At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.


“For All Mankind” Needs these Course Corrections

Here is my review for the first 3 seasons of this alternate reality TV series that chronicles the space race from the 1960s to the 1990s.

I originally checked out “For All Mankind” when it premiered on Apple TV+ back in 2019. And while I understood the premise that this was an alternate reality where the Russians landed on the Moon first, I expected some type of explanation as to how this reality evolved or was created. That never comes. (Yes, I admit I’m heavily influenced by the whole MCU multiverse.)

And while it’s interesting to watch how this timeline continues to branch out, it’s really just background.

And as I watched the first episode, I couldn’t help but feel how slowly it moved. The plot kept focusing on the family lives of the characters instead of the space program.

And then it finally hit me. Oh, that’s what this show is really about. It’s a character-driven drama about the astronauts and ground support engineers who work for NASA… in an alternate timeline.

It’s fiction. But not really science fiction as we might traditionally expect.

This Alternate Timeline Moves Slowly
“For All Mankind” is created by Ronald D. Moore, who is royalty in science fiction television. He executive produced the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” and was a writer and significant influence on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

The premise of an ongoing space race opens up so much possibility. It’s a great idea. But it’s not the engine that fuels much of the drama in this series.

The show takes its time, and you’ve got to be willing to go along for the ride with a whole host of characters, some more interesting than others.

The payoff wasn’t there for me. So, I quickly gave up on “For All Mankind” after the first couple of episodes.

A Second Chance
Fast forward a few years (as the show likes to do between its seasons). Some friends told me how much they enjoy “For All Mankind.” When I told them how I couldn’t reach orbit with the show, they told me that it gets better after season 1, and that season 3 was really good.

So I tried again.

Yes, season 1 was a slog with so much emotion to get through, but the series does get better. So I decided to strap myself in and get through all three seasons that have been released to date. And I’m happy to report that I’ve accomplished my mission.

And I’ve got a few thoughts to share (with some minor spoilers)…

A Rerun of our Past
“For All Mankind” is really ambitious, especially as it jumps from decade to decade. And in doing so, it leaves inevitable holes in its storytelling.

It tackles many of the major societal social struggles of the past half century. You’ve got to give it credit for its reach. But at the same time, this narratively forces the show to focus backwards on our actual past instead of forwards towards an alternate future from our past. (Got that?)

Science fiction stories often bake big social themes of the day into the storytelling. It’s simply more front and center here. But while the series does rewrite some pieces of history and has fun with an alternate set of presidents, the world is still fundamentally the same. This reality hasn’t branched out that much.

At its core, “For All Mankind” is simply a drama. Or maybe a historical narrative from an alternate timeline. Again, it’s not science fiction as you might expect.

That said, I do appreciate it when the writers throw a few bones to sci-fi fans with references to “Star Trek” and “Space: 1999.”

Lots of Secrets
The storytelling structure is unusual in that there really aren’t any ‘bad guys’… just a lot of grays in many of the characters. Yes, there are a few episodes on the moon when the Russians aren’t at their finest, but they have reason to be upset at the Americans.

It’s often difficult to create narrative tension where you don’t have a villain. And the writers do a pretty good job working around that by making sure just about all of the characters we care about have a secret that has the potential to destroy their lives.

Houston, We Have a Problem
While the heart of “For All Mankind” is focused on relationships at home on planet Earth, the best parts are indeed off planet and where the show comes closest to an action/adventure series. In many ways, the series finds a better balance as it sets its sights on the mission to Mars in season 3.

But as much as the show finally finds its groove in the 1990s, the writers continue to inject instability by (spoiler alert) killing off major characters across the seasons.

Is that supposed to make me feel that anything is possible in this show? I suppose. But I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy about a series that keeps killing my favorite characters.

And some of the ways our astronauts act are a little far-fetched. (Do they really disobey orders as a norm in this reality?) Then, I have to remind myself that this is not real… it’s still fiction. But does that make it okay?

And (spoiler alert) after the explosive ending to season 3, what’s really left that I might want to care about? A problem for the writers… to be sure.

