mon 14/10/2019

The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey, BBC Four review - awe-inspiring and life-affirming space odyssey | reviews, news & interviews

The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey, BBC Four review - awe-inspiring and life-affirming space odyssey

The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey, BBC Four review - awe-inspiring and life-affirming space odyssey

'Storyville' celebrates humanity’s most daring exploration into our solar system and beyond

After its cinematic release earlier this year, the story of Voyager comes to the small screenBBC/Crossing the Line Productions/Ian Benjamin Kenny

Long before Barack Obama spoke about the audacity of hope, the Voyager mission left the Earth driven by something else: the audacity of curiosity. What do the outer planets look like? What are they comprised of? And what’s beyond that?

Storyville: The Farthest - Voyager’s Interstellar Journey is an immersive study of NASA’s most audacious mission. Condensed by BBC Four by 30 minutes from a cinematic release, this incredible documentary looks at the infinite and infinitesimal questions that Voyager dared to answer. It makes you proud to be human, and embarrassed to still use your fingers when attempting maths.

In four billion years, the Sun will collapse but Voyager will still be travelling 

From the words of those who were there, we are introduced to the time before Voyager – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were merely mysterious blobs in the sky. We knew about their colour, and a couple of satellite moons, but that was it. By pure luck, NASA was presented with a once-in-176-year opportunity – all four planets would be aligned. Armed with the processing power of a car key fob, Voyager 1 and 2 fired towards deep space on the boldest mission ever attempted.

Voyager’s revelations are as exciting today as they were 40 years ago. Through those two little spacecrafts, it was like humanity itself was passing through the rings of Saturn, witnessing the eruptions of Io, and skimming the blue clouds of Neptune. Recounting the experience clearly brings back those emotions of stress, wonder and melancholy to the scientists and engineers involved. Over 30 years of pressure, all relying on constructions and calculations made in the mid-'70s. The wiring was protected by tin foil from the local convenience store, and it was slingshotting across our solar system at 10 miles per second!

Once Voyager passed Neptune, its planetary exploration was complete and it came to its second objective – to reach interstellar space. It was the very first man-made object to leave our solar system and reach out to the stars, so they put a message in the bottle: a gold record. Were an alien race ever to play it, they’d discover images, greetings, Azerbaijani folk music, and Chuck Berry (but not The Beatles, who refused on account of the fact that there are no music rights in space).Storyville: The Farthest - Voyager's Interstellar JourneyThe Farthest is a perfect 90-minute ode to space and humanity. The visual imagery is beautiful, the interviewees are engaging, even the story had ups and downs worthy of Hollywood. The soundtrack especially is impeccable, with “Us and Them” from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon reaching a euphoric climax as we first see the far side of Saturn. It’s enough to make you regret not watching it in IMAX.

The Voyager mission had two separate purposes for the human race: to gain a greater understanding of our solar system, and to greet the wider universe. In 2012, President Barack Obama announced that Voyager 1 had finally left the solar system, its audacious mission now complete. In four billion years, the Sun will collapse but Voyager will still be travelling. It might be the only reminder we ever existed on this pale blue dot. If that sounds a bit depressing, watch The Farthest; you can’t help but feel proud.


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