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Perfectly timed 1978 rocket launch clip hailed as 'greatest shot in television' is a work of art

James Burke, a scientific historian, developed, wrote and presented the 10-episode BBC series 'Connections' from which this clip is taken.

Perfectly timed 1978 rocket launch clip hailed as 'greatest shot in television' is a work of art
Cover Image Source: Reddit/b8_n_switch

Some video footage from decades ago may not have been produced with or shot on high-resolution cameras, but it's still amazing filmmaking regardless. And some just stands the test of time no matter how many years have passed. A video clip from the 1978 television documentary series "Connections" has gone viral online. James Burke, a scientific historian, developed, wrote and presented the 10-episode BBC series, which was based on a novel of the same name. A scene from the series is now being called the "greatest shot ever."


A clip from the eighth edition of the program, "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry," was posted on Reddit in the "Damn That's Interesting" thread under the title "The finest shot ever recorded on TV!" The post, which includes a video of Burke addressing various gases, has roughly 43,000 upvotes.

In the video, Burke, who is now 85, passes a motionless spaceship with the American flag flying in the backdrop as he walks. He eventually pauses to explain that if hydrogen and oxygen are both released in a small space, mixed together, and set on fire to them, "you get that." As soon as he finishes speaking, he turns around and gestures toward a spaceship that is about to launch in the distance. In particular, in 1978, it was what many would consider a once-in-a-lifetime filming opportunity. "Destination: the moon, or Moscow," the historian says as the video fades out.



The shot is indeed very well shot. In a Blue Dot interview, Burke reveals how he timed and shot the moment perfectly. “I wrote 10 seconds of words, it takes 1 second to walk in, 1 second to point, and 1 second to pull focus on the rocket… you can hear the countdown so at 13 seconds I stepped in and did my bit. We took it home and said to the BBC look what we did! And they said …. Looks like back projection.”

Many remembered watching "Connections" during its initial run in addition to PBS telecasts. Some people compared the show to Cosmos, which was first hosted by renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan and most recently by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Reddit users expressed admiration for the show, talking about the cinematography of the shot as well as the impact Burke and the show Connections had on them.

Source: Reddit
Source: Reddit


A user commented, "Connections was an absolutely fantastic show. It really underscored that scientific progress was based on surges of interconnected ideas, that the 'great man' theory was of limited use, even though that was the preferred historic narrative of the time. Science is like a wave, the crest of which is held up by all that has come before." Another user agreed, commenting, "Connections is great, a really under-appreciated show. Don't get me wrong, Cosmos is great too, but Connections went a lot more places I think." A user added, "Only discovering it as an adult (thanks, The Witness!), that series drastically improved my awareness of 'where we've been, where we are, and where we're going'. Seriously invaluable, he excels at putting just about all of human progress into context." 

A user spoke of their childhood and Connections, "I loved watching the connections series at school. They were really good shows. Only movies I would stay awake for in history."

Source: Reddit
Source: Reddit


Another user shared a funny anecdote about being extremely drunk and only remembering the Connections episode from those days. "On my 21st birthday I did what most people do and had a very poor morning the next day. Weirdly, there was a Connections marathon on TV and so I spent the entire day recovering from near alcohol poisoning while watching. It’s about the only thing I really remember from those two days and it was amazing," the user wrote.

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