For All Mankind: Polaris
June 9, 2022 9:47 PM - Season 3, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Nearly 10 years have passed. Danielle and Ed attend a celebration, where things take a terrifying turn.

Karen and Sam build a new hotel, but the soft opening is ruined by a persistent plumbing problem, and by an unfathomable lack of design redundancy and control access. The Stevens boys have trouble letting go. Margo adds to her record collection. Molly has a different vision on the best character traits in astronauts. Ellen runs for president. Aleida finally shows herself to be a team player. Kelly phones it in from Antarctica.
posted by cardboard (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This was such a surprise to see show up in my queue last night, thinking I had one more day before I'd get to see it.

That's a big leap in technology from a lunar base in the 80s to a giant hotel in the 90s. I wonder how far away we are from artificial gravity in space.
posted by emelenjr at 4:30 AM on June 10, 2022

I'm not sure I liked it. I'll watch the season but I feel like it's turning into Star Trek or something. One of the things I really liked about the show was that everything seemed realistic and plausible. It just seemed like it was a bit TOO much of a leap in ten years. I know things are going faster than they actually did due to NASA being profitable and advances in private industry but it seemed a little too much.

Plus, the story was kind of ridiculous.

I couldn't tell if Karen and Sam were an item or just business partners?

I assume there will be a three-way race to Mars (USSR, USA, Polaris) that will end up as some cooperative mission.

It has the same problem as previous seasons in that there are like four people at NASA who do everything. Why are flight controllers designing engines on the moon? Are things so routine that a flight controller only needs a week before her first Lunar mission?

Trying to have an open mind but it almost felt like another show.
posted by bondcliff at 7:06 AM on June 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I had similar thoughts. Are space flights so routine that the groom at a destination wedding can jump into a pressurized suit (one size fits all now?) and perform a maintenance task he wasn't trained for? Instructions for the job were reduced to "Go outside, go up, look for a valve."

I suspended my disbelief for the hour, though. I appreciated the way they illustrated the effects of extra gravity — the cake topper sinking!
posted by emelenjr at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Well, they did show that little snippet about Danny Baldwin going to the moon, so he's a trained astronaut, but it was still kind of silly. They showed him struggling up that ladder and then before you know it he's got the suit on and he's out the airlock, knows exactly what to do. Nobody in the station can even stand upright and he's got a 100lb suit on all by himself.

I did like the design of the space hotel. It seemed semi-realistic the way it was built mostly out of modules.

Having a difficult time believing either Ed or Danielle are the top choices for Mars commander given their ages. Ed was on Gemini!
posted by bondcliff at 11:19 AM on June 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

I’m increasingly thinking this show is to the 2020s as The West Wing was to the Bush years - an alternate reality where we made better decisions and everything works out with the application of hard work and integrity above all.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:23 AM on June 10, 2022 [9 favorites]

Geez, tough crowd.

I loved it. It's the feel good "this is what life could be like if we didn't spend all our time on bullshit" show.
posted by rhymedirective at 11:28 AM on June 10, 2022 [12 favorites]

Oh yeah, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, to be clear. It’s just changed in tone a fair bit from the early ‘the Sixties but a tiny bit different and maybe a continued space race would have done good things?’ alternate history into full-blown (and very pleasant and necessary for my brain) space escapism.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:49 AM on June 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I mean, I don't really agree? The show was never supposed to be "realistic" but it was designed to have a certain versimilitude, which I think they're still doing. I mean, we are talking about a for-profit space hotel, which by its very nature is going to be much cushier than Jamestown.
posted by rhymedirective at 11:57 AM on June 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

This episode posits widespread fusion power in the Nineties. That’s a fairly big leap into the wishful-thinking-verse. Although I guess Season 2 had a bunch of 80s NASA megaprojects in it like that rocket that launched from the sea.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:16 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad this show is on again. I got a big kick out of seeing Aleida's father back in the picture. And watching Margo get sucked into spy quicksand, uh oh! The first role I saw Wrenn Schmidt play was Kate, a KGB handler in the 2nd season of The Americans.
posted by kingless at 12:56 PM on June 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

And watching Margo get sucked into spy quicksand, uh oh! The first role I saw Wrenn Schmidt play was Kate, a KGB handler in the 2nd season of The Americans.

