I just start watching Away myself, which is a mission-to-Mars drama by the Friday Night Lights people (and definitely has a bit of a Friday Night Lights vibe). It seems solid, though I have a real criticism and some ridiculous nit-picky physics-related ones.
The real criticism is that the leads are acting on an entirely different level of the rest of the cast - Hilary Swank and Josh Charles are giving it what I would call “proper acting”, where you’re fully committed to the character and scenario. But the rest of the actors mostly seem to be acting as if it was a procedural, where you’re not as committed and to some extent usually playing a stereotype or archetype, and overacting somewhat.
There’s often a bit of this in dramas - even Orange is the New Black had it going on, particularly in the first couple of seasons (as does Glow in the first season, by the second I can’t think of anyone not committed to their role though), but it’s kind an issue here. Not a killer one though.
My nitpick-y issues are all physics-related. Like, they bother to do microgravity/zero-g well (including having a spill move slowly in what I presume is the opposite of the direction of thrust, good work there), they do 1/6th gravity on the Moon well, but then when they’re communicating with the Earth from the Moon, there’s no lag at all, where there should be a 2.5 second lag (which is super-noticeable and impacts how people communicate). I thought that was weird, because this is about a mission to Mars, and the further away they get, the more that will be an issue - when you’re so far away that the speed of light is an issue, you’re really far away. It would kind of act as foreshadowing for that. You could write around it as well, so the decision not to mildly irks me - I can see why they didn’t, to increase the dramatic power of a couple of scenes, but why not write different scenes, why not use that delay dramatically, those two seconds of not knowing? Hopefully they don’t do the whole thing with no delay because it can be minutes by the time you get to Mars and not doing that would be weird.
Then I have an even more minor set of nitpicks. At the end of the first episode, they launch the ship they’re going to Mars in, from the Moon. Okay, makes some sense, there have been proposals to do that. But they make it look identical to a rocket launch from Earth, with the sparkers underneath the rocket, the rocket launching at absolute full power, and a moderate cloud of smoke climbing up.
Like, no. That’s not right.
The sparkers make no sense because their job is to set the excess hydrogen on fire in the Earth’s oxygen atmosphere. On the airless Moon (a hard vacuum) they’d serve no purpose (even if the fuel was something different, they probably wouldn’t be the right way to ignite it). I have to admit I had to look that up to be 100% sure, but I knew as soon as I saw them that something was off (also the sparks dropped like they were in 1g, not 0.16g but that’s a minor nitpick on a minor nitpick), which is why I checked.
Launching at blazing full power makes absolutely no sense because escape velocity from the Moon is hilariously low - 2.38km/s, and you could start moving on a really moderate thrust, even with a big, heavy rocket, and probably should because of the next point.
Firing off a bunch of engines like that wouldn’t make a small, normal-speed-rising smoke cloud on the Moon, it would blast lunar dust EVERYWHERE and make a weird, rapid expansion of smoke. Basically when they launched like that, the entire lunar base should have had a massive, rapidly-rising dust cloud blasted over it. It would have looked awesome, too, with this rocket punching out of a giant dust cloud.
Finally, when the rocket launched, the exhaust didn’t look at all right. Rockets look different in a vacuum - much cleaner and more sci-fi, because there’s no atmosphere to mess with them. You can actually see this on some launches from Earth, if the camera has a good enough zoom and follows them up - when they reach a certain altitude the exhaust changes shape into a more ballooned-out “sci-fi-rocket” sort of exhaust. I mean, this is what most makes me think they did this on purpose to go with visual language over the reality, because this would be harder to CGI than reality (and not by a small margin), and they presumably did it because because a realistic exhaust appearance here might have surprised some of the audience, but like, this is the same lack of commitment that the supporting cast is showing, this is choosing archetype and stereotype and the visual equivalent of overacting instead of committing. Be Hilary Swank with your FX, dudes.
What gets me is that these are all expensive FX shots they had to storyboard, think about, discuss, design, render, and pay for. So really either no-one involved actually thought about this (depressing, as I’m a random non-scientist with what I see as a mediocre if intuitive grasp on physics), or they decided standard cinematic language about rocket launches was more important than y’know, physics, or letting people know what this might look like (which, given this is a thing that could happen in the lifetime of people watching it seems silly - it could happen in a decade or so, even).
Oh and a final quasi-nitpick - I am skeptical that you would get into a full EVA suit and walk to the rocket. But that depends on a lot of stuff about the design that we don’t yet know.
Still, will I watch more of it? Sure, but mostly because Swank and Charles are so good (you may know Josh Charles as the boyfriend/whatever-the-male-word-is-mistress in The Good Wife, where he frequently acted everyone else off the screen, despite looking like a dude from some early-Renaissance painting, and not in a good way!).