I LOVE Netflix.
I come from a generation where we had to wait for Star Trek marathons to watch episodes of the series back to back. But even then, you only got to see the most popular episodes.
To watch Spock’s Brain (one of the worst, universally despised episodes) you had to wade through 3 years of syndicated re-runs. Which, admittedly, wasn’t so bad because you could see A Piece of the Action, The Trouble with Tribbles, and City on the Edge of Forever at least 3 times each, before you had to watch 1 Catspaw.
(Yes. I’m the Horror Geek, and that episode is written by Robert Bloch, but it’s low on horror and kind of boring.) If that sounds kind of arrogant, oops, you’ve found me out. IMHO, it’s one of Star Trek’s worst. (I can tell that this thing is going to ramble a little bit, so choose some protective headgear because this might get rough.)
I’m not cancel-cultural. I don’t want to dislike things, and in point of fact, rarely dislike them. However, I have never shied away from giving my opinion. Hence, this blog.
I was going to write something about Avatar: the Last Airbender, but I was without power several days this week and couldn’t work on the blog. So I would sit in my car (air conditioning coupled with good reception) and read for a while or/and also watch Netflix. Netflix somehow works on my phone without WiFi.
Netflix curates their content in rows with distinct labels. One of their newer rows boasts the Top Ten Viewed Shows in America Today. On Monday, I saw that Away was released #1 in America. My first thought was that it was going to be a rip on Another Life. I was dubious, but because it’s Science Fiction, I had to check it out.
Although it has similarities to Another Life, that show never made me weep the way this one does. I binge-watched it and I don’t care if no one likes this show, I LOVED this show. (At last check, it has a 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and falling.)
Away is heralded as a science fiction drama web television series, but this is not science fiction that is far in the future. This is more like a future, three years from now.
There’s a Joint Mars Initiative that unites an international crew: a Russian cosmonaut (male) who has logged more hours in space than any other person; a Chinese chemist (female) that holds the pride of her country; an Indian medical officer (male), second in command of the mission; a British African Jew (male) botanist that is new to space, but with a profound faith; commanded by an American (female) pilot/astronaut wracked with guilt about leaving her family for three years to explore Mars.
Hilary Swank is Commander Emma Green, the brilliant leader of the mission and pilot of the Atlas. Josh Charles is Matt Logan, Emma’s husband. He has equal experience to Emma, and might otherwise be leading the mission if not for a serious medical condition. As an engineer, he continues to provide mission support at NASA. Think of the drama in that she is getting to go do what he would want to go do himself, but she’s his love and he supports her 100 %. In fact, he’s her biggest cheerleader!
Talitha Bateman plays Alexis “Lexi” Logan the 15 year-old daughter of Matt and Emma. She is courageous, proud of her parents, and torn by the joy and anger of being left behind by her mother. Much of the drama comes from the exploration of these relationships, but if I were to tell you that the story is about these three characters, that would be false. There’s more.
Adam Irigoyen is Isaac Rodriguez a teenage boy that attracts Lexi. Monique Gabriela Cumen is Melissa Ramirez, a former astronaut hopeful that will be helping Emma’s family as a Mom-surrogate during her time away. Yeah, no drama here.
My favorite part of the show is the crew. In no particular order, Vivian Wu plays Lu Wang. She is a Chinese chemist and the repressive aspects of her government are played out in some unique and fascinating ways that not only enhance the drama, but inform her relationships. She is in a loveless marriage, but they have a young son together that she loves. There’s more, but I’m going to let you find that out for yourself.
Ray Panthaki is Ram Arya who is the Indian medical officer. He is a playboy that is reforming his ways. He’s estranged from his family although they were at one time, close. There is regret in his voice as he communicates that. He is not only second in command but he admires his commanding officer a little too much. It is evident from the very first episode.
Mark Ivanir plays Misha Popov, crass Russian cosmonaut that’s a little pissed off that he is not the commander, since he has the most experience and is also an engineer that understands the inner workings of Atlas. He has sacrificed a great deal for his career, including his relationship with his daughter because he was in outer space when her mother died.
Ato Essandoh plays the most fascinating character of all. He plays Kwesi Weisberg-Abban. Kwesi was born in Ghana, but when his parents died, he was adopted by a Jewish family that raised him in England. He is a botanist charged with the immense responsibility to try to make plant life grow on Mars. He is a huge person of faith and brings a dynamic that is rarely seen in science fiction.
I LOVE this show. I was enthralled with the unique alchemy that resonates through the show. The writing is riveting. The emotional beats are moving. The actors are nuanced in their craft. There is high drama here played out on believable sets. I’m impressed.