Sunday evening saw BBC 4 schedules cleared for a series of programmes to commemorate the late astronomer and television presenter, Sir Patrick Moore.
As reported by Tim Sandle on Digital Journal last month, Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore died on 9 December 2012. He was 89.
To celebrate his long and distinguished career, BBC 4 dedicated its Sunday-evening to “Patrick Moore Night”, which ran from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event was made up of three editions of The Sky at Night, a tribute programme – which was filmed in December shortly after Moore’s death – and a 2007 interview he gave to Dominic Lawson.
The April 1975 edition of The Sky at Night – “The Outermost Planets” – started off proceedings, in which, as described by Radio Times, Moore discussed “points of interest about the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto”.
This was followed by the 25th-anniversary edition of the show, “The Unfolding Universe”, originally broadcast in April 1982. Here, the self-proclaimed “amateur astronomer” reported on what was happening at observatories all over the world.
The third and final helping of The Sky at Night for the evening was one that was first aired in 2009 – “Exploring Mars” – in which Sir Patrick and his long-time co-presenter, Dr Chris Lintott investigated the discoveries that had been made about the red planet over the previous three decades.
Heartfelt and hilarious
At 8.30 p.m., Sir Patrick Moore: Astronomer, Broadcaster and Eccentric saw a welcome early repeat of the “heartfelt and often hilarious” tribute programme that was hastily scheduled on BBC 1 just before Christmas.
BBC 4’s “Patrick Moore Night” rounded off with an interview Mark Lawson conducted with the astronomer and broadcaster in 2007. In Sir Patrick Moore Talks to Mark Lawson, Moore discussed his early life, long distinguished career and his thoughts on the future of space exploration.
Patrick Moore was born in 1923, the same year that the BBC was founded. As the BBC recognised last month, the Corporation’s ethos “to educate, to inform and to entertain […] came naturally to Patrick – often at the same time and in the same sentence”.
Initially commissioned for a trial period of three episodes, the programme and its presenter ran without a break for more than 50 years.
The Sky at Night was first broadcast in 1957, and, according to Lintott, was initially commissioned for a trial period of just three episodes. However, as it turned out, Sir Patrick went on to present the show for over 55 years – making this the longest-running TV series anywhere in the world with the same presenter. During that time, he only ever missed one edition – in 2004 – due to a bout of flu. His last-ever programme, which was recorded only a few days before his death in December, was broadcast last week.
As for The Sky at Night itself, the BBC is yet to pronounce on its future. However, according to Jane Fletcher, Sir Patrick was adamant that it should not die with him. Writing recently in The Sky at Night Magazine, Fletcher, the programme's producer for the last ten years, confided that, “I did ask him what he would like to happen to […] it. The Sky at Night was his child, his love and ‘his’ for most of his life. In my opinion, Patrick had every right to expect it not to carry on without him. I asked if that was what he wanted, for it to end with him and his response was definite and firm: ‘Not a bit, Jane, the programme must carry on.’ Patrick was entertaining, a professional to the core and never, ever boring. His surviving Sky at Night family draw strength from his example, remember his advice and do what he would have done – plan the next Sky at Night.”