I’m currently watching Mars on Netflix and I can’t sing the praises of this show enough. It’s got a really interesting format: it’s half modern-day documentary, half fiction. So, half the show is interviews featuring well-known modern scientists and engineers like Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and the other half is a sci-fi drama about the first colonists on Mars, beginning in 2033.
The format makes for a really compelling show for anyone who’s interested in deep space colonization, as I am. The documentary part does a great job at setting up the stakes for the drama, both by grounding the plot in reality and by providing exciting background information. Together, they make a cohesive show that’s emotionally compelling and inspirational. It makes Mars colonization feel realistic, achievable, inevitable and even modern.
To give an example of how the two filmmaking styles mesh together, there will be an episode where, for example, the colonists face a particular challenge like dealing with the psychological effects of isolation. On the documentary side, they’ll show documentary footage of what NASA and other entities are currently doing to prepare for that inevitability. In that particular instance, the documentary shows a base camp in an isolated part of volcanic Hawaii, where a small crew is stationed for a year to study the effects of isolation.
It covers a variety of interesting topics, from the similarities between establishing scientific research outposts in the arctic to how hydroponic gardening techniques will need to develop for life on Mars.
The documentary, of course, is the side-dish to the show, which plays as a sort of dramatized version of Survivorman, or Into the Wild, or a similar man vs. nature type of show. The crew is memorable, if not a bit stereotypical, but it all does a great job at seeming very real, plausible and grounded. This is not a soap opera in space. More, it feels very much like a legitimate slice of life drama, a look into the realistic lives of Mars colonists who feel alive and plausible.
Altogether, Mars on Netflix provides a fantastic piece of aspirational sci-fi combining documentary filmmaking and drama to create a compelling show that works on two levels