And I believe the commander of the Soviet Mars mission is a The Americans alum, as well!
posted by rhymedirective at 1:00 PM on June 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm annoyed by the implausible degree of similarity to our timeline, which I understand they have to maintain so that they can keep using real archival footage and period music and other cultural markers with minimal modifications and not have to invent an increasingly divergent alternative history from scratch. But I like the retrofuturism and the characters enough to keep suspending my disbelief.
posted by confluency at 1:09 PM on June 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Well, presumably calling that episode The Polaris Adventure might have given things away.

As before, the Apple+ site for the show has short snippets of news stories setting out the alternate timeline, some of which are expanded versions of the clips we see in the 'since season 2' montage. In terms of US politics, we already saw that Ronald Reagan was elected in 1976 and re-elected in 1980; here, Gary Hart is elected in 1984 and re-elected in 1988, and as of this episode (July 1992), it looks like Bill Clinton will beat Al Gore (here, Hart's VP) to the Democratic nomination while Bob Dole and FAM character Ellen Wilson are battling for the Republican nomination. Gorbachev seems to have made Perestroika work in this timeline, with a more economically liberal (but still US-adversarial) Soviet Union having client states in South and Central America.

One other departure from our history in the opening montage: Margaret Thatcher dies in the 1984 Brighton bombing. I suspect that is just a 'lots of events unfold differently' throw-away rather than something that will have any plot consequences for this season.
posted by Major Clanger at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

The fusion power thing tripped my "suspension of disbelief" circuit. I'm doubtful a space hotel in the 90s (or now) makes economic sense, but the tech has been possible for a long time. There's just no good reason to build something that fantastically expensive in launch cost. Although, presumably fusion power changes everything. But that's a problem: fusion power as envisioned in the show would have changed everything.

In such a (relatively) small ring, the coriolis effect would have been very noticeable — they went to the effort to portray the increased "gravity" but totally ignored that. The flowers drooped far too rapidly. The single thruster firing would have been eccentric, which would have been even more disruptive than depicted. The escaping air was more realistic than usually depicted in SF, but still much stronger than it would actually be. At 2g (at that time, as depicted), Danny Baldwin wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble climbing the ladder (and it would rapidly get easier), but "descending" to over 4g with the suit on would have been . . . impressive. And "falling" the length of his tether at 4g would have probably broken his back. I wondered how they were going to slow the rotation, but apparently multiple opposing thrusters had been firing all along (slow run-up, rapid fall-off).

All in all, I think the show must have fired its technical advisors. I've thought the prior seasons were surprisingly plausible.

Radiation will be a very serious problem for astronauts on a Mars mission transit and landing; I'll be curious to see how the show handles it. A powerful fusion drive of some kind could make the transit much shorter (with fuel from the Moon). That's not an option for us in real life, though.

“The first role I saw Wrenn Schmidt play was Kate, a KGB handler in the 2nd season of The Americans.”

I mentioned this in a previous thread, but I've been familiar with her not just from The Americans, but also from Person of Interest and Outcast. I've a bit of a crush on her. She's great.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:03 PM on June 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was okay with imagining the actors were younger than they were in the first season, the second season was about right, but the fake wrinkles and wigs and stuff are really not cutting it. They take me out of the world way more than any technical implausibility. Hopefully this is somehow less distracting for the rest of the season. I think I would be less distracted if they didn’t really try to age up the actors.
posted by snofoam at 5:55 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Like many, I found the hotel plot disappointing, apart from Danny’s disturbing choice of music for his first dance with his new wife.
Things that made the aviation certification engineer in me scream:
The hotel has a 4g do not exceed limit and yet:
  • Structural support cables snap at 2g, either leaving something magical to maintain structural integrity, or implying the deadly thrashing cables are useless
  • Elevator fails catastrophically at 2.5g with no warning
  • A single thruster malfunction can cause all this to happen and there are no redundant systems to shut it off or cut fuel
  • The only way to shut off the thruster is an EVA with a wrench
And then we have the operational decisions:
  • NK rocket blows up and they’re happy with an advisory that they’re not in the debris path
  • crew decides not to tell any guests that something potentially serious has happened and that they should standby for further instructions, or maybe at least stop drinking.
The duck tape dash to the nuclear reactor last season had a few of the same technical failings, but they were able to sell it better.
posted by cardboard at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Seeing the debris from the NK craft floating around instantly made me think there was going to be a Planetes event, and there it goes. The thing that annoys me about this episode is the details. The snapped cable seems to continuously flail about like a Water Wiggle, and little bits and pieces of the station are getting flung off looking as if they're blowing off in a high wind.

