For all Mankind: “Go home,” says a misguided flight director to the astronauts gathered in front of him. “Get drunk,” groans Deke Slayton (Chris Brown), “gritting his teeth, howling at the moon, whatever.” An American nightmare has just come true: the Russians were the first to enter the moon. This is the starting point of the series “For all Mankind”. What would the authors Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi ask if, in the summer of 1969, not the Americans but the Soviets had raised their flag on the moon? If the Soviets, who had already duped the Americans with the first satellite, the first human in space and the first female in orbit, would have reached the Moon first?
It’s an ambitious project, one in seven, with which Apple wants to recommend itself on its platform Apple TV + to the audience of the highly competitive streaming market. Ronald Moore, born in 1964, dreamed as a child of flying to the moon and on, as he said at a press conference at Sony Pictures Studios. He gives vent to a great disappointment: “The Apollo program contained enormous promises: We would not only land on the moon, but live there. We would build orbital stations and space hotels, fly to Mars and Jupiter, and eventually get very far out into space. None of that happened. “So Moore paints out how it all could have been different.
On stage 15 of the studios, NASA offices, astronaut families’ living rooms, space capsules and even a piece of lunar surface have been set up. A warning sign apparently wants to prevent false footprints in the moon dust: “Do not walk on lunar surface.”
But the jewel of the series is not the moon, but a replica of the NASA command center, true to the ceiling tiles, from which the space missions were directed. In front of five huge screens, the computer consoles are lined with notebooks full of codes, pencils and half-empty coffee cups. Omnipresent ashtrays and cigarette packs from the Kool brand exude sixties flair. In fact, the boss of Apple’s streaming service Apple +, Zack van Amburg, had something like “Mad Men” at NASA in mind. But Moore did not want the downfall story of a once glorious authority that was drying up the money. “I would rather tell the story of a program that was promised to me and that I never got.”
The result is a ten-part series For all Mankind, which is filled with invented and historical figures (including Deke Slayton and Wernher von Braun, in supporting roles Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin). The focus is on the married couples Baldwin and Stevens, who have to rethink their role in the NASA program when the Soviets “win” the moon. Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens were close enough to touch the moon with Apollo 10; Baldwin grieves over the missed chance to conquer the Moon, even if this was not intended in his mission. As he flies in the presence of a reporter his displeasure over the lack of NASA risk, he flies out, to the dismay of his wife Karen (Shantel VanSanten). Tracy Stevens (Sarah Jones), wife of Baldwin’s Apollo 10 colleague Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman), is meanwhile being recorded in the hectically created Astronaut Corps after the Russians have brought a cosmonaut to the moon. President Nixon urges NASA to do the same to the Russians, “best with a blonde.” The future “Moon Maiden” is the subject of general amusement. But Slayton takes the matter seriously and is recruiting a women’s team that includes Tracy Stevens, computer specialist Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) and pilot Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger).
Walger’s figure pays tribute to Jerrie Cobb, who died this year and is a pilot and candidate for the unofficial Mercury 13 program, which successfully tested women in 1960 for space flight, but was tilted. Molly is one of the most interesting characters in the series. She keeps bumping into the glass ceiling, does not trust the gentlemen’s club and counters the condescension that comes towards her. In front of another NASA pioneer, the series features Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt), computer analyst in the Mission Control Room, in the hat: Poppy Northcutt, who was the only woman working in the command center during the Apollo missions.
Superficially, “For All Mankind” is a somewhat crude political thriller about the race between Americans and Soviets in space. While the Americans are staring depressed at their now useless moon plaque (“We came in peace for all humanity”), the Soviets claim the moon “for the Marxist-Leninist way of life”. When the US Congress seeks a villain for the defeat, the engineer Wernher von Braun (Colm Feore) is held in a bizarre hearing his Nazi past.
More differentiated it gets to the point when the series draws a relationship image of the late sixties and early seventies in terms of relationships. Tracy is fighting for her marriage – NASA does not tolerate divorce, and is aware that she is only sent into space because she is a great PR number as an astronaut’s wife. The best is “For All Mankind”, if she sees herself as a workplace drama.