity” gave me a good chuckle (was this the first and only time someone looked at porn on the moon?), and Pete and Al getting into the command module naked after docking was also hilarious as hell, because I can’t imagine they were indeed strapped in and prepping to burn their way out of lunar orbit without wearing any underwear. By the way, the first R-rated imagery of this very G-rated production of HBO — consider me surprised.