Review By Frances Winston
Created by: Andrew Hinderaker – Starring: Hilary Swank, Ato Essandoh, Mark Ivanir, Ray Panthaki, Vivian Wu, Talitha Bateman, Josh Charles
All 10 episodes available to stream on Netflix now!
Oscar winner, Hilary Swank, makes a rare small-screen outing in this sci-fi drama, following a mission to Mars. She plays Emma Green, the commander of a carefully selected crew of astronauts from all over the world, who undertake a treacherous three year mission to become the first humans on Mars.
As they struggle with personality clashes and the dangers they encounter in space, their friends and family on earth struggle to adjust to life without them.
This is an emotional drama, more so than a space adventure. While the scenes in space are epic, with impressive effects, the focus is on the human stories rather than the sci-fi.
Emma is dealing with a teenage daughter, who is acting out to cope with what she sees as her mum’s abandonment, an ill husband, who is trying to recover with little help, and general guilt about leaving her family.
Meanwhile, her crew all have their own family dramas.
For example, Russian astronaut, Misha (Ivanir) has logged more hours in space than any other human, but at the cost of his relationship with his daughter, and Chinese astronaut, Yu (Wu) has lost custody of her son to her husband, after he discovered she was in a relationship with a woman. As the mission progresses, they all have the opportunity to video chat with family members and loved ones, leading to Lost-style flashback scenes, showing us formative moments in their lives.
The scenes on earth help to break what could be the monotony of the space scenes. As anyone who has ever seen a space drama knows, they can be rather formulaic. The backstories are all interesting and varied, and help keep the viewer engaged, as the space scenes do get a bit monotonous.
Another Netflix offering, Lost in Space, actually handled the juxtaposition between family and mission much better. That said, this has a lot going for it, helped by a strong cast who all give a great performance.
The pacing is somewhat awry from episode to episode, but, overall, this is an engaging watch, with just enough emotional relate-ability to keep the viewer engaged.
This never quite reaches the starry heights of its ambitions, but it is a solid enough watch that will entertain without compelling a full-on binge watch.