“Space is defined by the strange relationship between failure, risk and innovation.” That self-describing quote is the basis for the global event series, Mars, which airs on the National Geographic Channel.

Part documentary, part soap opera, this new six-part docudrama is a miniseries that mixes real-life people discussing different obstacles the first manned mission to the Red Planet may face with a fictional story of how it could all play out. At times this transition can be confusing for the viewer, as actual scientists share screen time with fictional characters. In other words, this TV show displays a strange relationship between science fact and science fiction.

Executive Producers Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Michael Rosenberg have pulled all the stops as the publicity machine for Nat Geo has gone into overdrive, hoping to spread the word about the series. It seems to have worked. As this is the first time I’ve watched any program on Nat Geo, I’m really encouraged to sample more programs on this cable channel.

Mars is based on the 2015 book, How We’ll Live on Mars, showcasing real-life possibilities that could happen during a seven-month journey to the Red Planet. This is the type of subject matter I can really geek out to. In the first episode, Novo Mundo, Mission Commander Ben Sawyer (played by Ben Cotton) loses consciousness during an engine malfunction as the Daedalus touches down. After an off-course landing drops the crew 75 kilometers away from base camp, an already overloaded rover can’t transport the whole crew over dangerous terrain and extreme temperatures. Not everyone will survive the trip. And mission control is totally out of the loop. I’m already hooked.

About a year ago, as water was finally revealed on the Red Planet, Matt Damon’s The Martian hit movie theaters, blending science fact with fiction, pointing toward hopes of the near future, when manned rockets by Space X would finally deliver humanity’s building blocks of colonization outside our home planet. Those same hopes are here, with Mars.

If you can easily decipher reality from science fiction, you’ll love watching Mars. It may even be your gateway to watching other quality shows on the National Geographic Channel, like me. It’s true: Good programming is out there!

Review: 3.75/5