NASA’s Gemini project is filled with some of the most overlooked missions of the early days of space flight. The previous Mercury missions had yielded the first American in space, and the following Apollo missions included the famous Apollo 11 moon landing, and the subsequent Apollo 13 near-disaster. The Gemini missions, however, were a crucial stepping stone in the process, which perfected the challenges of orbital mechanics as well as overcoming the limitations of working outside of the spacecraft.
This …VD set begins with an hour-long documentary that tells the story of the Gemini missions, and provides a crucial context for the bonus footage that follows. This piece is comprised entirely of archival footage, and pulled together with expert narration and audio clips of the astronauts themselves.
There is a lot of information in this piece. In fact, there may even be too much. I would have been able to retain many more of the facts presented herein had the program been paced better, with more musical interludes. The images are so fantastic that I often found myself getting lost in them, and missing what was being said by the narrator. Of course, this does tend to increase the title’s replay value, so all is not lost. For a more complete account of the missions in the Gemini program, viewers might do well to pick up a copy of Gene Krantz’ fantastic book, “Failure is Not an Option”.
Having said that, this really is a great documentary. While it was produced specifically for this DVD, it is most certainly of television broadcast quality. Hopefully this title will help to bring the importance of these missions back into the consciousness of space exploration enthusiasts.
The audio track on this disc is above average in some areas, but below average in others. On the positive side, the narrator’s voice is powerful and easy to discern, and is nicely filled out with the help of the subwoofer. It’s rare that narration sounds as good as this. For a 2.0 audio track, this one sounds big.
Also surprising is the high quality of the musical arrangements contained within the piece. A full orchestra is utilized, which gives the film a very professional feel. It’s refreshing to hear documentary music that actually adds to the story, instead of merely filling in dead space.
The down side of the audio comes in with regard to the radio transmissions between the ground and the various spacecrafts. While these transmissions are great to hear, subtitles would have gone a long way to clarify the static-filled discussions. Many of them are virtually impossible for the average layperson to discern. Nothing can beat the feeling that hearing the original transmissions provide, but I hate to miss even a bit of information provided.
The important thing to remember when viewing this title is that all of the footage contained on these discs was never intended for consumer use. As a result, many of the pieces were filmed without an audio track. Also, much of the footage has grain, dust, streaking, and major blemishes. While attempts have been made to clean the negatives somewhat, they are still quite dirty in spots. (I did, however, take pleasure in the fact that the Russian footage looked much, much worse than the American footage.)
However, viewers shouldn’t let the “less than perfect” presentation deter them from enjoying this title. The footage contained herein is simply amazing. In fact, I am surprised that much of it looks as good as it does. Two 16mm cameras were on board each flight, and the footage that they provide is nothing short of spectacular. Many of these reels have never before been seen by the general public, and while some segments are a bit tedious, most are truly fascinating insights into the lives of these daring men of science.
The majority of the content here can be classified as “special features”. Most notably, this set includes the complete 16mm onboard film footage from every Gemini mission. For space flight fans, this is something that simply cannot be missed. Most of the segments come with soundtracks included, albeit from several different sources. Audio communications between the ground and the spacecraft are utilized, as well as audio from press briefings and various other sources. Unfortunately, some portions are silent, such as the “Desert Training” segment, which shows what the astronauts might have to do should they land on the ground instead of in the water. The inclusion of some sort of commentary track would have been invaluable during these silent segments. Usually, viewers are able to discern for themselves what it going on, but some clarification would be greatly appreciated.
These are some simply superb extras, and are a perfect fit for this set. As I said before, literally every piece of film from on board these missions is here. Nothing more could have possibly been added.
All told, this is the most comprehensive look at the Gemini missions ever assembled. Not only is the documentary feature of the highest quality, but the ability of the viewer to call up any film moment from any specific mission is mind boggling. Hopefully, this will prove to be just one out of many, many future releases from Spacecraft Films.
Special Features List
- Complete 16mm onboard film footage from all flights
- Rare bonus footage of the Gemini spacecraft, Titan launch vehicle, crew training activities and more!