Laidback, light, but fuelled with Cold War paranoia, Summer of Rockets episode 1 serves as an engaging pilot for the BBC 2 series.
This Recap of Summer of Rockets Episode 1 contains significant spoilers. We will be covering the BBC series every week.
Summer of Rockets episode 1 opens up the BBC series with the cold-war paranoia, exposing us to the dislike of Russians in the 1950s. The Petrukhin family attend The Royal Enclosure, accompanied by Courtney Johnson (Gary Beadle). The guests are noticeably wary of the family due to the fact of their Russian heritage and that Courtney is a black man. At the event, their son Sasha collapses, with suspected appendicitis, forcing his father Samuel to be frustrated by the hospital processes.
Episode 1 confirms that Samuel (Toby Stephens) is a Russian Jewish inventor, who has managed to embed himself and his family into British society by creating his devices. His most famous invention is the hearing aid, proudly worn by Sir Winston Churchill himself. Summer of Rockets is a rather laidback story, with Samuel the focus, but his son warily attending a strict boarding school, while his daughter Hannah is attending etiquette classes, practicing to represent the family for when she meets the queen.
Summer of Rockets episode 1 also introduces us to Kathleen (Keeley Hawes) and Richard Shaw (Linus Roache). Kathleen organizes for the Petrukhin family to attend their residence to implement new hearing aids to Richard’s mother, but its strange how much of a keen interest they have taken in the family. Richard is a Conservative MP, but clearly has issues born from the war, found collapsed by Sasha out in their extensive garden, with Kathleen paying him off, asking him not to say a word.
Summer of Rockets episode 1 shows how much financial pressure Samuel is under, with Courtney insisting he cut down costs and sells his newer hearing aids appropriately. Samuel seems determined to create the first pager for hospitals, to ensure that doctors know they are called for after the confusion he experienced with his son. This makes for amusing television as he tries to test out the pager at a hospital, with the buy-in low, despite the logic of it all.
Samuel and Courtney are also wondering who is following them in episode 1. With Cold War tensions high, they receive sly digs that people are wary of them, but Samuel is keenly proud that he is now British.
Hannah eventually goes through the rigor of etiquette lessons, and the big day comes when she gets to visit the Queen, while her father is trying to persuade orders on his pagers, eagerly trying to sell it to Lord Arthur Wallington at another dinner at the Shaw’s household. When Hannah attends the ceremony, she becomes paranoid about nuclear bombs due to the recent news of a near-accident in the USA, and snaps one of her heels – she makes use of it though, snapping the other one so she can be level.
Summer of Rockets episode 1 ends with Samuel and Courtney determined to find out who is following them. They realize it isn’t their competitors as four men in cloaks walk towards them. The pilot episode was extraordinarily light and laidback despite the premise, and strangely on-the-nose.
Our coverage does not stop here. Read the recap of the second episode by clicking these words.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.