The genre of ‘Alternate History' has become increasingly popular over the past few years. With For All Mankind now in the mix, it joins the likes of Man In The High Castle (Amazon Prime) and the critically acclaimed dystopian thriller 1983 which explores a scenario where the Iron Curtain did not fall.
How does For All Mankind stand up against them? Firstly, what is it about?
What Is For All Mankind About?
It's the 1960s, and the space race is on. Space exploration is a hot topic with the USA up against the Soviet Union to be the first to put a man on the moon.
We all know how that turns out. Or do we?
In the opening scene of For All Mankind, a Soviet cosmonaut plants the red Hammer and Sickle flag on the moon.
We then see President Nixon's reaction to the moon landing in grainy black and white newsreel footage.
This outcome devastates morale at NASA but also spurs an American effort to catch up. So can they?
And what does the world look like when historical events change everything?
Is For All Mankind Worth Watching?
You cannot fault the shows production values. It looks out of this world!
From the actor's clothing and hairstyles right down to those critical details such as children's toys, it is all spot on.
The soundtrack is a homage to the 60s best tunes and all in all, this builds a believable, immersive reality.
The importance of getting the period feel right can't be underestimated. It's only when we see the familiar turned upside down can the show's premise work.
The hook with all ‘Alternate History' movies, series and books is that ‘what if' scenario.
It should drive the story in unusual or unexpected directions. However, my chief criticism about For All Mankind is the lack of a sweeping narrative change.
It seems that once the Russians land on the moon, nothing really changes! We get to see Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong lamenting the fact that it should be them receiving ticker-tape parades rather than the Russians.
President Nixon's response to the increasing Soviet dominance is to task NASA with building a moonbase and putting the first woman on the moon – “preferably a blond”.
The lack of significant story development in season one does allow the series to explore the show's characters in detail.
The good news is that as the series progresses through the decades the impact of the Russians winning the space race does become obvious. So you do need to keep watching.
If you're an alternate history buff, you'll appreciate this show. However, I'm doubtful if the show will find a wider audience outside of the geek community.
I hope I'm wrong because with a few minor tweaks I can see this show reaching the stars.
How Many Seasons Of For All Mankind?
There are currently three seasons of For All Mankind available on Apple TV+.
Dropped in 2019, 2020 and 2021, each has ten episodes.
The first season was set in the late 1960s into the 1970s. Each subsequent season takes place ten years later.
So the second season takes place in the 1980s and the third season takes place in the 1990s.
We found out in the season 3 finale that season 4 takes place in the 2000s.
For All Mankind Cast
The cast is big and contains some excellent performances. Colm Feore (The Umbrella Academy) is fantastic as Wernher von Braun, and Joel Kinnaman (Edward Baldwin) is also worthy of note too.
Generally, the whole cast of this hit science fiction show is terrific. And honestly, if I could name them all, I would but there are probably over 100 different cast members!
So here are the main ones…
Joel Kinnaman as Edward “Ed” Baldwin, a top astronaut, based on Apollo 10 commander Thomas P. Stafford.
Michael Dorman as Gordon “Gordo” Stevens, an astronaut and Ed's best friend, based on Eugene Cernan.
Sarah Jones as Tracy Stevens, Gordo's wife who later also becomes an astronaut.
Shantel VanSanten as Karen Baldwin, Ed's wife who later owns the bar usually visited by NASA astronauts.
Jodi Balfour as Ellen Wilson, an astronaut who later becomes the NASA Administrator.
Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison, a NASA engineer based on Frances Northcutt.
Sonya Walger as Molly Cobb, an astronaut based on Jerrie Cobb.
Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole, an astronaut and member of “Nixon's Women”.
Cynthy Wu as Kelly Baldwin, a scientist and Ed's and Karen's adopted daughter.
Casey W. Johnson as Danny Stevens, an astronaut and Gordo's and Tracy's son.
Robert Bailey Jr. as Will Tyler, an astronaut on Sojourner.
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