Don’t Exhaust the Viewers
So yes, I’ve now watched all three seasons. And clearly I’ve got some issues with “For All Mankind.” Is there a reason to keep watching into season 4 when it comes out?

Well, that final reveal into 2003 at the end of the last episode that previews season 4 is certainly enough to peak anyone’s interest.

Here’s one suggestion for the writers…

Reality is tough. I know every story doesn’t get a happy ending. And this alternate reality seems intent on maintaining a healthy dose of this cruel truth. But that can feel exhausting.

I think it’s time for a little more healing, thank you very much.

Find the Right Balance in this Timeline
“For All Mankind” is bold. There’s nothing else like it as it jumps from decade to decade with many of the same characters. And each season improves on the last. But it takes a commitment get through.

The show has teased going to Jupiter after Mars. I’d like to still be there if that happens. But I’d appreciate a few more thrills and a few less tears along the way.

Mr. Moore, I’d prefer this journey across space and time to just be a little more fun.

Make it so?

Did You Know NASA Has a Martian Prime Directive?

The walls of the Garni Crater on Mars have dark, narrow streaks that NASA says reveal liquid water. Terran scientists are jumping up and down with glee, but there’s a catch…

The walls of the Garni Crater on Mars have dark, narrow streaks that NASA says reveal liquid water. Terran scientists are jumping up and down with glee, but there’s a catch…

Remember the Prime Directive on “Star Trek?” You know, that pesky Federation law that Captain Kirk often had to ‘bend,’ which was supposed to prevent humans from altering the natural development of an alien civilization?

In case you missed it, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted ‘definitive evidence’ of liquid salty water on Mars… not from millions of years ago… but right now!

Reconnaissance snapped photos showing dark streaks ‘seeping’ down Martian slopes, and the streaks have been changing size depending on the surface temperature.

Well of course, you’d think we should now refocus all of our Martian exploration efforts where this water is. Right?


Unwanted Hitchhikers
Well, it turns out, NASA’s got it’s own Prime Directive, and it’s called the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty.

This pesky treaty mostly talks about the peaceful exploration of space, but Article IX briefly addresses the protection of other planets:

“States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination…”

So it’s like we’ve got to wash our hands, before first sitting down to dinner with any Martians we might find.

And the problem is… we haven’t thoroughly washed our hands.

Article IX is a Bummer
When NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover landed on Mars back in 2012, it wasn’t totally sterilized from all Earth microbes. Turns out, that’s extremely difficult and ‘expensive’ to do.

Most likely, there are some tough Terran microbial hitchhikers cruising with Curiosity on Mars today.

And if Curiosity did come across any form of Martian life, we wouldn’t want to contaminate it with our own micro bugs.
(Note the ending from H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”)

So even if Curiosity could be redirected to check out this discovery,
(Which the rover can’t get to…the slopes are too steep.)
…Curiosity is banned from this new ‘forbidden zone,’ because of Article IX!

That’s right… We spent billions of dollars to send robots up there to look for life, and when we finally find a place that’s actually got some water, where there’s a stronger chance of finding life, we can’t… because we didn’t spend enough money to sterilize our gear to protect the Martians.

And guess what?
It looks like we’ve got the same problem with the next Mars rover mission in 2020.


I think we 21st century humans needs a little dose of Captain Kirk’s 23rd century explorative ‘joie de vivre’ right about now…

Searching for Life… from Afar
I really don’t get it…
Isn’t there an inherent problem with the design of all this?

If we’re trying to find life on Mars, shouldn’t we be able to go to the places where there’s a greater chance of some actual life?

Yes, it’s lovely to see all of those nifty pictures from the surface of Mars, but come on!!

I don’t typically end my posts with more questions than answers, but I’m a little stumped.

Yes, I understand NASA doesn’t have the money or technology to send up a totally “clean” mission to Mars…but there’s got to be some way to figure this all out.

And haven’t we already contaminated the Red Planet with our Mars exploration to date?

What would the Prime Directive and Mr. Spock have to say about that…?

%d bloggers like this: