Far Side of the Moore

Forums General Discussion Far Side of the Moore

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    Jeremy Shears

    …..is the title of a drama on Radio 4 to be broadcast on Monday 30 March at 2.15 pm. I just heard it advertised – not sure what sort of quality it will be. Info here:


    All the best,






    Martin Mobberley
    Hello Jeremy,
    I can shed a tiny amount of info on this. On October 23rd last year I was contacted by the
    producer of this production, David Morley. He explained that he wanted to produce a ‘drama’
    surrounding the creation of The Sky at Night and the events of April 1957. Reading between
    the lines I think the emphasis here was on ‘entertainment’ rather than solid facts. As most
    of us who have been involved with the media re. astronomy know well, when contacted by
    TV and radio people you realise that hard facts are going to fly out of the window at the
    first opportunity, to be replaced by half-truths and even fiction! Anyway, it was clear
    from the first contact that this was to be a radio ‘play’, for amusement, not necessarily
    sticking to solid facts…….
    After exchanging a few e-mails with David he then brought the writer, Sean Grundy, into
    the conversation, and after a few e-mails with Sean he told me that he now had a copy of
    my ‘RAF Blazer’ book which he was engrossed in….and could he speak to me about
    Patrick on the phone please? Anyway, I spoke for a couple of hours to Mr Grundy about
    Patrick’s character (on October 28th last year) and he confirmed my belief that this
    was going to be a radio drama, but written primarily to entertain a Radio 4 afternoon
    Five months have elapsed since then and I have heard nothing more from either of them!
    I doubt my help will be acknowledged and I have certainly not received any payment
    for my help, but then, I’ve never received any payment for anything I’ve done for the
    BBC in this way before! Although they have taken more than £1,000 from me for BBC
    figures permissions in the last few years (the BBC charge about 3x the going rate
    of other agencies such as the Press Association!)
    Interesting that the title of the show sounds disturbingly similar to my next book,
    out in May!! Hmmmmm……
    I’m not sure that I dare listen to what they have produced when it is broadcast,
    but I did try to steer the writer in the direction of the truth about Patrick’s
    highly entertaining character…….
    But I think it is likely to be, at best, about 50% fact and 50% fiction… like many
    BBC ‘biopics’. For this reason I hope they do NOT acknowledge my help in any way!!
    Roy Hughes

    Thanks for the heads up. It’s programmed into my PVR.

    Following the clues at the BBC I pulled the bad book review in question from the archive (JBAA v. 65 iss. 4 page 171) and it’s not at all complementary.  I can understand if Patrick was upset.

    By a curious coincidence the very next review by Dr. King was on “The Equatorie of the Planetis” (a book I bought, remaindered, on a trip to Manchester in 1969) and most favorourable.  

    I don’t know if a hard review was typical of Dr. King but I suspect not.

    Pages 153-155 of the same journal contain a verbatim(?) report of a talk by Patrick on Journalists and their reporting of Astronomy. Hilarious, Patrick at his very best



    Martin Mobberley

    Further to my earlier post I have just received a preview copy of the broadcast from the director, Dirk Maggs.

    I can’t really say much as the programme has not been broadcast yet and the recording was marked ‘For your ears only’.

    However, as I suspected it is a fictional play, but very loosely based on the events leading up to the first ever Sky at Night in April 1957. But, to make it entertaining for the masses, conversations have been invented between various people, in the BBC and the BAA. Also, various events that occurred between 1954 and 1957 have been stirred and mixed in a dramatic way so the chronological sequence of events is not preserved at all. But I guess the listening public, keen on radio drama, will not mind the factual innaccuracies…. Think of it as the events of Patrick’s life in the 1950s, but in a parallel universe! I imagined I would cringe a lot more than I actually did. It is quite amusing in places and I feel that Patrick’s general character has been captured well and the voice is very ‘Culshaw-like’ even if it isn’t Jon Culshaw doing Patrick’s voice! Even so, it is a work of fiction. But I did find it quite entertaining…….

