Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi for Apple TV+, For All Mankind is set in an alternate reality where the global space race never ended.
Beginning in 1969, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leono makes history as the first man on the moon. Understandably upset over being beaten to the punch, the staff at NASA, led by director Wernher Von Braun (Colm Feore), makes it their mission to not only to catch up to the Soviets but surpass them. When subsequent Soviet landings include a woman, NASA is forced to open the astronaut program to not just women but minorities as well.
When astronaut Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) admits to a reporter while drunk, that he thinks NASA could have done more to put an American on the Moon, he finds himself riding a desk but is determined to fly again. Baldwin and Gordon “Gordo” Stevens (Michael Dorman) are stereotypical macho men, but For All Mankind really hits it’s stride when it tells the stories of the women involved in the space program, be it the first class of female astronauts or the wives of the first class of astronauts. Particularly interesting is Tracy Stevens (Sarah Jones), wife of Gordo and a former pilot, who eventually becomes an astronaut and known as one of “Nixon’s Women.”
All these characters appear alongside legendary figures such as Neil Armstrong (Jeff Branson), John Glenn (Matt Battaglia) and head of the astronaut office, and unofficial “Space Dad” Deke Slayton (Chris Bauer). The series doctrine is simple: When defeated, American honor won’t tolerate it. Pushed by a president that needs a win, NASA wants to build a military base on The Moon. Political issues with Von Braun results in Ed Baldwin getting a chance to return to the pilot’s chair.
Spread over ten-hour long episodes, the seasons best is the aforementioned “Nixon’s Women”—an affecting and exciting episode that takes us through the astronaut training program. Tracy Stevens is selected as a possible astronaut candidate, along with along with other candidates like Ellen (Jodi Balfour) and Danielle (Krys Marshall). The real standout here is Sonya Walger giving a brackish yet touching performance as top female astronaut candidate Molly Cobb (herself a reference to real-life Mercury 13 aviator Jerrie Cobb). Early on, it becomes clear that advancements in space sometimes come with a steep price.
Interestingly. The series advances progressive politics (like having black female astronaut candidates in the early ‘70s) that seeps into the larger world, as Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt), initially separated from the others by a glass partition, becomes the first woman in Mission Control the Equal Rights Amendment passes.
Aided by aesthetics and strong performances across the board, For All Mankind is a welcome mix of Mad Men meets Star Trek.
Presented in the 2.00:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer does a good job of showing off the intended look. Detail is impressive throughout. There are some minor issues with compression, but it shouldn’t affect the overall viewing experience. Thankfully, there is no heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones are natural, and the image quality is strong.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is near reference quality. Channel separation is strong throughout. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise. The soundtrack offers nice depth and clarity.
Spanish, French, and English SDH subtitles are included.
There are no extras available.
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