I could buy the rest, more or less, fusion, a Mars trip, even a commercial space hotel in this time frame, for the sake of story. (Though the idea of Karen and hubby being behind such a mind bogglingly capital hungry venture has me giving the side eye.)

Some of the bits and pieces set up for the season seem compelling. Ellen getting the Republican nomination... is she still closeted, or are gay rights a thing that we do well in this alt future? Not to mention a Republican party moderate enough to go from a Pat Robertson to a woman at all in the span of four years. And Ed is injecting himself in the butt cheek with what? Does he have something going on, or is he doing a steroid/testosterone top off? He still has plenty of energy to be an Apollo-era jackass, it seems. And ewww, Danny chooses a creepy song to dance to. Does this hint that Danny still has feels? And is Karen getting all gooey over it?

I hope Aleida's character gets some decent fleshing out. She went from a character full of interesting possibilities in the first season to a generally flat and unpleasant cowboy in the second.

And I love how Margo still has absolutely no life outside of work, and is really OK with it. Probably not much fun at a party, but she isn't interested in being somebody else's dancing clown. Her relationship with Aleida still seems a little stunted and creepy, as if it allows her to check off that box for human interaction. At least she gets a decent meal out of it.

I wonder how much the kids will factor into the season? Danielle's boy looked to have some small issues. And I'm curious if Kelly will factor in much in some dramatic connection. But holy hell, for a moment, I thought the space hotel was going to fall victim from the emotional debris flung off of the younger Stevens boy. And I think I'm already tired of Superman Danny.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:02 AM on June 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Danny and Karen danced to "Don't Be Cruel" at The Outpost in Season 2. He clearly still has a thing for her.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 7:03 AM on June 11, 2022

I assumed Ed was injecting an ED treatment.
posted by sixswitch at 10:31 AM on June 11, 2022

Maybe the shot's something to counteract bone density loss for long-term space travelers.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:13 PM on June 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Heh heh “bone density”
posted by sixswitch at 4:25 PM on June 11, 2022 [16 favorites]

Not sure I'd buy the hotel as the first rotating station, since the main (intentional) difference the show has with our timeline is convincing Republicans that government spending is good, but I didn't have a problem with it existing. They had Sea Dragons a decade ago, so I guess reusable super heavy lift is a thing by season 3.

I continue to enjoy the little nerd nostalgia shoutouts, even though they always make me think things like this episode's "why are they still mucking about with NERVA when they have fusion?"

Russian's continue to do nothing but copy from the square-jawed Americans, while somehow staying ahead of them in the space race, and talk in over-the-top sinister voices. Sergei's KGB handler somehow managed to chew the scenery with a couple of lines delivered over the phone.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

The bride and groom wedding toppers sinking into the cake was a nice touch.

Also for one of the worst wedding speeches ever, that was surprisingly reaction-free from the guests. You'd think they'd do more than quietly sip on champagne after that.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:16 PM on June 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I knew this show was going to shift from historical to Science Fiction over time but it seems to be happening awfully fast. I bought the moon base and the shenanigans there last season but this floating hotel seemed a little bit like something from "Black Mirror" - well done but not quite believable.

Part of the problem is that it's so grounded in the historical 90s that I'm a lot less willing to believe crazy things here than in something like Star Trek.

- I liked Aleida's progression and her better relationship with Margo and humanity in general.

- I thought Karen was the creepy one when she had her dalliance with Danny last season, but Danny playing "their song" 10 years later at his WEDDING is mega creepy. Especially when the Baldwins seem to have become vaguely surrogate parents for him and his brother.

(I do like Danny's brother, he needs to hang out with Wayne.)

I don't like Danny at all and I don't want him to be the hotshot hero of this season. If there was anyone qualified to do an EVA to fix the station it was Danielle, since Ed was conveniently injured. But really there should have been a staff of well-trained techs standing by to deal with things like this. I would think liability concerns would make private space hotels have a better safety culture than alterna-NASA but I guess not.

