As “Mars” time-jumps back and forth from the year 2033 to present day, audiences of the National Geographic Channel’s genre-breaking docu-series are learning exactly how insanely, radically arduous the trip is for a human to reach the Red Planet. To be honest, few experiences look more torturous. It would be less painful to be continuously waterboarded for a month, while being forced to listen to Creed on repeat, while stuck in a coffin. Traveling to Mars is essentially a suicide mission you’d be lucky to survive.
Even at the expected rate of technological development, the odds are still stacked against Earthlings making it back to our home planet in one piece. This series explicitly warned us in the beginning how dangerous of a journey this would be, and even though the selected astronauts are completely aware he or she may never make back it to their families, they all are steadfast in their belief that this is a trip of a lifetime, their life’s calling.
Hana (Jihae), Javier (Alberto Ammann), Amelie (Clementine Poidatz), Ben (Ben Cotton), Ava (Kata Sarbo), and Robert (Sammi Rotini) – these astronauts are nothing short of heroes. They are risking their lives to explore of the great unknown in the name of science and research. It’s difficult to fully calculate how everyone’s life would improve on Earth if a team of astronauts could colonize Mars. We’d become a generation with a biplanetary existence, a shift that would forever change life as we know it. These selfless warriors have admirably deemed this mission of much greater importance than their own individual lives.
In the premiere of this docu-series, Captain Ben Sawyer suffers a nasty beating during the Daedalus shuttle’s tumultuous landing on Mars. While he saved the lives of his crew, Ben mortally injured himself. But he attempts to carry on as if he wasn’t internally bleeding from the massive blow. Ben is the ultimate space cowboy: A man born to do this kind of work. Instead of getting scared, he gets inspired. Ben is gracious for this opportunity to travel to Mars, his optimism infectious.
Ben runs a tight ship. His crew not only respects him, they all genuinely like him. He’s fully aware that much of the success of this space mission rests on his shoulders, but he commands his crew with ease, humor and patience. These are just some of the reasons it’s so devastating to learn Ben doesn’t live past his first day on Mars.
At first, it appears that Ben decides to take a morning stroll around the Red Planet while his team gets some much needed rest. As the morning sun rising in the background, he climbs up on a nearby mountain to soak in the scene. It’s an absolutely breathtaking view of beauty and hope. However, moments later, we realize that Ben had already flat-lined. Viewers were tricked into thinking his dying dream vision was real life, and it’s a sucker punch of a reveal.
Ben, the actor, is not gone forever. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s safe to assume that there will be numerous flashbacks that will still heavily feature him — and we have no doubt those pre-mission moments will only make us love — and mourn — him more.
Second-in-command Hana is now the Captain. A role she’s certainly capable of filling, but one she never wanted. At least, not this way. Losing Ben is a tough blow to the Daedalus crew. Their mission included six people going to work, each a specialist in their own right with important tasks they would be responsible for each day. Director Everardo Gout told Screener that Season 1 does not include a trip back to Mars, so the exploration of this planet has barely kicked off — but this crew is already one man down. Seems we need to buckle up.
“Mars” airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The National Geographic Channel.