This week, National Geographic presented the premiere episode of the Ron Howard co-produced series, half-documentary and half-fiction.

Title: “Novo Mundo”

Cast and Crew
Director: Everardo Gout
Writers: Karen Janszen, Paul Solet, Ben Young Mason, Justin Wilkes.
Based in part on the book by Stephen Petranek.

Cast
Jihae as Hana Seung
Alberto Ammann as Javier Delgado
Clémentine Poidatz as Amelie Durand
Anamaria Marinca as Marta Kamen
Sammi Rotibi as Robert Foucault
Ben Cotton as Ben Sawyer
Olivier Martinez as Ed Grann
Nicholas Wittman as Oliver Lee
Antoinette Fekete as Sam
Kata Sarbó as Ava Macon
Laurent Winkler as Flight Director Mission Control
Sara Martins as Louise Varda

Elon Musk as himself
James Lovell as himself
Neil DeGrasse Tyson as himself
Jennifer Trosper as herself
Andy Weir as himself
Charles Bolden as himself
Ann Druyan as herself
Jennifer Heldmann as herself
Jedidah Isler as himself
Thomas Kalil as himself
Stephen Petranek as himself
Mary Roach as herself

Lots of other people as themselves

Premise

In the near future, a crew heads out to settle the red planet. Flashbacks to our own era illustrate the real-life science, effort, and aspiration that might make such a mission a reality.

Even landing presents a significant challenge.

High Points

The real-life explanations prove interesting in their own right, and the drama, while slow-moving, is strong enough to keep me interested.

Low Points

I recognize the originality of the series’ approach to the subject matter, though at times it feels neither fish nor fowl, uncertain of whether it wants to emphasize the documentary or fictional halves. The former is better-done; the latter, uneven, though I recognize it will draw some viewers who would otherwise be uninterested. And important though Space-X is to current exploratory efforts, their emphasis in the non-fiction half borders on excessive.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 We’ve been to Mars many times before– in fiction– but the approach the series takes shows some originality.

Effects: 6/6 The film features excellent special effects, alongside actual spaceshots.

Acting: 5/6

Story: 4/6 The story moves slowly, and is, thus far, predictable.

Emotional Response: 4/6 I liked the premiere, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should feel more inspired by this subject matter. However, we are only at the first episode, and what I saw gives me reason to hope.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Novo Mundo” receives 32/42