WHITTINGTON: Apple TV’s ‘For All Mankind’ Needs More Space Adventure, Less Political Commentary

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The Apple TV+ alternate history series “For All Mankind” has completed its first season, which was rife with political commentary. Its producers should consider focusing less on left-wing commentary and more on space in future seasons.

The series, which is based in the 1970s, is premised on the idea that a prolonged space race would have inspired social changes that either did not occur in real life or only much later than depicted. For instance, women become part of the NASA moon program, leading to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment — after Teddy Kennedy becomes president in 1972.

The program also depicts an illegal alien family, including a young girl who becomes fascinated by space and science. She seems to be on the fast track for a great career working for the space program. Immigration enforcement catches her father, a janitor working at the Johnson Space Center. The authorities deport him. The girl becomes homeless and on the run from immigration authorities. The message is that deporting illegal immigrants is terrible.

Incidentally, the show does not explain how illegal immigrants get deported during Ted Kennedy’s presidency. In real life, Kennedy authored an immigration reform bill that opened the floodgates to immigrants, illegal and otherwise, from Latin America. He was a firm open-borders politician.

Unfortunately, the subplot does nothing to advance the story.

The show also has a couple of brief scenes that can best be described as political sucker punches.

The first scene depicts the selection of an Apollo mission to the Jamestown moon base that consists of a lesbian astronaut, Deke Slayton, and an Asian American astronaut. The backup crew, consisting of three white males, grouse about NASA selecting a crew consisting of “chick, a geezer, and a Korean” while in the same room. The message is that white guys are the worst. They are also stupid and unprofessional, expressing such a sentiment where everyone could hear them.

The second sucker punch scene occurs at the Jamestown moon base. The sole American left captures a Soviet cosmonaut skulking about the facility, asking for help. The American ties the Soviet up and interrogates him. The Soviet, an affable Elvis fan named Mikhail, finally loses his patience. He lets loose with a tirade at how evil the United States is, dropping bombs on women and children. Instead of replying that this was bold talk coming from someone from a country that spawned Stalin and the Gulag, the American astronaut tells the Soviet to shut up.

The first season of “For All Mankind” ends with President Teddy Kennedy ranting about the things Ronald Reagan is saying about him. Reagan, who appears to be gearing up for a run in 1976, is talking about making America great again. Kennedy explodes by questioning that premise. He mentions slavery, Jim Crow, and Vietnam. He disputes whether America was ever great.

Much to the credit of the showrunners of “For All Mankind,” the show depicts Teddy Kennedy as a corrupt sleaze. The second President Kennedy engages in adultery with a young White House staffer named Mary Jo Kopechne. She is the same woman he left to die in a submerged car in our timeline. Kennedy also arranges a backroom deal to ensure the passage of the ERA by awarding a NASA contract to a firm in a crucial state. The deal results in an explosion at a launchpad that destroys a Saturn V and 12 men, including the legendary flight director Gene Kranz.

The show’s premise is a compelling one. It depicts a prolonged space race lasting for decades. The show tells a story of triumphs and tragedies on the high frontier that never occurred in real life. Going forward, however, it could use some more space adventure and less political commentary. Meaningless subplots and scenes designed to make political points distract from what is otherwise a splendid story.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.