At Home with Away

Or perhaps if we were going for pitching a “high concept” related to the Netflix original series, Away, we could call it “No Exit” meets “Lost in Space.” Maybe the astronauts on their way to Mars think space is hell, or that Mars is hell, or that even Earth is or will be hell. But like JP Sartre, they realize that when confined in the purgatory of a tin can going to Mars, hell is other people in that tin can. It doesn’t help that stuff breaks and there’s no Lowe’s in space. Thankfully, the series, overall, isn’t quite so grim. Aside from following this group on the way to the Red Planet, we have the family drama of Emma Green, the commander of the journey. Her husband, a washed out astronaut, and now chief engineer at NASA’s Mission Control has a stroke (he survives and as far as we can tell, gains most of his abilities save for his legs, so he does remain in a wheel chair for most of the episodes.) Her daughter is a rebellious 15 year old. Emma tries her best to be a supermom, but her darn spaceship keeps breaking. First there’s a fire, then the water system dies in various ways. Her crew melts down too. In fact, her crew seems only marginally competent, and the most competent guy is an arrogant jerk who loses his vision.

The physics is slightly dicey in places. They don’t quite explain why the crew quarters have active gravity, but I guess we are to assume some sort of simulated gravity through rotation (I believe they do show a rotating section when we see the craft from the outside, but the connection to gravity and the crew quarters is never made). Then again, Gene Rodenberry always said his characters don’t need to go around explaining why things work. In non-sci fi, a gunman doesn’t explain how his side arm or get away car work. At least they thought to tie back the womens’ hair so they didn’t have to worry about how to show the hair properly flopping about in zero gravity.

Anyway, its a mostly satisfying drama that partly takes place on a spaceship. At times the cliches are trotted out (the daughter absolutely has to be rebellious, the husband when he’s partially paralyzed in the hospital says “I am walking out of this hospital!, etc., etc.). But it looks like its been created to partly appeal to the sci fi crowd, and partly to the family drama crowd, and definitely for the family viewing crowd in general (nobody dies even if they deserve it! There’s minimal gore and language, sexual situations). So, enjoy, but don’t take it too seriously.

And of course, if you want to read more about physics and astronomy in sci fi, get my (Steve Bloom’s) book, The Physics and Astronomy of Science Fiction, available from Amazon, other online booksellers and the publisher (McFarland). Enjoy, and I’ll be back soon.

Hey, even mediocre sci fi is pretty good when it comes down to it.

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