So, I watched For All Mankind on Apple TV+ and felt they had a good storyline that followed the Story Grid method so I thought I’d review it.
Here’s the Description, in case you aren’t familiar with it. It’s available on Apple for distribution.
The first manned mission to the Moon during the Space Race in the late 1960s was a global success for NASA and the United States. But this drama answers the question: “What if the Space Race had never ended?”.
In an alternate timeline, the USSR beats the US to the Moon; thus setting its first Russian cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov, on it. Dubbed as “Red Moon”, this event leaves NASA in devastation. This doesn’t mean those working there have given up as they challenge the Soviet Union a second time to show that there is no giving up on hope.Wikipedia
This post will analyze the the Episode 1 of the For All Mankind television series using the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.
Obviously, I will be discussing plot points from the television series For All Mankind. So, check it out before reading further.
Russia becomes the First Nation to have men walk on the moon.
As I mentioned before, the tension that the writers build up for the reveal that it is the Russians and not the United States is brilliant.
Eagle moon lander crash-lands on the Moon and communications with the two astronauts is lost.
There are a number of Progressive Complications in this first episode such as: NASA funding, astronauts’ wives club issues, one of the astronauts getting demoted because he spoke to the press, and the US being depressed over losing the Space Race.
However, the I feel the Turning Point is the crash landing.
According to Shawn Coyne, a Turning Point “should be a life changing event that will lead to a crisis question that will catapult the hero into a new way of thinking; it should be big enough to prevent the hero from returning to their status quo”.
I think the crash landing meets that requirement in spades.
Does NASA order last astronaut to return to Earth?
What are the stakes of this Crisis Question? They are huge for the plot of the story.
If NASA orders the return of the last astronaut (Michael Collins) without the astronauts that crash-landed, then NASA is admitting defeat and they will lose the Space Race and funding. The US will be irrevocably embarrassed.
But if they don’t order Michael Collins’ return, they run the risk of losing the last astronaut, possibly showing an even larger failure and still admitting defeat and a lost Space Race.
NASA orders Michael Collins to return to Earth.
Michael Collins refuses to return without his team, then the Eagle astronauts are finally able to communicate they are alive.
NASA must now determine how to rescue them.
1. The interspersed Mexican migration is interesting to me and I am wondering how this will play out in the show. I suspect that one of the immigrants will have an impact on the space race, or be a family member to someone within NASA.
2. The build up and shock of the USSR flag being unveiled when the first man walked on the moon was very shocking to me, very well done building of tension. I makes me wonder if the Mexicans are trying to get into Russia and not the US as the borders appear to be American, but it’s not 100% clear.
3. The building of tension during the crash was also very well done, I was on the edge of my seat. I could have seen it going either way, both astronauts dying on impact, one dying, 1 mortally wounded, or both living.
For me, this series is working very well as an alternate history.
Not completely sure of the genre right now. There is the possibility of making it a Thriller/ Action series with space/ environment being the bad guy. Worldview also as perspectives change. We’ll see how it develops. The main deciding factor will be what makes up the core value and on what value the core scenes change.
For more information about the Story Grid, go to the Story Grid Webpage to find free videos and articles on how to implement the methodology.
For an example of how these techniques are used, read Jane Austin’s The Pride and the Prejudice with annotations by Shawn Coyne.
If you are interested in having your manuscript reviewed by me, see my Editing Services.
Hi, my name is Randy Surles and I edit Thrillers and Action novels. I specialize in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and anything with a military flavor to it.