If you haven’t heard about this amazing show based on the book How We’ll Live on Mars by Dr. Stephen Petranek, MARS is a series that explores our relationship with the red planet, Earth and how we will move to the next stage of human exploration and expansion. If you liked the Martian, then you’ll really dig MARS.
Produced in a joint venture by RadicalMedia for National Geographic and Imagine Entertainment, yes that Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosenberg are executive producers along with Justin Wilkes, who is also a producer and a co-creator, MARS is a unique mix of real-world documentary, talking with scientists and experts about how and why humans will get there, and a scripted speculative drama showing us what the mission of survival on Mars will look like as the colonists work to terraform Mars into humanities second home.
This show does an amazing job of forecasting the science/technology needed to make a trip to Mars, as well as the politics behind the scenes, but you can definitely see the logic behind some of the edits, they work at finding the balance to present a fair representation of what is needed to help drive this vision. The show is crafted so that the scripted side and the documentary portions compliment each other in such a way that the viewer will be educated, in addition to being entertained. What makes this show really work is the way it places characters ahead of the nuts and bolts of the plotline, you’ll want to see them not only survive but thrive.
After ending on a bittersweet note, don’t want to spoil too much if you haven’t seen the first season and you have Monday off in observance of Veteran’s Day, you can catch up on the dramatic first season quickly, it’s only six episodes of humans vs Mars before the new season starts, and you’ll want to because season 2 opens with a bang.
Five years later and our intrepid colonists have expanded the Olympus Town Colony, but are now joined by the Lukrum Mining Corporation who exploit the Colonists while looking to exploit Mars, turning the Red Planet into the solar system’s version of the new Wild West. If season 1 was about getting to and surviving on Mars, season 2 is about surviving on Mars with the new neighbors.
At this year’s New York Comic Con 2018, before their main panel “When Earthlings Become Martians: National Geographic’s MARS, Season 2”, the panelist which included Cast, Showrunners and some of the show’s consultants, aka Big Thinkers, gave press interviews to talk about the upcoming season and I was super fortunate to be in the room with these folks. If you’ve never been to a press room before its like speed dating in a group.
- Michio Kaku, MARS Big Thinker; futurist and physicist; author of Physics of the Future.
- Lucianne Walkowicz, MARS Big Thinker; Astrobiology Chair, Kluge Center of the Library of Congress; Astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
- Jihae (Mortal Engines), actor, “Hana Seung,” Mission Commander of International Mars Science Foundation’s (IMSF) Olympus Town, and “Joon Seung,” Former Secretary General of IMSF.
- Jeff Hephner (Chicago Med, Code Black), actor, “Kurt Hurrelle,” Commander of Lukrum Mining Colony.
- Evan Hall (Orange Is the New Black), actor, “Shep Marster,” Operation Supervisor, Lukrum Mining Colony.
- Dee Johnson (Nashville, Boss, ER), MARS season 2 showrunner and executive producer.
- Justin Wilkes (My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, What Happened, Miss Simone?), co-creator and executive producer, Imagine Entertainment.
- Andy Weir, MARS Big Thinker; bestselling author of The Martian and most recently Artemis.
- Dr. Stephen Petranek, MARS scientific advisor, co-executive producer, and Big Thinker; award-winning author of How We’ll Live on Mars, upon which the series is based.
Our first round began with Michio Kaku and Lucianne Walkowicz who both agreed that there needs to be a compromise between governments and businesses to ensure that this mission will succeed, from economic necessity to revisiting the space laws and the timeline to mars.
Michio Kaku: I personally believe that we should revise the outer space treaty the outer space treaty is the only internationally-recognized piece that regulates the exploration of the universe, it says for example that no Nation can control the moon or Mars but it says nothing about private enterprises a huge gap in the outer space treaty it cannot say you can put nuclear weapons and sweet but it says nothing about non nuclear weapons which are just as devastating and outer space but the point is a nation cannot simply put a flag on the moon or on Mars but if you’re a private individual in principle you can so I think we need to have the nation of the World renegotiate a new treaty or else I’ll be chaos on Mars.”
Lucianne Walkowicz: Well there’s always been conflict between interest of Private Industry and scientific exploration but it’s important to realize that historically scientific exploration and Private Industry have never been separate going back to the early voyages that went to do measurements of the eclipses those were all scouting machines that were all funded by people with commercial interests.”
As far as getting to Mars.
Walkowicz: Right now the main focus is on going to the moon or building an orbital Gateway of some sort and I think that the realities are that there’s a limited amount of funding so no matter how much we say we’re going to the moon and then Mars, we’re doing both, what it really means is we’re going to the Moon first. I think that there’s no barrier to us being able to actually go to Mars in a sort of technical sense, we know how to send human into space, there are a bunch of open questions but we can very well do it I think often it’s a matter of motivation and a motivation that comes in funding.
