Real life plans by NASA and SpaceX to land people on Mars may be mired in uncertainty, mostly having to do with a lack of funding, but voyages to the Red Planet seem all the rage for the #Big And Small screen. The #Matt Damon film, “The Martian,” started the craze going. Then National Geographic had a “Mars” miniseries that combined documentary and scripted drama. “The Space Between Us” was a forgettable interplanetary teenage romance between a boy raised on Mars and an Earth girl. Now we have the latest project for Hulu, called “#The First,” to be helmed by Beau Willimon, most famous for bringing the American version of “House of Cards” to Netflix.

Advertisements
Advertisements

The miniseries will evidently be about the first expedition to Mars, but not much else in the way of details have been offered, Willimon talked to Variety about “the human spirit” and “our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons” and with a nod toward, “ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary.”

The description, such as it is, sounds very exciting and would certainly fit any humans to Mars scenario, whether it involves NASA with some international partners or an eccentric billionaire like Elon Musk. Whether the effort will be a worthy one will no doubt reside in how it is executed. “The Martian” showed us how it’s done, with adherence (for the most part) to scientific accuracy, a winning character played by Matt Damon, and a daredevil rescue operation across interplanetary distances.

Advertisements

The question arises, with all of the fiction expeditions to Mars taking place on the big and small screens, how is the real thing going to top them insofar as drama is concerned. Fictional stories put the characters in peril, such as when Matt Damon had to survive on Mars for months until his crewmates came back to get him. A real-life expedition to Mars will be successful if it doesn’t have any such elements.

The first Apollo moon landing was the greatest reality show ever aired, with a billion people following it on a planet that had 3.5 billion people. The ratings for subsequent Apollo missions took a nose dive, with people irate that their game shows and soap operas kept being interrupted for live TV from the moon. Remember Apollo took place before cable news, NASA Select, and the Science Channel. The exception was Apollo 13, for obvious reasons,

On the other hand, the element that the events being telecast and live streamed will really be happening and not coming out of a CGI program will be a draw. One suspects that “Mars: The Reality Series” will be a good draw in the 21st Century media environment.