For All Mankind Season 3 showed how difficult Star Trek’s utopia is to achieve

After two seasons of an extended Cold War, For all mankind moved into the technology boom of the 90s. If the real 90s were fueled by a techno-optimism, For all mankind explores an idea of ​​what a utopian America powered by technology would actually look like. In this alternate space-focused timeline, the go-go ’90s are filled with electric cars, video phones and moon mining. Sounds pretty good, right? But during the season, For all mankind shows how even if the utopianism of the actual 90s could be translated into reality, we could not have put our problems behind us.

By the third season, For all mankind’s alternative history has moved leaps and bounds beyond where the 90s found us. The major powers have abandoned their military problems in Vietnam and Afghanistan to focus on building military bases on the moon. The Equal Rights Amendment made it into the Constitution thanks to the prominence of female astronauts, electric cars are readily available thanks to investment in technology, and the Soviet Union never collapsed.

It placed its own heroes, such as Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) and Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman) alongside the Aldrins and the Rides. Real figures were moved around like chess pieces, with Ted Kennedy becoming president after Nixon, and Reagan after that. They talk to characters through a combination of voice actors and deepfakes.

Real-life characters exist in Season 3, but they begin to take a backseat to the world of the show. The rise of computers and the internet doesn’t play much into the show, because all the exciting technology for decades has been focused on sustaining life in space. Although not a one-to-one analogy, it is possible to substitute “computers” for “space travel”. For all mankind to provide fascinating commentary. Instead of exploring Jobs, Gates, Andreessen and the culture of Wired in the 90s, For all mankind wrapping them in Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi).

Photo: Apple TV Plus

A charismatic billionaire who wants to go to Mars has obvious parallels to Elon Musk, but Ayesa is nothing like the hyper-visible billionaire. He only owns one company, Helios, not four. He rejects titles and a corner office, and works directly among his employees. Helios employees practice office democracy, and conduct public votes on important company policies. And the most telling thing is that Elon Musk does not compete with NASA – SpaceX cooperates a lot with the authorities.

Ayesa feels more like the techno-libertarians of the 70s to 90s who saw technology as a means of personal liberation, which historian Fred Turner called the New Communalists. As Turner describes in his book From counterculture to cyberculture, they saw “the cybernetic notion of the globe as a single, interconnected pattern of information” as “deeply comforting”. The “invisible game of information” would bring about “global harmony”, a break from the hard lines drawn in the Cold War.

IN For all mankind, Ayesa watches in horror as the moon becomes a battleground for world powers and then splits in half, with one part for the US and the other for the USSR. He wanted to beat them both to Mars, creating a free enterprise zone that would be essentially invisible to most of the human population on Earth, but would challenge both ideologies. The key, above all else, is to be first. And considering how advanced space technology is at this point, he didn’t even have to build it all himself. Taking advantage of a terrifying space hotel disaster in Season 3’s first episode, he buys the technology Helios needs to take on NASA and the USSR in a race to Mars.

Ayesa continues its buying spree, scooping up NASA employees who are unhappy with the low pay and tight sense of order. It’s hard to blame them, considering that while NASA’s financial position in For all mankind has improved radically, they haven’t seen a pay rise in years. When Helios employees discuss company issues, such as who will lead the company’s mission to the Red Planet, they begin to feel heard. A common structure and capitalist enterprise provide a romantic vision.

A space station in For All Mankind Season 3

Photo: Apple TV Plus

Two astronauts in For All Mankind look out over the Martian landscape

Photo: Apple TV Plus

The President and her husband in the Oval Office, her at her desk and him standing across from her looking down smiling

Photo: Apple TV Plus

Four astronauts sit and eat in a space station corridor

Photo: Apple TV Plus

For all mankind was created by Star Trek alum Ronald D. Moore, and the show references the franchise from time to time. Long associated with utopianism, it is derided as outdated in the 90s of Season 3, where astronauts prefer the hellish fantasies of Aliens and melodramas about their own heroes. As both Helios and a highly profitable NASA promise, utopia is already here.

And yet, as the show keeps reminding its characters, there’s no end to the number of things that can go wrong in space. There is no oxygen or gravity, no atmosphere to protect against radiation, and an enormous distance between points of interest with no possibility of fast travel. It’s the isolation from most of humanity, as well as the close confinement for years at a time, that on a trip to Mars would lead to what NASA (in our universe) considers “inevitable” behavioral problems. For all mankind fans have already seen these issues play out at the Jamestown base along with episodes of The Bob Newhart Show.

The phrase “space is hard” has become such a standard industry saying that the US Space Force has used it in commercials. But it is more than difficult, it is cruel, and For all mankind does not shy away. Characters die brutal deaths in For all mankindfrom being burned alive in a spacesuit to bleeding from the eyeballs after being exposed to a harsh lunar landscape.

These deaths are mourned and remembered, but they do not stop someone from going to heaven. Neither Ayesa’s space libertarianism nor NASA’s reliance on military-style structures stops disasters in the most unforgiving environment imaginable, a place where the smallest piece of debris can destroy an entire ecosystem. The only option, For all mankind claims, is to eventually, somehow, in all sincerity, even if only a little at first, work together.

A group of astronauts look out on Mars

Photo: Apple TV Plus

Karen and Dev are sitting in an office cupboard and smiling at each other

Photo: Apple TV Plus

While the Mars mission is successful in the sense that the boots are on the ground, it starts to fall apart afterwards. As in the 90s, an underground movement of anti-government extremism is downplayed in For all mankind until it is tragically too late. Like Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrators of the terrorist attack at the end of the season are ex-military. Transfer the real world to For all mankinds spatial focus, the events in Jamestown become as radicalizing as the Waco siege.

The world is upset For all mankindits latest episodes: The president is openly gay, neither the Soviets nor the Americans were first to Mars, it turns out, and the Johnson Space Center lies in ruins. The space is suddenly an economic and political liability, with dreamers like Ayesa and Margo Madison locked out of their own institutions.

The heroics of Gordo and Traci Stevens could not be further in the past. As the glimpse of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” introduces the 2000s, characters find their lives completely turned upside down as an age of space heroism moves into an age of deep uncertainty. Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals, born out of his mental breakdown after the success of OK computer, fit perfectly with the quick shot of Margo waking up to her new life in the Soviet Union in 2003 (not since The Americans has a show been this good with needle drops).

But still, amidst all the chaos, the show feels like Moore’s version of the horrible Star Trek: Enterpriseexamines the earliest beginnings of a Star Trekas society. Earth may have changed, but space is still out there, begging for exploration.

Despite what some billionaires try to sell you, the path to a life among the stars would not be easy. Lives would be destroyed. A sense of adventure would disappear. Humanity would be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, dragging the inequalities, hatreds and petty squabbles of the pale blue dot along with the rations on a trip through the solar system. But For all mankind claims that crap hitting the fans knows no language or ideology. If anyone wants to succeed out there in the Great Beyond at all, there’s just no other option.

For all mankind Season 3 is streaming on Apple TV Plus.

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