January 13, 2020  (Web Review)

8 Days: To the Moon and Back

(2019) 55 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-1077-4.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing has engendered a flood of new documentaries. Filmmaker Anthony Philipson’s PBS/BBC-aired hybrid film combines archival footage, CGI recreations, and audio transmissions with actors mouthing the words. Historical flavoring is captured with broadcasters boasting of “color coverage,” the mention of hippies, reporters clacking away at manual typewriters, and shots of legions of men wearing white shirts with ties. 8 Days covers the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission: the launch, journey to the Moon, docking and undocking of the space capsule, precarious landing, and short time on the Moon’s surface when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag, collected Moon rocks, and made observations—followed by the return home, and a boisterous “welcome back” tour for the astronaut heroes. Throughout, technical jargon alternates with lighthearted banter. Before the launch, the buttoned-down astronauts are peppered with questions, ranging from the humorous to the deadly serious, including the very real possibility that the men may not return at all. Although viewers know the story’s outcome, the film still generates a fair amount of suspense while capturing (especially in hindsight) a bittersweet tone, summarized by one broadcaster who notes that the spacemen carry the “burdens and hopes” of all mankind on their journey. While not as comprehensive as the recent PBS documentary series Chasing the Moon (VL-11/19), this is still a fine testament to the crown jewel in America’s space program and complements the similar feature documentary Apollo 11 (VL-5/19). Highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)