Challenger: The Untold Story (2006)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary, Drama


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Cast & Crew

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Stuart Everett , Richard Burke-Ward


Tony Mulholland (screenplay)

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2 April 2006 | bob the moo
An interesting story but the melodramatic delivery, dodgy acting and repetitive nature of the telling rather undoes how good it should have been
In 1986 the Challenger spacecraft took off from the Kennedy space centre. Seventy three seconds later it exploded in midair, instantly killing all seven of the astronauts on board, including a teacher who had been selected as part of a NASA public relations programme. During the launch a small group of engineers watched on in fear of their worst fears – fears they had tried and failed to get over to those in charge of the project. Within days President Regan had set up a public enquiry into the disaster and the painstaking job of putting everything together had begun.

Screened recently as one of many docu-dramas on channel 4, this film uses interviews, documents and Government enquiry documents to present the facts while at the same time re-enacting them in dramatised scenes. The risk with this approach is that the documentary element is made less effective by the drama to the point where it could feel dumbed down – very much a documentary for the masses who do not like what they perceive as dry, dull and technical documentaries. Sadly that is the problem with this film – the dramatisations give the whole film a very melodramatic feel that infects the factual presentation to the point where it is quite simplistic – exactly like a documentary for people who just want a bit of general sweep with characters rather than facts.

This is not to say that it is boring, because it is quite interesting and has some good contributions but I just didn't like the dramatic air it had in everything from the acting to the narration to the sweep of the delivery. I was still engaged by it but I would have liked to see the same film with the talking head contributions significantly increased and the dramatised scenes reduced. Another reason for wanting this is how average the acting is in these scenes. Specifically the civilian teacher is terrible but the portrayal of Boisjoly is another good example – he just doesn't compare to the real thing but the actor has more screen time! These things also combine to make the film longer than it needs to be and it only really gets up to speed in the final 30 minutes – up till then the film had been quite repetitive and relied on the melodrama to keep it moving.

Overall though the facts save it even if the majority is not that great. The story is simple and is all the more shocking for it – essentially it boils down to managers placing safety second; which is something that should never be true in business. The acting is a bit ropey, the delivery melodramatic and the running time too long – it is still interesting but such a tragic and avoidable event deserves a better documentary than this one.

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Documentary | Drama

Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)

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