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February 11, 2013

Is This Something?

An old British reality TV show called Space Cadets took a group of people with little science education and transported them to a Russian cosmonaut-training station. And then sent three of them -- the winners -- up into near-earth orbit for five days.

Except they didn't do any of that -- it was a hoax perpetrated on the contestants. They didn't go to Russia, but rather just an abandoned American AF base in Britain made to look like Russia. And they didn't go to "near earth orbit" (with full earth gravity simulated by "gravity compensators"), they just went into a small space station set.

This isn't a real recommendation because I'm not sure how much other people will like it. I thought it was pretty watchable, though. It's not really that funny-- unlike other hoax shows like Joe Schmo, they've got a lot of money sunk on this set up (4.5 million pounds, I read) so they're pretty afraid to break out ridiculous comedy bits. The situation is already so implausible that they don't offer many Silly Comedy Antics to make it even more implausible.

It all on YouTube (as of this post), so who knows, maybe you're interested.

Part 1 of Episode 1 here.

I have no idea if this is Something. Reminds me of a Mission: Impossible episode. Which one? Kind of all of them. They did this every other week.

Cruelty Factor: I know a lot of people hate cruelty (I do too). Based on the reveal, it looks like all the contestants are only giggling-embarrassed about it, not distraught and not humiliated.

They are, however, as one says, "a bit heartbroken." But, spoiler, they do get to go into the real zero-g simulator "The Vomit Comet" as a reward. So, not a total loss as far as space-cadet training. Not as good as going into space, but it something.

Yes, the Space Cadets are not especially bright. I wouldn't say they're dumb, but they're not exactly Rocket Scientists. In fact, they note at the beginning they specifically screened out anyone who knew anything about astronomy or science (or anything, really) due to the fact that their central justification for Full Weight in Space -- "gravity compensators" -- was such a difficult pill to swallow.

I think I mostly liked this not because of the humor or hoax value, but because it really made me want to go into space. I pretty much just watched this thinking I wish this were real.

So I don't really look down on the would-be cosmonauts. They wanted it to be real too.

In related news, Deb Feyerick from CNN was just cast for the American version.

Language Warning: I forgot: this being British tv, they don't edit out the f-bombs, which are plentiful.

Below: In the beginning of the video, the "cosmonauts" see "the earth from space."

One explanation: One of the "cosmonauts" is actually an actor who's in on the con. He's there to help convince the actual contestants. So when you see a guy saying "I know where I am," that's the actor, making the odd point that even though he knows it's a hoax, parts of his brain find it sort of convincing. I suppose it's like seasickness, where your eyes are in conflict with what your inner ear is telling you.

That's an interesting point that gets made a lot: Subconsciously, these people know it's all fake. One girl actually speaks out in a nightmare, her brain revealing the truth about the "Russians" at space camp: "They're not foreign... Not foreign... Not foreign."

But by morning she's back at training -- her subconscious having shouted her the truth but her active mind having not heard it.

They had intended to show them this earlier -- this super-high-definition huge-screen projection -- but there was a moth loose in the warehouse and the shadow of its wings were fluttering hugely over the earth. So they had to delay "the money shot" until they caught the moth.

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posted by Ace at 05:15 PM

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