The next set of people to join the table where the actors Jihae, Jeff Hephner, and Evan Hall. In full transparency, the audio recording was unfortunately lost and only brief hand notes survived to convey the actors love of this work and how it has affected them in their lives giving them a deeper appreciation for basic things like water and also gaining empathy for people who work with big corporations, people who are just working to provide for their families.
Round three brought producer/co-creator Justin Wilkes and new showrunner Dee Johnson to the table.
Justin Wilkes: I think the biggest thing for me, and Dee probably has a great answer for this too, season 1 was really an experiment in the storyteller form, there was no recipe for how documentary and drama were going to coexist with one another, and it really did come together in the edit. For season 2 when we first brought Dee on we had a pretty good template of how what would work based on season 1, so when you (Dee) came in..
Dee Johnson: We really sort of embraced our documentary partners in our storytelling so we can blend it more, not that season one wasn’t seamless, but we really wanted to maximize how the documentary blended into the scripted in a way that it wasn’t such a war, it sort of supplemented and helped, spoked to different points and did a lot of heavy lifting for us in terms of that, expressing those points of view and looking historically at some of the things we see play out on Earth that we were sort of talking about as story on Mars. It was a concerted effort to make those two mediums blend which was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done on television.
Beat: Were there any rewrite because of the current political climate now?
Justin Wilkes: Its funny, I was looking at a new promo earlier today of Trump ripping up the Paris Accords and it plays as good now today, as it did a year ago or six months ago when we edit it in, so, unfortunately, no, just getting worse in a lot of respects. I think the bigger message is our actions have consequences, our individual actions have consequences, as society actions have consequences and something as mundane as people tearing up the Paris Accords or trade negotiation, you have to really think generations ahead, how is that going to impact us? If suddenly drilling is open in the Arctic, what is that going to do to that environment and those same issues are playing out in our story on Mars because we believe that humans kind of do what humans do and so the same issues are going to happen there when you have money and resources involved.
The last two panelists to join us were writers Dr. Stephen Petranek and Andy Weir so it was obvious we all wanted to know if they would go to Mars if given the chance.
Dr. Stephen Petranek: I would really like to go no matter what the consequences are I would be okay with dying on Mars but not on impact I would be perfectly fine with that but I probably wouldn’t want my children or loved ones to go because I think it would be too risky in the early stages if we’re talking a hundred years from now it’ll be like taking a plane to Britain.
Andy Weir: I myself would not want to go so I definitely wouldn’t want my loved ones to go it’s not about pessimism I’m not a risk-taker I’m not a brave person not that kind of Brave I would not be a good test pilot I would not be a good acrobat I am happy to stay home where I could get pizza delivery and everything’s great and so I myself would not want to go I would not want my loved ones were there a few relatives that I wouldn’t mind. I’m happy to fantasize about going to Mars I wouldn’t actually want to do it I bet you George RR Martin wouldn’t want to live in Westeros.
As far as getting to Mars the gentlemen each had a different opinion about the timeline with regards to the show and real life.
Andy Weir: My guess has always been I always answer the same way when people ask me this I do believe that NASA could get to the Mars and the 2030s if they were properly funding so I’m guessing more along the lines of 2050 is when will see the first humans on Mars.
Dr. Stephen Petranek: I think if you’re waiting for NASA is going to be a long wait. SpaceX is founded for one mission statement only to build a sustainable Colony for humans on Mars. That’s why they exist, every single thing they do, they put through that filter. If they’re going to build a specific kind of rocket to get into geosynchronous orbit, they actually think how does this rocket contribute to us getting to Mars. I’ve been to SpaceX a number of times and interviewed a number of people there, and I’ve not met the person there yet, who’s working at SpaceX because it’s a great job. Everyone working there is there because they want to get people to Mars, it’s like a giant cult, and I’m telling you they’re going to be successful. Musk is going to be gravely disappointed, no matter how optimistic he is, he’s saying now they’re going to get the first rockets to Mars in 2024, which is even more optimistic than when I originally interviewed him for the book when we guess 2027. He is going to be gravely disappointed if he doesn’t land humans on Mars before 2030, so I think somewhere in that time is much more realistic than waiting for 2050.
Whether humans can get to Mars within the next 15 to 20 years is up to history to decide, but if you want to get a great look at what it would be like tune in as the second season of MARS returns to the National Geographic channel tonight November 12th at 9 pm est., check your local providers to make sure you catch this cool look at humanity’s future.