The Dish

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The Dish is a 2000 Australian film that tells the story of how the Parkes Observatory was used to relay the live television of man's first steps on the moon, during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Directed by Rob Sitch. Written by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, and Rob Sitch.
Man's first step on the moon nearly stumbled on earth.taglines

Cliff Buxton[edit]

  • This is science's chance to be daring.
  • We sit here on our arses for five bloody days. Not a breath of bloody wind. Then, on cue, out of nowhere, just when it's our turn, a bloody cyclone decides to park its arse on us! Um... I'm sorry, lads. I just... ..might just go check some bloody thing
  • [last lines]... and it's still in the middle of a sheep paddock.


  • Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Cliff...That's bullshit. You just bullshitted NASA!
  • Mayor Bob McIntyre: [after band plays 'God Save the Queen' badly] Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, please remain upstanding for the national anthem of the United States of America. [There is a pause, then the band plays the Hawaii Five-0 theme]
  • Rudi Kellerman [to the U.S. ambassador's driver] Where d'ya get them glasses?


Reporter: No offense, but NASA spends ten years, billions of dollars so that we can watch man walk on the moon and in the end it falls to you blokes! I mean, how do you feel about that?
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: A lot better before you opened your trap!

Al Burnett: Are you telling me that NASA's prime receiving station has absolutely no idea where Apollo 11 is?
Glenn Latham: Yeah - it's on its way to the moon.

[Al Burnett is speaking with the operators of the dish following a power outage. He has just been arguing that the team is obligated to inform NASA of their technical troubles and request the current location of Apollo 11, when NASA contacts the control room]
NASA network control official: [via radio link] PKS, Houston NC.
[Cliff moves away from the radio, startled. Al sits in front of the radio, picks up the mic and prepares to respond. Cliff, Mitch, and Glenn all appear apprehensive.]
Al Burnett: Go ahead, Houston.
NASA NCO: I've spoken to INCO, and we're no closer to finding this breakdown...are you sure the problem is downstream?
Al Burnett: PKS... [we see Mitch and Glenn cringe] ...still on-line, Houston. Confirming loss of signal downstream.
[Mitch and Glenn look up and slowly turn to Al, looking amazed]
NASA NCO: Roger, PKS...will maintain alternative feed.
Al Burnett: [putting the mic down] What have I done?
Glenn Lathem: [offhand] Bullshitted NASA.
Cliff Buxton: Good man, Al.

Glenn Latham: Everything's fine.
Al Burnett: Except we've lost Apollo 11!
Glenn Latham: Well, except for that.

[Mayor McIntyre and Cliff are standing outside the dish building, discussing the fact that the observatory is unable to locate Apollo 11 due to a malfunction, and that the team has misled NASA regarding the circumstances of the problem]
Mayor Bob McIntyre: What if you come clean, just tell NASA?
Cliff Buxton: Tell them what?
Mayor Bob McIntyre: [stuttering] th- th- that um...
Cliff Buxton: That we lost Apollo 11?
Mayor Bob McIntyre: Well...I wouldn't say that first.
Cliff Buxton: What would you say first?
Mayor Bob McIntyre: Well, you know..."hey, you'll never guess what happened...”?

Mayor Bob McIntyre: You remember that night at my place? Trying to sort out the contract with that fella from NASA? 'What about this? What about that?' Two hours, and you finally speak. 'Gentlemen, this should be the contract: We agree to support the Apollo 11 mission.' That was it - one sentence. They couldn't believe it. It was a wonderful moment.
Cliff Buxton: But this isn't.
Mayor Bob McIntyre: No, this is a shithouse moment.

[Cliff Buxton and Mayor McIntyre are standing outside the dish building at night, discussing the problems that have arisen as a result of the power failure]
Rudi Kellerman: [off, in the background, we see his silhouette and a flashlight] Who goes there?
Cliff Buxton: [shouting over his shoulder] It's just us, Rudi!
Rudi Kellerman: Oh, all right!
[We see the flashlight lower and Rudi's silhouette start to turn away. There is a pause, then the flashlight comes back up]
Rudi Kellerman: Who?
Cliff Buxton: Cliff and Bob!
Rudi Kellerman: Ah! Hey, Bob!
Mayor Bob McIntyre: Rudi!
Rudi Kellerman: How are ya?
Mayor Bob McIntyre: Good, fine!
[later in the sequence]
Rudi Kellerman: [off-screen, in the distance] Halt! Who goes there?
[We hear a sheep bleat]

Rudi Kellerman: [through radio] You've got a visitor. It's the ambassador.
[shot of Mitch and Glenn turning to face Al, looking amazed]
Rudi Kellerman: [through radio] From the United States of America.
[shot of Cliff who is clearly furious, then cut back to Al, who now has his face buried in his hands]
Al Burnett: Oh, God.
[There is a pause]
Rudi Kellerman: [through radio] Is this thing working?
Cliff Buxton: Just a minute, Rudi.
Rudi Kellerman: Roger that, sector G, confirm sector A hold on.
[Cliff, Mitch, and Glenn look inquiringly at Al]
Al Burnett: Well, he asked to come visit last night...I didn't think he'd be here so soon!
Cliff Buxton: [with obviously forced patience, holding up radio to Al's face in evidence] He's here.
Al Burnett: [He's a] Space nut. Knows everything about Apollo 11.
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: Does he know where it is?