    Henry King wrote a number of BAA book reviews, but his reviews of Patrick’s ‘Suns, myths and men’ and several of Wilkins’ books were very scathing indeed….one could even say, dripping in sarcasm. The Radio 4 fictional Henry King is pretty much like I would imagine him to be, although the conversations between him and Patrick have been invented…..

    I can’t really say any more as it has not been broadcast, but if you have an open mind and are a Patrick fan I think you will find it amusing in the same way as a Jon Culshaw impersonation of Patrick is entertaining….


    Grant Privett

    Isnt Dirk Maggs the guy who did the Radio adaption of Douglas Adams “Long Dark Teatime of the Soul” and the Pratchett/Gaiman “Good Omens”? Both are quite fun.

    Just remember its entertainment, not art or history.


    Martin Mobberley

    Yes Grant, that sounds like the chap. He also involved Patrick in a Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ‘spin-off’ radio series.

    Although the Patrick thing is fiction, loosely based on facts, they seem to have gone to amazing lengths to get the sound effects right. They even recorded John Mason using one of Patrick’s typewriters to get the Woodstock typewriter key pounding correct! There’s a picture of this taking place here:










    Nick James

    And he did a very good Radio 4 adaptation of Steven Baxter’s alternative history of the Apollo programme, Voyage. I’ve set my recorder for Monday afternoon.

    Roy Hughes

    Just listened to the broadcast.

    Yes – Fiction.  Yes – a good use of 45 minutes.

    The ending was way over maudlin, but equally it forced a tear for Patrick’s memory.


    Nick James

    Just listened to it. It sounded like a radio adaptation of the early part of Martin’s book with several of the facts changed for dramatic effect. I liked the quote “Does anybody actually read the BAA Journal?”. It’s not every day that you get something like that on Radio 4!

    Jimmy Fraser

    All those episodes of The Sky at Night rushing away from Earth at the speed of light.. It’s a pity that the magazine version of the show has stopped adding the older broadcasts to the monthly DVD. That practice ended when the new production team took over.

    I did enjoy the broadcast and the ending did bring a tear to the eye.

    Paul G. Abel

    Well I thought this was an excellent production.  I was actually in two minds whether to listen to it, as I didn’t want to here some bad impersonation of Patrick in some sort of far-fetched drama, but in fact it was nothing of the sort.  It’s quite clear that much of the dialogue has been inspired from Martin’s book, and the whole thing is well written, funny and rather poignant in places.  It brought back a few memories for me when the chap playing Patrick calls his producer Paul Johnstone and bellows down the phone ‘Hello Paul, Patrick Here!!!!!’- that was exactly how he was when he called me.

    I never met Patrick’s monther, but the lady playing her gives an excellent performance.  A good job all around I think and a very accurate description of Patrick’s early years.


    Martin Male

    Sadly I never knew Patrick personally but “grew up” with him like so many others as my astronomical mentor. I have heard a good few afternoon plays on R4 about historical events or people that turn out to be a travesty at best, so it was with some trepidation that I tuned into R4 on Monday afternoon, expecting the worst. I must say I was very pleased with the play which was an affectionate and endearing portrait, seemingly largely based on Martin Mobberleys book. Remember though the play has to been seen for what it is – entertainment, not as a documentary.

    I suspect that like many another listener, I had a tear in my eye at the end!

    David Scanlan, FRAS

    Ive just had a listen to it and Martin Mobberley was very right in his statement of 50% fact and 50% fiction

    All in all though a really rather good and entertaining piece which I would suggestm, to all who are Moore fans, take the 45 minutes and have a listen

    Rather enjoyed it 🙂


    John Thorpe

    Loved the programme. Inevitably some distorted facts but most enjoyable, with very good perfomances particularly by the actors playing Patrick and his mother. 

    One point which seemed way out: Arthur C Clarke says that his novel Earthlight is about aliens occupying Earth during the paleolithic period. In fact it is about a war between Earth and the early Moon colony. I remember it well. Patrick’s comment to Arthur that “It’s a bombers moon tonight” is more to the point as the book is very much coloured by Arthur’s memories of the bombing in World War II.

    I felt that the show sounded authentic and really captured the spirit of Patrick. I am sure he would have chuckled.

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