For All Mankind—on Apple TV

MankindWith the purchase of a new device from Apple comes a free subscription to their relatively new paid streaming platform. As hubby and I are often seeking a new television series to binge watch, we just finished For All Mankind on the Apple platform, and overall, we liked it quite a lot. However, I read several reviews, with criticisms being at least as numerous as the accolades, and often both are well deserved. The series was developed in part by Ronald D. Moore, who has a stellar (pun intended) reputation for writing and producing excellent science fiction, from Star Trek the Next Generation to Outlander, and with the simply superb reboot of Battlestar Galactica in between.

The scenario is quite promising: In an alternate history, the Soviet Union beats the United States to be the first nation to put a man on the moon, and the growing rivalry between nations causes the space program of the United States to flourish, rather than founder. Neither our citizens nor our politicians like being second best, so the need to catch up and surpass drives the plot. As an alternate history, many of the characters are based upon real people, but quite a few characters are inventions. Even those who are based upon real people have different adventures (or mis-adventures) due to the fictional nature of the series. The acting is good, as is the writing. The effects are very good, also. The sets, props, and costumes are really amazing—it’s truly a back to the 60s look. So far, so good.

But, as many negative reviewers have noted, the series is typical of our “social justice” modern agenda. Immigration, same sex relationships, race relations, and feminism are more than just sub-plots in this re-imagining of the space race. Each of these social justice themes has a story arc devoted to it, and these themes are every bit as strong as the “what if America had continued to send people to the moon?” theme that is the advertised plot line.

Alas, any subtle use of themes is no more. This alternate history is very good, but the social justice warriors are using a sledge hammer to right perceived wrongs. For All Mankind is just like many modern day productions in that regard. What could have been A+ for Apple’s streaming service is instead closer to a B-.

If you have Apple TV, check it out. If you don’t, I wouldn’t buy it for this series alone.

Dark Space— a review

Dark Space coverRecently, I read a space opera called Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott. Although this book didn’t grab me at the beginning, there were enough innovations to keep me reading. Many science fiction fans pay tribute (deliberately or unwittingly) to their screen favorites. This novel blends elements from Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica for sure. It begins “in medias res” with the main character involved in a star fighter to star fighter dogfight, and when it jumps back to the exposition phase, I decided that this novel too much like every other space opera in print and on the screen. However, the use of a “holoskin” to disguise the main character, essentially allowing him to impersonate someone else, is a nifty plot device. So is the use of a “neurochip” inserted into the brain of another character— leaving her appearance as it was, but giving her a whole new personality. In a universe with such devices, the reader (or characters) never seem to know who is friend and who is foe.

Much of the action of Dark Space is like the original BattleStar Galatica; star fighters and ships shooting. This can be fascinating (think David Weber) or just action packed. One reason Weber is fascinating is his ability to craft characters that the reader can love or hate. The core problem with Dark Space is that I just didn’t care who was gonna win those skirmishes.

Dark Space is predictable, except when it isn’t. And it is action packed, but a tad boring. The ending, instead of satisfying the reader, is a build up for part 2. So, I guess I’d give it three stars….

But it was free, and that’s a good price, no doubt because the author is willing to give it away in hopes of selling the sequels. I didn’t go for the second installment, however.