On 18 March 1965, Alexei Leonov completed the world’s first ever spacewalk. Then things became difficult. His suit pressure skyrocketed, (pun very much intended), the cabin became dangerously flammable, the re-entry system failed and he, along with his commander Pavel Belyayev, crash landed into dense, snow covered, Siberian forest.
Siberian forests are home to several species of wolves and bears. March is breeding season. Breeding season is when these creatures are at their most dangerous, most aggressive. Alexei and Pavel had one pistol with which to defend themselves and the shelter of the landing craft, which, by this stage, had no power.
When I first read about this story I thought two things:
1) How have I not heard about this before?
2) I’ve got to try and tell it.
What gripped me most was the idea that these two men, who had been to space, could fall to Earth and be presented with the most alien environment of their lives. I have attached a PDF version of a 15 minute radio script that goes some way to expressing this idea.
As much as I would like to say otherwise, writing this for the radio was not some inspired decision, a realisation that the radio would be the best medium for the story. I have now submitted this script for a creative writing module at uni entitled, ‘Writing for Radio’, needing a piece of work for this module is the only reason I chose to tell this story in this way.
I am very glad I did.
There is something about only having voices and the odd sound effect to depict events that would have many opportunities for spectacular visuals, (think Gravity meets The Revenant), that is incredibly exciting. As kids, we all make up our own worlds in which we go on fabulous adventures and these adventures are all the better for the imagined places we create. The beauty of radio is that it is a requirement of your listener to channel some of this childhood creativity in order to get the most out of their experience. In this way, it is incredibly engaging.
I am not done with this project. Once exams are finished, which, as of the date of this blog post, they will be in 23 days, I aim to turn my 15 minute script into a full, 45 minute, radio drama. (If anyone from Radio 4 happens to read this, email me in about 3 months and I might have something for you.)
For now though, I hope anyone who might stumble upon this, (which I know is likely to be a reader of one, thank you loving and very patient girlfriend), enjoys the read.
Out of the Frying Pan
Also, if you’d like to read more about the first spacewalk, here are some excellent articles:
Air & Space: Learning to Spacewalk
Your readership to this site has doubled this weekend! I have not yet read the script of Out of the Frying Pan” – I will do so tonight. But just to say I like your straight forward fresh approach in your introduction to it. I was aware of the first space book (from history books before you make a comment ….!) but had no idea of the subsequent drama. So I am very much looking forward to a wee dram and curling up under the covers to read it.
Hi A. Have now read the script. Really loved it. Great interaction between Alexei and Pavel. Between experience and calm and youth and arrogance. But not predictable as will Pavel keep his calmness? Might it be the confidence and bravery of Alexei who sees them through the time in the forest? Not sure about one comment about Granddad – would he not have known in advance of spacewalk and so would not have been so critical of his grandson?
A tremendously engaging and exciting piece about a piece of history I suspect even most space fans know little about given our space history is American orientated. You have found one of the great untold stories which cannot be easy to do. One you just have to take further. LD