3 out of 5 stars
With regard to space travel, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made it to the moon aboard Apollo 11 before the Soviets were even close. The Russians never actually made a lunar landing and gave up on reaching the moon altogether. This was a significant victory for the Americans as tensions with the Soviet Union increased in the wake of the Cold War.
But in “For All Mankind,” creators Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert and Ronald Moore devised a world where the Russians land first and welcome the “Red Moon.” The Cold War conflict further intensifies between the two superpowers, and the butterfly effect is felt throughout the entire show as our historical timeline changes.
“This will shake things up in this country. I’ll tell you that right now. Things will never be the same,” a TV anchor in the show said as a man stepped off of a space shuttle and onto the moon. Millions of people around the world tuned in to watch the lunar landing and were glued to their TVs as they were about to see the first steps.
“Hang on…we have the translation that Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to step foot on the moon, spoke just moments ago,” the announcer continued.
“I take this step for my country, for my people, and for the Marxist-Leninist way of life. Knowing that today is just one small step on a journey that will take us all to the stars,” Leonov said.
My jaw dropped as I saw a Russian plant their flag on the moon. I was in complete awe and couldn’t wait to see where the show went from here. But as cinematic as the opening few minutes were, the rest of the show fell flat.
Apple released the first three episodes of the show on its new streaming platform, Apple TV+. The first two episodes felt like an extremely long prologue and it wasn’t until the third episode that the actual narrative began. The first two episodes focus more on the frustrations of the astronauts than their actual plan to avenge the failure of the American space program.
In response to the Russians sending a woman to the moon, NASA heavily invests in a team of all-female astronauts. But with a premise as good as ‘an alternate history to the moon landing, why wait until the third episode before developing this plot? The writers also spend the majority of the show focusing on the narrative of a handful of male astronauts instead of fully developing the female team. From the first three episodes that they released, it is hard to see where they are going, but hopefully they will further emphasize the female team.
From a purely cinematic standpoint, the show is incredible. The production is a great distraction from the slow start to the show. Every scene, from the NASA stations to the rockets to scenes of characters at home, feels as real as if you were actually in the late ‘60s and on this journey with them.
Although the first three episodes fell flat, I am optimistic that the show will pick up. With someone like Ronald Moore, who wrote for “Outlander” and “Battlestar Galactica,” it’s hard not to be.