As a family gather to watch one of their own swimming in the Olympics, they uncover the secrets of a lifetime.
Twenty-year old Carol Dunn seems all set to win a surprise medal for New Zealand in the Olympic Pool.
Back home, along with the rest of the nation, her family is caught in the euphoria and nervously awaits the arrival of television director, Brian Stanning and Paul, his young cameraman, who will film them watching Carol's finest hour.
But Chrissy, Carol's drop-out identical twin, refuses to take part in the broadcast until the small matter of her parentage, brought into question by her father on his deathbed, is cleard up. She is confused by Paul's unwelcome presence - her one night stand with him is the last thing she wants to revisit. And Paul himself soon realises that all is not as it seems within the apparently unremarkable suburban walls of the Dunn household.
No one is prepared for the riot of recrimination and revelation that erupts during the build up to the fateful broadcast. Thirty-five year old Jen, whose biological clock is ticking fast, is hot on the first horrifying trail: just who is the father of the baby that middle sister Lyn is on the verge of having? And why is Ken, her mild but errant electrician husband, acting so strangely?
Good-hearted Paul tries to do his best by Chrissy. But it is her mum, Joyce, who eventually reveals the circumstances of the twins' birth. And it's Joyce, rejuvenated by an accidental and near fatal whack of electricity, who initiates the twins' emotional reconciliation with the rest of the family.
Thus finally, the television pictures that emerge from the Dunn household moments after Carol's amazing feat, are, in spite of everything, glorious. Together, with Carol, beamed into their lives via satellite, the Dunns celebrate the awful, awesome triumph that is family life.
Writer/director Anthony McCarten says that the idea for Via Satellite came to him while watching sport on television. On the other side of the world at that moment, Mark Todd was going for his third championship win at Badminton.
At one point in the broadcast, the station cut back to the home of Mr and Mrs Todd, watching their son on TV. McCarten was struck by the contrast between international glory coupled with domestic ordinariness; sudden fame with humdrum obscurity.
These images inspired McCarten's original stage play and adapted screenplay for Via Satellite, and the role of the satellite pictures as a vital but unspoken means of communication between the parents and an alienated child; a private moment happening under the aegis of a public broadcasting network.