Here is a recipe.
Two-time Oscar Winner Hilary Swank as Emma, commander of the mission, a loving husband who also happens to be a NASA genius, a rebellious teenage daughter, a life-threatening illness and a three-year mission to Mars. Add those altogether and you have a potential recipe for success with Ms. Swanks new Netflix series, “Away”
Away does not focus on the traditional aspects of space missions. It does give you a healthy dose of them, but it is propped up by some very complex back stories, all of which are told in detail. As a watcher, you are left in no doubt that the multi-cultural crew are the absolute best at their individual skills and roles. As a watcher, you are left in no doubt that each is managing leaving people behind differently.
Away does not promise or deliver flash and/or drama, that is not what it is about. What it does deliver is the complex back stories told against the backdrop of a 3 year mission. You will find no aliens lurking here, its, for want of a better phrase….a workplace/family program.
Emma’s team of the world’s best and brightest include Misha (Mark Ivanir), Earth’s most experienced cosmonaut, wry-tongued Indian co-pilot Ram (Ray Panthaki), Ghanan/British botanist and space newbie Kwesi (Ato Essandoh), and Lu (Vivian Wu), who is the reserved Chinese representative. She has been tagged as the first person to set foot on the surface of the solar system’s fourth planet.
Still, when the show focuses on a character’s attempt to reconnect with a loved one or when an astronaut takes a massive risk, or something seemingly impossible manages to happen, magic can be felt on screen.
Away is not full of drama as the movie Mission to Mars is. It does not give you edge of your seat stuff every second but what it does give you is real. Real people struggling with real separation. Real people struggling to get along when trust boundaries are judged. Away gives you family.
For those reading this who loved the West Wing and the eloquence that was Aaron Sorkin, in an episode entitled “Gallileo” the question of “Why Mars?” gets asked. Speechwriter Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), speaking the words of Aaron Sorkin says,
‘Cause it’s next. For we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill, and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on the timeline of exploration, and this is what’s next.