Space Cadets, Channel 4

by | Dec 7, 2005 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

If Space Cadets was made in mediaeval times, it would consist of a man being compelled to watch his family be horribly and gruesomely tortured before being disembowelled, and then be told by a chortling inquisitor they were already dead anyhow. And then the man is forced to laugh with a dagger at his throat.

What was good about it?

• Imagine the sound of tumbleweed drifting across your screen and watch carefully as it blows out of sight down the abyssal depths of worthless reality TV.

What was bad about it?

• The whole show is founded on spite. It’s little more than a sadistic exercise of raising the hopes of ordinary, quite often stupid, people simply to crush them for the transitory vicarious delight of a loathsome audience who are taking a break from bullying at work or school.

• Johnny Vaughan. He is far too smug and incessantly perpetrates that annoying habit he has of accentuating syllables in sentences to glorify the most mundane events.

• And Vaughan whispering quietly “just outside” where the cadets are “playing pool” is fooling no one. Given the lengths already gone to in order to convince the cadets of the genuine nature of the “Russian base”, they’re hardly likely to want to risk blowing it by Vaughan jabbering on in earshot.

• Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman was abysmal in 1996, and remains so to this day. It only got to number one through being on an advert, and the only people who buy singles from adverts are the specimens who are chained to walls in the cellars by their despairing parents, gnawing on the bones of neighbour’s cat which was unfortunate enough to creep through a narrow opening ventilating the improvised prison on sweltering summer days.

• The extraneous sounds of fizzing electrics when the lights were illuminated in the “lecture room”.

• Gavin, a serial reality show parasite (he’s been on Coach Trip and Dragons’ Den), tried to intrude on this show but was eliminated at the final hurdle.

• As the contestants were selected purely on their susceptibility and stupidity, the tests were extremely dull as none of them possessed either charisma or eccentricity. This meant that even when introduced formally on the runway before their trip to “Russia”, they came across as an amorphous blob, the kind you see congealed in to blubbering mounds of mediocrity queuing outside formal dress nightclubs on any day of the week (except Tuesday).

• In fact, if the contestants were blasted in to space and colonised their own planet, their offspring would have regressed intellectually to the mammalian equivalent of horse radishes within three generations.

• Space Cadets relies heavily on its contestants having a fathomless ignorance of Russia, yet endorses this symptom amongst its viewers with Vaughan repeatedly pandering to Western fallacies about Russia – “cheap as chipskis”, “trickski” or divulging that the research team had to film undercover in a Russian supermarket as the Russian authorities didn’t like their cameras, as if implying if they were caught they would be interrogated by Steven Berkoff’s imposing James Bond Russian General before being transported to a gulag in deepest Siberia where they would mine salt from unyielding cliffs with blunt pick axes until their dying day.

• It seems so utterly pointless; it’s a one-joke ruse. Everyone can already see the punchline on the horizon moving closer and closer until the hoax is revealed, but even such a jape could be done by Jeremy Beadle in 10 minutes. Spreading it out over a week won’t make the joke any funnier; if anything, it’ll dampen the hilarity.

Space Cadets, Channel 4, Friday 16 December 2005

The ways in which the climax of Space Cadets became more an exercise in alleviating the guilt of Channel 4 than the punch-line of a five day jape.

1. The three cadets winning £25,000 and a trip to STAR City for a zero gravity flight may have been dressed-up as a prize, but was compensation in all but name. And what’s more, the cadets apparently earned £5,000 for each day they believed they were in space, which is rewarding gullibility.

2. The way in which in the latter days of the ruse, increasingly obvious clues were laid (Charlie’s illness, the memorial to Mr Bimby) in order that the cadets may guess the true nature of the predicament and so be proclaimed as modern day Hercule Poirots for solving the hoax.

3. Johnny Vaughan’s risible efforts to convince the cadets that their mission had substance beyond being the butt of an overlong joke with no discernible punch-line. “You’ve experienced things we never have,” he gushed.” You actually believed you were going in to space. You’ve known what it was like to believe you were looking down at Earth from a space shuttle. I’ll never have that!”

4. Johnny Vaughan revealing the lengths the production team had gone in order to pretend that the Suffolk airbase was STAR City, Russia was half self-congratulation and half-faux admiration for the cadets as if saying “we knew we had to create an utterly convincing environment to fool your razor sharp minds”.

5. The nature of the gag was slowly revealed to the cadets as they sat in a cramped pod, on their way (or so they thought) to go on a spacewalk. The gradual manner in which they realised they had been conned seemed to be a device to dampen their disappointment.

6. Johnny Vaughan: “We applaud their courage.” Ovation from the assembled audience. “We really do.” What courage was that? They did nothing that could even approach being described as brave.

7. Johnny Vaughan: “Real astronauts don’t have that much fun. If you meet them, salute them as the heroes they are.”

8. When Cadet Billy was crestfallen that as he looked down on a peaceful Earth, with his impressions were of a sense of peace and the absurdity of war, were exposed as a sham. Vaughan comforted him by claiming Buzz Aldrin visited his school and “word for word” his views were the same as Billy’s.

9. Johnny Vaughan: “Think of the money! Was it a good experience?”

10. As the cadets clambered from their pod into the studio, Johnny Vaughan toadied: “Aaah, heroes. You’re heroes!”

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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