- I liked seeing Danielle happy with a family, and for God's sake if they have to pick between her and Ed for the Mars command she's the far better choice.

- Molly seems to have adjusted to her blindness (and miraculously avoided all of the other symptoms of radiation exposure.)

- I was assuming they were setting up Kelly to be an astronaut in the future but since she's stationed at McMurdo I assume we won't see her again at all, unless there's an emergency on the South Pole that only NASA can solve... then again training in extreme climates might be part of the astronaut candidate program so who knows.

- Sam Cleveland continues to be a generic caricature of a rich businessman who ought to be playing Darren's boss on "Bewitched."

- I have no idea why Ed married that woman or why he was so mad at her for... what? Drinking and dancing at a party? Somehow in one episode they managed to convincingly show that Aleida and Danielle were in loving relationships with compatible sympathetic characters, but Ed just comes in and says "Hey look I married a random blonde woman." He had way more chemistry with Karen than with her... seems like they're doing Tracy and Gordo all over again.

- Just once I'd like to see a show say "This base will start to collapse after 4 G's" and then someone solves the problem when it's at 2.05 instead of exactly at the last possible artificially-delineated moment.
posted by mmoncur at 11:30 PM on June 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

- I liked seeing Danielle happy with a family, and for God's sake if they have to pick between her and Ed for the Mars command she's the far better choice.

She was the first person (without data) to notice a problem on the station!
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:00 PM on June 27, 2022 [6 favorites]

> I don't like Danny at all and I don't want him to be the hotshot hero of this season.

You meant Jimmy, right?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:11 PM on July 7, 2022

Ah, no, ignore me. I've got a cough syrup hangover.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:16 PM on July 7, 2022

In my defense, it's weird that this show has both a Danny and a Dani.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:16 PM on July 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm playing catch-up with this series, but I loved this episode. The show seems to finally have embraced its soapier aspects and this played like a 70s disaster movie.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yay another season with a Margo montage of her failing to have work-life balance! Seriously. And props for showing the trauma that is involved in trying to get pantyhose like that on. The fold-out beds keep getting better, and she's got a piano in her office, now, so rank hath its privileges.

Meanwhile, okay, Danny Stevens has got some issues going on. Get over your fling, my boy.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Karen's made it to space(!) and hates it! So has Danny. And he's space-married, no less!

I dislike all the bullet short haircuts. Karen's new streaks look lovely, though.

MIghty presumptuous of you there, USSR, to say you'll be first again.

Karen and Ed split and he's remarried and a space tourist.

Oh, Margo, I'm not even sure what to make of this.

Wow, little bro...way to make things very, very awkward at a wedding. Also, drugs in space?!

"You know, we banned smoking in the building." "I didn't know. Maybe you should put up some signs."

GO DANIELLE for commanding so many missions!

So yeah, that was rather heartbreaking all around. I was kind of rooting for Karen and Sam as a couple (were they?! we'll never know, I guess). Ed seems to be not happy with wife #2 already. Jimmy looks like he's going to be a giant pill. I'm happy Dani's happy.

I love the idea of space tourism, but also it just seems too dangerous, and it does seem weird that Karen, She Who Don't Wanna Go To Space, had the idea for it rather than Sam?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 AM on March 19, 2023

I was okay with imagining the actors were younger than they were in the first season, the second season was about right, but the fake wrinkles and wigs and stuff are really not cutting it. They take me out of the world way more than any technical implausibility. Hopefully this is somehow less distracting for the rest of the season. I think I would be less distracted if they didn’t really try to age up the actors.

I don't think there's a great way to handle that situation. Fake aging can look weird, everyone still looking like they're in their 20's two decades later also looks very Hollywood.

I only watched the first eight episodes of Outlander (maybe I'll get around to it again someday), but a concern I had with that show is that they'd have to pick up again 20+ years in the future, and I have read that they pretty much didn't bother with aging anyone there... which is kinda eye-roll-y.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2023

The Karen/Danny thing (Kranny? Daren?) Is the worst part about this show so I was glad to see them being normal at first... and now it seems like it will continue to be a recurring theme.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:16 PM on November 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

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