[Cliff is demonstrating to the U.S. ambassador how the dish controls work. Unbeknownst to the ambassador, the dish operations team has suffered a technical problem and, as a result, are unable to locate Apollo 11]
Cliff Buxton: [indicating controls] That moves the dish up and down... [indicates another dial] and that's your sideways movement.
Ambassador Hutfield: It's amazing, simply amazing. [he pauses, we see the entire dish operations team in the background looking tense] You can actually pinpoint a tiiiiny spaceship, thousands of miles away and lock onto it?
[there is a pause. Cliff and the entire team are clearly struggling not to reveal their current travails]
Cliff Buxton: ...Pretty much. [he smiles weakly]

[After giving the U.S. ambassador a hurried tour of the dish facility, Cliff is trying to get him to leave so the rest of his team can resume their efforts to locate the current position of Apollo 11]
Cliff Buxton: Sir, I'm afraid we're going to be entering overlap...
Ambassador Hutfield: Oh! You mean you'll be receiving transmissions?
Cliff Buxton: Yes...
Ambassador Hutfield: You'll be able to hear Armstrong talking to Houston??
Cliff Buxton: Yes...just by hitting a few buttons there... [indicates the control panel behind the ambassador]
[the ambassador turns to look at the control panel, then turns back to Cliff]
Ambassador Hutfield: [in a tone that indicates that he is almost, but not quite, sexually excited] Ohhhh, let's do that.
[Cliff looks terrified]

Al Burnett: [through radio] Columbia, Houston. Guidance systems OK. You're still go for auto.
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: [American accent through radio] Copy that.
Al Burnett: [through radio] Telemetry reports that O2 and CO2 are OK and steady, and biomed telemetry is now reading your vital statistics as being adequate within the limits.
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: [American accent through radio] Copy that.
Al Burnett: [through radio] Neil, we have you currently at 124,000 nautical miles from Earth and at an approach velocity of 32,000 feet per second.
[cut to a shot of Rudi, standing outside, looking amazed. He has clearly heard the foregoing through his radio]
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: [American accent through radio] Copy that.
[cut to shot of Cliff and ambassador Hutfield in the control room. Cliff looks tense, the ambassador is enthralled]
Al Burnett: [through radio] We might just let you get back to work.
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: [American accent through radio] Copy that.
Rudi Kellerman: [through radio] Is that you, Neil?
[Cliff looks horrified. Cut to shot of Rudi, holding his radio up.]
Rudi Kellerman: I repeat, this is sector A. Is that you, Mr. Armstrong?
[cut to a shot of ambassador Hutfield and Cliff at the control panel]
Cliff Buxton: [quickly throws a switch, cutting off the radio] That's funny. Must be a crossed line from Honeysuckle Creek.

Janine Kellerman: You've got a gun!
Rudi Kellerman: [looking smug and officious] Yep. Official NASA requirement, armed security.
Janine Kellerman: Does mum know?
Rudi Kellerman: [looking worried] No...and don't you tell her, either, Janine! She'll come here and she'll take it off me or something.

Cliff Buxton: Do you know what I thought when this first came up?
Glenn Latham: What, your pipe?
Cliff Buxton: No. The moon mission.
Glenn Latham: You beauty?
Cliff Buxton: I thought, "imagine stuffing that up". Isn't that odd?
Glenn Latham: What?
Cliff Buxton: Well, that I was more scared than excited.
Glenn Latham: I don't think that's odd. I feel like that all the time.
[there is a pause while Cliff and Glenn drink their tea, both looking off into the distance]
Cliff Buxton: My wife said something, she said: "Failure is never quite so frightening as regret."
Glenn Latham: Oh, that's good advice. I wish someone would tell me that.
Cliff Buxton: God bless ya, Glenn.

[The operators at the dish have spent the whole night trying to manually calculate the location of the Apollo 11 capsule after their computerized control system's data is lost in a power failure]
Al Burnett: [looking out the window] ...I know where Apollo 11 is.
[The others look at Al, exasperated and exhausted]
Al Burnett: [turning] It's on it's way to the moon. [indicates the moon, visible through the window] That's your point of reference.
[The others look at him blankly]
Al Burnedd: If they've gone 150,000 miles, they've gotta be within 3, 4 degrees.
[There is a pause while the others consider this]
Glenn Latham: That might be okay.
Cliff Buxton: I think that might be okay.
Glenn Latham: [brightening] Yeah!
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: So... [he indicates a blackboard, completely packed with complex calculations and figures] ...we can rub this out?

