At the end of For All Mankind’s third season, President Ellen Wilson references John F Kennedy’s famous speech encouraging America to fight for the moon (and other endeavors), “not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.” These historic words, spoken six decades ago, are a pure encapsulation of that genuine precision of the Apple TV Plus series designed to marvel at the miracle of humans traveling into outer space.
Of course, the show’s co-creator, Ronald D Moore, has form when it comes to emphasizing the challenges of life on the final frontier. While he made a name for himself working among Star Trek’s warp engines, transport beams and palatial ships, his brilliant and daring reinvention of Battlestar Galactica (BSG) ensured that disputes over oxygen, water and food supplies were part of the day. everyday life like staying one step ahead of those pesky Cylons. NASA’s most optimistic and optimistic approach to space exploration in For All Mankind may be light years from the BSG war base, but there’s still no denying that space travel comes with an extra frisson of danger and excitement when the protagonists are floating. a glorified can.
However, there is more to For All Mankind than simply staying alive in a hostile environment. If you haven’t delved into this particular jewel in the Apple TV Plus crown, you’re missing out, because a brilliant three-season, 30-episode saga awaits you – and a fourth season has already been greenlit. The show imagines a compelling alternate history of the late 20th century, in which the Soviet Union beat the United States to plant the first flag on the Moon in 1969.
In this version of events, relegating Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to runner-up status proves to be the spark that lifts the space race to new levels of competitiveness. Where America’s real-life excursions to the moon ended with Apollo 17 in 1972, the For All Mankind-verse sees NASA competing with the Soviet space agency to establish a permanent base on the moon – pushing science and astronauts to their limits. and beyond.
The show’s first season has unmistakable echoes of the ’80s sci-fi movie The Right Stuff, with highly skilled, testosterone-fueled test pilots – many of them based on real astronauts – proving that going where no one has gone before can be a viable day. . job. Making giant leaps for humanity isn’t always as big a motivation as sating your rocket-sized egos, but as much as they are the faces of the space program, For All Mankind also celebrates the geniuses behind the scenes.
To paraphrase Han Solo from Star Wars, traveling through space isn’t like clearing crops, and it’s the elite scientists in mission control who really keep NASA in orbit. Indeed, their problem-solving exploits often play out like TV spin-offs of Apollo 13 or The Martian, their deft deployment of complex math as thrilling as the spectacular drama unfolding miles above them.
As season two jumps to 1983 – this is a show that spans significant time jumps on multiple occasions – For All Mankind inevitably departs from the history books. With space travel now close to routine, both the US and USSR have sizable lunar presences, a state of affairs that turns Earth’s closest neighbor into the most recent frontier of the Cold War.
Despite the ambitious timeframe of decades, For All Mankind keeps you engaged by focusing on the same characters at different stages of their lives. Sure, this adds to the credibility that some families can be so important to NASA — the ever-present Baldwins are effectively For All Mankind’s answer to the Skywalkers — but this sophisticated novel keeps you hooked. Even as season three ventures further into sci-fi territory with its mission to Mars, it’s the human and terrestrial elements of the story — the tragedies, the romance, the mundane colliding with the extraordinary — that keep the series believable and grounded.
But for all the series’ plot twists you remember, For All Mankind doesn’t change everything. The soundtrack is filled with recognizable songs that defined an era, while various historical events play out exactly as they did in our reality – even when there’s a different person in the White House to deal with their aftermath. The show’s retro-futuristic tech also feels pleasantly familiar, though this turbo-charged space race significantly sped up developments to the point where video calling was pretty common in the ’90s.
building better worlds
Ultimately, the main purpose of the show’s mission is to show us a better version of our world. That’s not to say that everything in the epic game of “what if?” from For All Mankind is sun and lollipops – in fact, it would be a huge disappointment if a show from the man behind Battlestar Galactica didn’t have a full palette of shades of gray. But beyond the still-smoldering tensions of the Cold War, dirty political tricks, blackmail, espionage and corporate wrangling, there is a sense of optimism at play.
Sure, astronauts aren’t saints — the selfish and intimidating Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) would be a nightmare to work with — but they celebrate an environment where teamwork and trust are essential. And despite a few hiccups along the way – For All Mankind makes it clear that whatever timeline you live in, you should never trust a politician – this parallel universe is significantly more progressive than the real 20th century. when it comes to the representation of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
This show is driven by the old Doc Brown mantra that “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”. We may not be living in the utopian world of flying cars and affordable space tourism that optimistic futurists imagined in the 1960s, but For All Mankind is the next best thing. Fighting for a better world can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
All three seasons of For All Mankind are now available to stream on Apple TV Plus.