There are few shows these days that can take education and blend it in with drama without compromising the content one way or another. Not a lot of productions can balance out fact and fiction to produce an overall package that is entertaining without being overbearing. It’s a tough juggling act that requires the attention of basically two types of viewers. Thankfully, National Geographic did it without a hitch with their neat series titled MARS.
I didn’t know what to expect from MARS when I received it on Blu-ray for review. I had seen a ton of ads during the NCAA tournament for it, but couldn’t really get a good grasp on what NatGeo was trying to accomplish with the series. Was it a documentary about populating Mars? Was it a drama about populating Mars? What exactly was NatGeo trying to do with this series? Also, why was it even a series? Couldn’t they just wrap things up quickly in one two-hour episode like the history channel does between its crap reality shows? All of my questions, even the obnoxious ones, were answered.
First and foremost, MARS put together a well-written, acted and produced drama that would rival a high-level BBC production. NatGeo could have just thrown in a bunch of blue screen/green screen sets, hired some C-list actors, crapped out a script and called it a day, while mainly depending on their documentary efforts to drive the entire show. They could have gone this route, but thankfully they didn’t. Instead they put together a drama where the characters have dimension, personality and are put into a situation that presents a real sense of adventure/danger as they are trying to conquer the red planet. You get a lot of drama from the beginning, where the storyline doesn’t pull punches about the dangers of Mars. You get characters who can randomly and unexpectedly die at any given moment, which will constantly keep you on the edge of your seat. You get a competent storyline that is cleverly constructed to go along with the simulated steps of how to colonize and keep the dream of terraforming a harsh planet into a second home. The details thrown into the production are far from shallow and the execution of details in respect to the story is methodically crafted to keep the viewer engaged and wanting more. And this is only the drama side of the show’s equation.
The second half of the show’s production, which is scattered in beautifully between the dramatic parts, is the live interviews with scientist, people like Elon Musk and dreamers who know what it will take to get astronauts and explorers to the red planet. It’s not filler content either, rather it’s relative to each specific episode of the show. For example, there is a part where the crew on the show is prepping for more cargo to arrive from earth, then that specific show cuts to scientists explaining the problem with delivering goods to Mars and the distance issue in case there are emergency needs from Mars. It’s all quite fascinating when both fact and fiction are blended together, and that blend is done well.
That is the real crux of the show and what keeps it interesting. It really does a great job with balancing and blending both entertainment and education. Stay for the short stints of solid drama and enjoy the teachings from experts that can add more information to whatever the drama is trying to portray. Again, it’s a great balance of fact and fiction.
The episodes stretch out across three Blu-ray discs, which give you enough time to get a good sense of adventure/danger and a great amount of information/facts to back up that dramatic journey. It really feels like a huge production that had quite a bit of thought put into it, and you have to commend NatGeo for that because not many production companies outside of Discovery, NatGeo and/or BBC would put as much love and care into a series that people haven’t exactly been screaming for over the years. If they keep this up, then NatGeo will have to start producing more series like this. I hope they do because it’s high-quality.
On the special features side of things, here’s what you’re looking at with MARS:
– Making MARS
– BEFORE MARS – A Prequel
– BEFORE MARS Behind the Scenes
– Getting to MARS Featurettes
– Living on MARS Featurettes
– More MARS Featurettes
– Behind-the-scenes Featurettes
– Cast & Crew Interviews
All of these special features add more value to this great series. They behind the scenes and prequel featurettes are well done, as are the interviews with the cast/crew. The latter provides a bit more insight and depth into what was going into the production. Overall, some solid stuff.
On a side note, we added the graphic below for some fun. Enjoy it.