With Apple TV+’s launch last Friday, the streaming wars just got a little bit more crowded. One of the shows that the platform hopes will draw in consumers and turn casual subscribers into Apple TV+ true believers is For All Mankind, which Flickering Myth had the opportunity of learning a more about at October’s New York Comic Con.
The show, hailing from creators and executive producers Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, as well as executive producer Maril Davis, offers up an alternate version of history in which the space race was not won by the Americans upon landing on the moon in 1969. Instead, the Soviet Union becomes the first to achieve the milestone, branding the lunar rock “Red Moon,” and in turn leaving NASA devastated.
But, the space race doesn’t end there. The Americans pick themselves up by the bootstraps and challenge the USSR to a rematch, thus giving us a show.
At an NYCC roundtable, Outlander and Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore answered a question about his inspiration for the show by talking about its genesis as “Mad Men at NASA.”
“Originally, myself and Zack Van Amburg, who’s now one of the heads of Apple TV+, he was formerly an executive at Sony Television, where I had my deal for a very long time,” said Moore. “Maril and I both worked for Sony. And when he went to Apple a couple years ago, he called me up and said, ‘Let’s get together and talk.’ And during that meeting, there was an idea that he and I had kicked around once about doing a show about NASA in the 70s, and he said, ‘I still think about that show, what do you think about trying to do that? What if we did like a Mad Men at NASA?’ And I was like, ‘Oh that’s kind of cool, let me go off and think about that.”
Drawn into the era but still grappling with the concept, Moore came up with an “alternate” idea.
“And then when I thought about it, I realized that while you can certainly do that show, it was kind of a depressing story of NASA in the 70s — to be honest, in my opinion. Budgets kept getting cut back, the program got smaller, the big ideas of going to Mars and doing big Moon colonies and all that went away. So I said that’s kind of a depressing story to do the character drama in, what if we did the version of the space program that we were promised, that we never got. So when I was growing up in the 70s, I thought we were going to do all these amazing things, and none of that came to pass. So, the opportunity to do an alternate version where the space race continued and we did step out into space in a much bigger way was kind of an exciting prospect, and that’s when I brought it to Matt and Ben and we all said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.'”
When asked by Flickering Myth about the difference of making a science fiction space show like Battlestar Galactica as opposed to one grounded in a historical context, Davis touched on what drew the pair to exploring history.
“It’s fun for me personally … when we started talking about the show, we didn’t want this to be a dystopian type of drama, we wanted it to be a little more optimistic, but the other thing we really want to do is have it kind of follow our normal timeline, but then maybe certain events happen in a different way or we get to it from a different path,” said Davis, who has worked alongside Moore on a vast majority of his projects over the past decade. “Because that feels more grounded, and for me as a viewer I’d be more interested in looking up what happened in real history versus what happens in our show. Whereas in something like Star Trek or Battlestar everything is made up, and you have no touchstones of real life, which I think distinguishes it in a way that makes it really interesting and fresh.”
On his love for history and fiction, Moore said, “I just like doing shows that are not based in our reality, I guess. Fundamentally. I’m not that interested in telling a story that’s just set in present-day contemporary society. I’m always interested in changing something about the society or projecting in the future, going back and doing something in the past. I guess it’s an escapism for me. I love history as a rule, so I’m always interested in period pieces and science fiction, [whether] it’s the future or some alternate reality, I just like the speculative nature.”
Moore and Davis aren’t the only ones who have had their eyes fixed on space and the unknown for much of their career — Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, writing and producing partners on Fargo, also explored the unknown on the FX show at times.
“And it’s interesting because Fargo, I think the dirty secret of Fargo is that there’s a lot of sci-fi in there,” said Nedivi. “And our love of science fiction we share with [series creator Noah Hawley] is kind of in there as well, but in limited ways, so I think it did make sense that the three of us would after that, pursue this. It does make sense. Fargo was for us the breakthrough experience of our careers in terms of the doors it’s opened up for us.”
The two had no idea that Fargo creator Noah Hawley was developing a space project of his own, October’s Natalie Portman-led film Lucy in the Sky, as they began developing For All Mankind. Hawley and the duo did talk about the “irony” of them both going on to do space projects after Fargo and even having to compete for props/sets.
“We were all fighting for consoles, so going from that partnership to like, ‘I’m grabbing that one before you do,’ was really exciting,” said Nedivi playfully.
The first three episodes of For All Mankind are available on Apple TV+ now, along with the streaming service’s other new shows: The Morning Show, Dickinson and See.