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BBC Factual announced the commission of Once Upon a Time in Space, the new series from the multi award-winning team behind Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland and Once Upon a Time in Iraq.

Directed by James Bluemel, the 4x60 series from Keo Films for BBC Two and iPlayer will tell the human story of space exploration using unique, unexpected archive, present-day footage and first-hand testimony from around the world.

James Bluemel’s most recent series Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, a Keo Films co-production with Walk on Air, was widely acclaimed as one of the best documentary series made about the conflict in Northern Ireland. Last night it won the Broadcast Award for best documentary series, adding to two Grierson Awards.

Bluemel’s previous series, Once Upon a Time in Iraq won the 2021 Bafta for best factual series, an international Emmy for best documentary, a duPont Colombia Award, best documentary and outstanding series awards at the Rose d’Or festival.

On the 14 December 1972, Eugene Cernan became the eleventh person to walk on the Moon.

Leaving the lunar surface, he proclaimed, ‘We shall return’. These remain the last words to have been spoken on the Moon. In the decades since, the moon has become alien once again to direct human contact. However, that’s all about to change.

Humans are once again looking up and heading out, back into space… and we’re taking our power struggles with us. China, Russia, America, India, Saudi Arabia and Japan are all investing heavily in lunar exploration, jostling for power and influence amongst the stars. A new Space Race has begun.

The series will connect the past with the present and examine what the consequences are for the future of humankind as we once again head into space. It will hear compelling new testimony from pioneering astronauts, visionary scientists, remarkable engineers, daring space tourists, maverick billionaires, romantic dreamers and astro-theorists spellbound by the wonder of possibility.

Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: “In his Once Upon a Time series of documentaries, film-maker James Bluemel has been clear eyed and fearless in his choices. His distinctive approach has brought a new understanding to the most challenging and complex subjects.

I’m delighted to support his creative ambition as he and the brilliant team at Keo turn their attention to space exploration. I’m excited to see what surprising new perspectives they will unlock and what the series might reveal about us and our modern world.”

James Bluemel says: “It’s been great to work with the BBC on both Once Upon a Time in Iraq and Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, and I’m really excited to be starting this new one. It will be interesting creatively to take the Once Upon a Time approach and focus it on a subject like space, to move the strand on in an unexpected and refreshing way.”

Once Upon a Time in Space (4x60) is commissioned by Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries for BBC Two and iPlayer.


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