I hate to break it to you, but if you were hoping “For All Mankind” was another run-of-the-mill TV series where Americans gloriously plant their flag on the Moon before everyone else, you’ve clearly got another thing coming. Instead, this Apple TV+ series asks the all-important “What if?” What if it was the Soviets who beat us to the Moon? Yes, brace yourselves—your mom’s apple pie is quaking, and so is your sense of history.
Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi, “For All Mankind” shakes up the space race cocktail and serves it in an alternate universe. Right off the bat, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov becomes the first human to step on the Moon, leaving NASA and its roster of real and historical figures like Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, and Deke Slayton a bit flummoxed. The series features an ensemble cast, including but not limited to Joel Kinnaman and Sarah Jones, who navigate through each tumultuous decade—from the 60s to the 2000s—with the grace of astronauts floating in zero gravity. The charm of the series lies not just in its tantalizing ‘What If?’ premise but also in the blend of real and fictional events, like the delicious mash-up of a Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan space jam, and yes, Bill Clinton makes an appearance too!
So, what’s it like being a part of this topsy-turvy, space-time continuum? It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, political intrigues, and technological wonders. Imagine an episode where Karen, a character who divorces Ed (don’t worry, no hard feelings—they still send video messages!), launches an orbital space hotel called Polaris. Neat, huh? But wait—there’s a twist! Space junk from a failed North Korean rocket interferes, causing chaos and turning it into an orbital episode of a soap opera. Just another day in space, folks!
And then there are your run-of-the-mill Earth issues. Gender, race, sexuality—they all have a say in the grander scheme of things. Even as Ellen, who becomes the President of the United States, deals with homosexuality in the military, the astronauts are busy wrestling on Mars, literally!
The characters’ fates are so twisted you’d think they’re orbiting Jupiter’s most complex moon. Everyone’s in everyone else’s business, from NASA’s director Margo, to Sergei, a Soviet spy, to the Helios team, a commercial space venture. There’s even a love affair that crosses national borders and Earth’s atmosphere!
What sets “For All Mankind” apart is the storytelling that’s as complex and interconnected as a well-calibrated spacecraft. Season 2 of the series was such a blast that it got nominated for a TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama. And guess what? It’s coming back with this fourth season, slated for a November 10th, 2023 premiere. Mark your calendars, because you wouldn’t want to miss the rocket launch!
In a nutshell, “For All Mankind” is more than just a series about an alternate history of the space race. It’s about humanity, geopolitics, and yes, the complex calculus of who gets to say they arrived first on the Moon—or Mars, or wherever we are headed next. So, sit back, grab your space popcorn, and enjoy the ride. The sky isn’t the limit here; it’s just the beginning.