Glenn Latham: Imagine the Earth is a basketball...
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: This should be good. [Cliff glares]
Glenn Latham: And imagine Parkes is...what's that thing you put the pump into?
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: The hole.
Glenn Latham: Yeah, but it's got a name...oh, the valve! Well, this is the Parkes valve, and on the other side is another valve --
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: You know, basketballs only have one valve.
Glenn Latham: Well, what's something that's got two valves?
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Tuba?
Glenn Latham: It's gotta be round.
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Tamborine?
Glenn Latham: That doesn't have valves!
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Coconut! You could... [mimes drilling holes in coconut]
Cliff Buxton: [sotto voce] Mitch!
Glenn Latham: Well, imagine a basketball that's got two valves...
Janine Kellerman: I get it - when the Goldstone valve can't see Apollo Eleven, the Parkes valve can!
Glenn Latham: [relaxes] Exactly.
Cliff Buxton: [grinning] Well done, Glenn!

[shot of Glenn and Janine standing next to Janine's car. The two of them are obviously smitten with one another. They are awkwardly trying to make small talk]
Glenn Latham: Thanks for bringing the sandwiches.
Janine Kellerman: That's all right...thanks for fixing my bumper bar.
Glenn Latham: [holds up sledge hammer] Oh, that's all right.
Janine Kellerman: Maybe...
Glenn Latham: [speaking at the same time as Janine] I was wondering if...
[they both stop speaking, pause, and giggle]
Janine Kellerman: [hopefully] What were you going to say?
Glenn Latham: [quickly and timidly] Nothing. [he pauses, then, hopefully] What were you going to say?
Janine Kellerman: [flustered] Nothing.
[cut to a long shot of the two of them standing next to the car]
Cliff Buxton: [off camera] He ask her out yet?
[cut to a shot of Cliff and Mitch, standing next to a railing. They have obviously been observing Glenn and Janine]
Ross "Mitch" Mitchell: No. [pause as he continues to observe Glenn and Janine] Oh, this is painful. [he turns away]

[An alarm is going off to alert the operators in the dish control room of high winds. Rudi comes rushing in as the alarm is silenced]
Rudi Kellerman: What's the bell for?
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Lets us know it's windy.
Rudi Kellerman: Oh, well I could'a told you that, it's blowin' a bloody gale outside!

Al Burnett: Not everyone at NASA is a hotshot college genius. The guy I most admire is from a one-horse town in Ohio.
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: And what's he do?
Al Burnett: Tomorrow he's gonna walk on the moon.
Glenn Latham: ...Who's the guy?

[The dish crew are aligning the dish in high winds. There is a loud crash as a gust of wind interferes with the dish's operation]
Al Burnett: [cringing] Christ! What the hell was that?
Cliff Buxton: Drive cog must have slipped a few teeth.
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: Either that, or Janine's trying to park.

[Mayor McIntyre is giving the prime minister a tour, presumably of the Parkes city hall. He is attempting to prepare the prime minister for the possibility that, due to high winds, the Parkes dish might not be able to carry the television coverage of the moon walk]
Bob McIntyre: ...Nothing is certain, no guarantees. [shrugs] Life, I guess.
[Mayor McIntyre laughs nervously. The prime minister slowly turns and looks steadily at mayor McIntyre]
Prime minister: [in a slightly threatening tone] You're joking, aren't you, McIntyre?
Bob McIntyre: [quickly] Yeah. Yeah, everything's fine. [he smiles weakly]
Prime minister: You know, McIntyre, we have a saying in the party: 'You don't fuck up...'
[slight pause]
Bob McIntyre: ...and?
Prime minister: That's it. [he looks away and moves off]

[The prime minister and the U.S. ambassador are at a gathering, waiting to watch the televised moon walk. They're discussing the fact that Neil Armstrong has overruled the NASA sleep break and rescheduled the moon walk]
Ambassador Hutfield: I'd do the same. If I'd just landed on the moon, I wouldn't want to be sleeping.
Prime minister: It's a bit like telling a kid to sleep on Christmas morning, eh, Howard?
[They both chuckle. The ambassador moves off. Bronwyn Spiers appears from behind a door frame]
Bronwyn Spiers: More tea, prime minister?
Prime minister: Ah, yes... [he holds out his tea cup. Bronwyn produces a decanter of whiskey and pours it into the cup surreptitiously] ...lovely.

[The prime minister, Mayor McIntyre and his family, the U.S. ambassador, and several other notables are watching the footage of the moon walk]
Len Purvis: [sotto voce, while discreetly handing Mayor McIntyre a note from behind] That was Cliff on the phone.
[Mayor McIntytre reads the note]
Mayor McIntyre: [disbelieving] The pictures...they came from us! [shouting, excited] You bloody beauty!
[Mayor McIntyre realizes his outburst, notices everyone is looking at him in shock. He looks sheepishly at the prime minister]
Prime minister: [obviously drunk] Bloody fantastic! Here's to Parkes! [he drains his teacup full of whiskey]


  • Man's first step on the moon nearly stumbled on earth.
  • As Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, our only link was a satellite dish in rural Australia with a few bugs (And a few hundred sheep).
  • Based on the true story of what we didn't see.
  • Houston's other problem.


External links[edit]

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