The Astronaut (1972)

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The Astronaut (1972)

Post  BoG on Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:02 pm

Air Date: 01/08/72  Like a Star @ heaven  written and produced by Harve Bennett  Like a Star @ heaven  Directed by Robert Michael Lewis

The first ABC Movie of the Week in 1972, this involved a cover-up after a famous astronaut (Monte Markham) dies as the first man to set foot on Mars. As such, this resembles the later Capricorn One (78), in that the motives of the plotters are geared around getting crucial funding for the space program. However, most of the plot diverges from the chase thriller aspects of the later film. The guys in charge at NASA (Jackie Cooper, Robert Lansing) find another ex-pilot (Markham again) who resembles the astronaut enough so that minor plastic surgery will turn him into a double of the deceased hero. They set things up so that the replacement is the one who supposedly returns with the other surviving astronaut (James B. Sikking). The probable glitch in the plan is the dead astronaut's wife (Susan Clark); Cooper can't bring himself to tell her the truth - she has just lost a baby - and, since she has been married for 8 years, it's a foregone conclusion that she will soon figure out that the double is not really her husband.

The most interesting part of this drama, beside the outrageous notion of such a cover-up, is that the replacement turns out to be more sensitive and human than the dead hero, who was always about the mission and the cause rather than being a caring husband. There's a lot of irony in the key scene when the wife finds out that this is not her real husband and takes out her anger on the double, calling him basically a wind-up robot that they sent to deceive her. She soon realizes that this new man in her life is someone that she can relate to better than her dead husband. It's an intriguing turn of events, overshadowing the added tension in the final act when it's found out that the Soviets intend to send astronauts to Mars, where they will most surely die. Very fine acting from all concerned; also small role for Richard Anderson as the doctor who performs the surgery.  BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
Star Trek TOS Actor Alert: Lansing is famous for playing Gary-7 in the episode Assignment: Earth, a pilot for a show that never happened;
Harve Bennett, who just died, is famous for producing The Six Million Dollar Man and for revitalizing the Star Trek film franchise
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