TV review: Mars – National Geographic (3 stars)

TV review: Mars – National Geographic

Detailing the first manned trip to Mars with an intriguing mix of sci-fi drama and documentary fact

The Red Planet has captivated humanity since we first looked up at the stars. Named after the Roman god of war it's the planet in our solar system that most closely resembles Earth. Mentions of Mars in fiction date back to the 1600s, through HG Wells' War of the Worlds to Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! and last year's The Martian, it's a fascination that has lasted through the centuries. Now fiction is becoming fact as serious plans to explore Mars are underway.

Mars jumps forward to 2033 and imagines the first manned trip. Cutting from this scripted sci-fi drama to 2016 with a series of real experts discussing the problems we need to overcome before that initial voyage. Basically it's a sci-fi action adventure spliced with a genuine documentary. Much of the interviews focusing on Elon Musk's Space X, a commercial space transport company who are probably are the forefront of development when it comes to the colonisation of Mars.

The scripted sections are based on scientific fact, inferring where current technology and theory could find us in 17 years. It's a utopian Star Trek-inspired vision of the future with countries coming together, pooling their knowledge and resources, to advance the species. Ben Sojer (Ben Cotton) leads the international team of the Daedalus as they take off then make a troubled landing on the Red Planet in the first episode.

Produced by Ron Howard, Mars is a big production. The special effects are great, the access to NASA and Space X is fascinating, while Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide the eerie soundtrack. Over six episodes Mars plays like a long-form, studious sci-fi movie. The drama provides the excitement but it's the documentary that provides the real insight.

Mars premieres on National Geographic on Sun 13 Nov, 9pm.


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