TV Review – For All Mankind

Creators: Ronald D. Moore, Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert

Writer: Ronald D. Moore, Ben Nedivi, Stephanie Shannon & more

Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman, Sarah Jones 

Tagline: “What-If the Soviet landed first on the Moon?”

Trivia: According to Ronald D. Moore, the idea of the show came about during lunch with former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, when they discussed the possibility of an alternate history in which the Russians reached the moon before the Americans.

Another Apple TV show I was fortunate to catch. This time I was so impressed by it I wish I could see more than the 3 episodes I had.

It had everything a show should have in order to capture my attention and retain it; especially the cliffhangers at the end of each episode that would want me to keep on watching it.

I love What-If movies and alternate timeline stories with all its complications. For All Mankind has a brilliant premise and the execution of it is done incredibly well. The show presents an alternative history whereby the Soviets won the race to space and were the first ones to land on the moon.

For a nation who is obsessed with being first in everything, such as the USA, this is obviously a blow. The first 20 minutes of the show is a great piece in demonstrating the impact of being second on the nation.

The craftsmanship of combination between old footage of the moon landing and recordings of Nixon ranting about the Soviets beating us to the moon are so real you start to believe this actually took place.

One of the biggest challenges in alternate timelines is the effect that one change would have on other events that took place in that period.

For writers it’s a great example how this could be done in an elegant way. In some of the episodes you can recognize famous sentences, such as  “Failure is not an option” but now get a new interpretation to them

For All Mankind raises the question of what does it mean being second, how does it feel when you know you have the chance to be first but instructed to wait, due to other reasons.

Joel Kinnaman is playing a fictional astronaut who was on Apollo 10 and although could have landed on the moon, had to follow orders and keep to the mission goals and not land and become the first man on the moon. In a show that is all about What-If this is another What-If question.

Having a good premise is not enough to make a full season. What makes this show great is that it goes beyond the initial world of NASA.

Just like in real life, the change in history is making a change on social level, which covers sexuality, gender and race and being visible in the different episodes of the show.

My favourite episode is the one where due to the fact that the Russians sent a woman into space (which actually did happen) Nixon is furious and NASA has to respond by creating a program for women in order to send also a woman to space.

This allows us to see the prejudice and limitations women were exposed to in that era and see how one small decision could have impacted their status.

We can see in one episode how a character arc is fully shown. Sarah Jones playing one of the astronaut’s wives is chosen to the new program of women astronauts and is changing from a typical ’60 housewife who is supposed to stay at home and raise the kids and support whatever her husband is doing, to a powerful woman who beats the odds and proves everyone’s judgments about her and her abilities were wrong.

On top of it she gets her husband’s support and admiration for what she is doing. For writers it is a lesson how to create in one episode a full arc of a character.  

The only reason I didn’t give the show full marks is that it takes too long for the characters to develop and for us to get into the story and the impact that it has. But otherwise – I would highly recommend it, if you get the chance for an Apple TV, start with this one..

Verdict – 4/5 Stars in my book


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