Capitalizing on the massive success of Ridley Scott’s The Martian from a couple of years ago, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard bring you Mars, a TV mini-series event about the first manned mission to Mars in the year 2033.
The series is really unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Part of it is a documentary, taking an in-depth look at Space X, the commercial space exploration company that intends to launch a manned mission to Mars in the not too distant future. The documentary interviews people from Space X, as well as astrophysicists like Neil Degrasse Tyson, and related experts like Andy Weir (Author of The Martian) to show not only how a manned mission to Mars would work, but what Space X is actively doing to make it a reality. Then, the series will flashforward to the year 2033, where we see a fictional story of the first manned mission to Mars using this technology unfold.
The jumping back and forth between reality and fiction is an interesting way to approach this narrative of getting to Mars, but it does make it difficult to respond to the series in an analytical way. First, we don’t get a ton of characterization from the crew of the mission. I didn’t watch the entire series, but for as much as I did watch, I should still be able to tell you individual character traits about them all and I simply can’t. I think the main problem is that as we get invested in the crew on Mars having to deal with a problem like landing their rocket too far away from base, we are torn away to get some real life backstory on the technology being developed to allow future astronauts to land and reuse rockets on Mars and Earth. As we start to get really interested in how that technology works, we’re torn away to watch the crew collaborate with Earth to figure out the problem. It’s disorienting to say the least and that structure really causes problems when it comes to getting invested in any one aspect of the show.
Despite that, the story being told is a really interesting one. I like thinking about the practicality of how a mission to Mars would work, and how it would be feasible to not just go once for the fun of it, but actually try to establish some sort of colony to live on Mars. Given the lack of atmosphere, it seems like complete science fiction, but the more you watch of Mars, the more you realize that everything Mars throws at us is just a problem to be solved.
Overall, I like the series and the concept behind the series, but the structure had me wishing that I was just watching the fictional half of the story, with the documentary half being put on there as DVD extras.
Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from National Geographic.