January 19, 2021

“Away” with Hilary Swank on Netflix

You can add “Away,” the Netflix tv series about a manned mission to Mars, to the list of passably entertaining shows about space travel. Hilary Swank plays Emma Green, the NASA commander of a five-person international team on space ship Atlas headed for the red planet. A freak accident at the beginning of the journey makes the other four astronauts doubt Green’s ability to be an effective leader.

Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”), Green’s husband back on earth, is a failed astronaut due to a hereditary and life-threatening illness. He continues to advise NASA however, trouble-shooting engineering problems on the space craft containing his wife. Emma Green has also left her teenage daughter, Alexis, behind to deal with hormones and her husband’s health issues during this three-year voyage.

The program also delves into the back stories of other astronauts and staff. Lu Wang (Vivian Wu) is a Chinese astronaut and chemist who has a clandestine affair with a female Chinese NASA translator. Misha Popov (Mark Ivanir) is a veteran Russian cosmonaut and engineer who has sacrificed his family life for space travel. Kwesi Weisberg-Abban (Ato Essandoh) is a botanist from Ghana who was raised by Jewish-British adoptive parents. Second-in- command, Ram Arya (Ray Panthaki) is a medical officer estranged from his family in India. It is a bit of a soap opera plot with all the characters, but the episodes are engaging and Swank is fantastic.

The series was cancelled after one ten-episode season, but I would have liked to see how the story played out on Mars and whether they would make it back to earth. Some reviews took the series to task for putting too much emphasis on the personal lives of the people back on earth, but I liked this fresh take on how astronauts put their personal lives on hold while they are “Away.”

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