Space Odyssey (TV series)

Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets (released as Voyage to the Planets and Beyond in the United States) is a 2004 British fictional documentary about a crewed voyage through the solar system. Space Odyssey premiered in 2004 and was made by the BBC. It was written and directed by Joe Ahearne and produced by Christopher Riley, who was presented with the 2005 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Best TV & Radio Presentation.[1]

Space Odyssey:
Voyage to the Planets
US DVD Cover
Created byJoe Ahearne
Christopher Riley
Narrated byDavid Suchet
Music byDon Davis
No. of episodes2
Running time100 min.
Production companyImpossible Pictures
Original networkBBC One
Discovery Channel
Picture formatWidescreen
Original release9 November 2004 (2004-11-09) –

The story is set at an unspecified time in the future, though in the accompanying book, the mission's chief science officer recalls reading Arthur C. Clarke's 1982 novel, 2010, some 40 years earlier.[2]


Five astronauts pilot the mile-long nuclear-powered Pegasus spacecraft on a tour of the Solar System. Their mission is a collaboration of the NASA, CSA, ESA and RКА space agencies and takes the crew to Venus, Mars, a close flyby of the Sun, Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa, Saturn, Pluto, and the fictional Comet Yano-Moore. Most of the planetary destinations the crew reaches are followed by a crewed landing there. Prior to the mission large tanks of hydrogen were deposited in stable orbits around the planets to allow the crew to refuel to have sufficient delta-v for the multi-year mission.

The crew encounter many hardships and disappointments along the way. A Venus EVA that almost ends in disaster when the lander Orpheus encounters launch delays, the near-loss of the shield during the aerobrake in Jupiter's upper atmosphere and the loss of samples from Jupiter's moon Io all test the crew's resolve. The most devastating blow comes when the ship's medical officer dies of solar radiation-induced lymphoma in Saturn orbit, forcing the crew to decide whether to continue the mission to Pluto, or abort and return to Earth. In the original British release, the crew decides to press on to Pluto, making history. The American version, broadcast on The Science Channel, was trimmed for length, the crew deciding to turn back at this stage rather than continue. The programme is narrated by David Suchet.


  • Tom Kirby (played by Martin McDougall) - mission commander. American citizen.
  • John Pearson (played by Mark Dexter) - flight medic. British citizen.
  • Yvan Grigorev (played by Rad Lazar) - flight engineer. Russian citizen.
  • Nina Sulman (played by Michelle Joseph) - exobiologist. British citizen.
  • Zoë Lessard (played by Joanne McQuinn) - geologist. Canadian citizen.

Also, several members of Mission Control, most notably:

  • Fred Duncan (played by Colin Stinton) – flight director. Canadian citizen.
  • Alex Lloyd (played by Mark Tandy) - mission scientist. British citizen.
  • Claire Granier (played by Hélène Mahieu) - flight surgeon. French citizen.
  • Isabel Liu (played by Lourdes Faberes) - flight dynamics officer.[3]


The film had initially been titled Walking with Spacemen[4] due to the involvement of Tim Haines, the creator of the Walking with Dinosaurs series. This title was eventually dropped as Space Odyssey had little in common with the Walking with . . . series. To prepare them for the roles, the actors undertook basic cosmonaut training at Star City with the Russian space program. Many scenes were shot in simulated zero-gravity aboard a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft. Backgrounds of the spacecraft interior were later digitally composited in.

The series DVD describes the selection of locations in the Atacama Desert, Chile to represent both Venus and Mars. Weather conditions troubled production, needing to be overcast for Venus,[5] but cloudless for Mars.[6]

The fate of the Titan probe was deliberately ambiguous to prevent any conflicts with the findings of the then imminent landing of the Huygens probe.

The film's score was written by American composer Don Davis, who wrote the music for the Matrix trilogy.

Tie-in bookEdit

BBC Books published a book written by Christopher Riley with the same title as the UK version of Space Odyssey. It was based on the fictional diary entries of the ground staff and crew on Pegasus, with supplementary factual information on the planets they visited and the real robotic missions which have explored them through history. It is illustrated with specially commissioned digital still images and screenshots taken from the drama.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2005 Winners". The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  2. ^ Alex Lloyd: "I first read of a manned Jupiter mission in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010 when I was a boy; little did I know I'd be involved... some 40 years later."
  3. ^ "The ultimate journey of human exploration comes to BBC One November 2004" (PDF). BBC. 2004.
  4. ^ "Space exploration underway with BBC Worldwide, Discovery and ProSieben". BBC Worldwide Press Office. 26 March 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Narrator: "Ideally, we needed a cloudy desert to film our Venus exploration scenes."
  6. ^ Associate Producer: "Another day on Mars... a bit of cloud, which we could have had for Venus, but didn't."

External linksEdit