On paper a television series about a mission to Mars doesn’t sound like it would be particularly relatable to the majority of viewers, but in reality Away is an incredibly timely addition to Netflix’s repertoire. This epic new drama from Executive Producer Jason Katims (Roswell, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) follows American astronaut Emma Green, played by Hilary Swank, as she leads an international team on a journey to the Red Planet. The mission takes the team away from their loved ones for three years, and those of us who have been separated from friends and families in recent months will certainly empathise with their struggles in adapting to life apart. Of course life never goes according to plan and Emma has to deal with issues on board the Atlas spaceship with her crew along with the struggle of leaving her husband Matt (Josh Charles) and daughter Alexis (Talitha Bateman) at a time when they need her the most.
Created by Andrew Hinderaker, Away is loosely inspired by Chris Jones’ (who also penned one of the episodes) article in Esquire magazine, which detailed astronaut Scott Kelly’s mission to space. As well as following events back down on earth, over the course of ten episodes viewers follow the five astronauts on their mission, while also flashing back to key moments in their past which reveal more about the characters and their journeys.
Not your average sci-fi show, Away is an enthralling drama from start to finish and, with a delicate balance of action and angst, it really has something for everyone. If anything, with the current pandemic, this show is sure to resonate with many with its message of staying positive even in the most difficult of times.
As with other Netflix originals, the production values throughout are incredibly high, with some pretty impressive special effects which makes viewers feel that they’re up in space with the crew. With some television dramas spanning several episodes there’s a danger that a series will lag at times, but if anything Away gets better as it continues. The script is tight throughout – and more importantly believable – and while there are plenty of big, life-affirming speeches within the show, it manages to avoid falling into the trap of being too corny.
After a shaky start the show eventually drops some of the cultural stereotypes and the characters are all allowed to develop and shine, which is also in part due to the brilliant acting by the cast. Oscar winner Hilary Swank is a dependable lead as always, and it’s great to see her back on our screens once again. She really embodies Emma, and captures both the tough and the more vulnerable aspect of the character who wants to prove that women can have it all. But Away is very much an ensemble piece, and there’s no weak link within the cast. Vivian Wu is outstanding as Lu Wang, and it’s her character’s emotional arc which provides some of the more heart-wrenching moments in the series. Likewise Mark Ivanir also impresses as Misha Popov, who once he drops the Russian ‘bad boy’ persona becomes one of the show’s more likeable characters as he tries to adapt to life in space. If there’s a downside at all it’s that Ato Essandoh feels somewhat underused at times as the spaceship’s botanist Dr. Kwesi Weisberg-Abban, but when he is on screen he makes the most of it, even if the English accent is sometimes questionable (though thankfully it doesn’t detract from his performance).
Away is an enchanting show about hope and takes a look at the sacrifices we make to achieve our dreams. An emotional and human show with plenty of action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last scene, Away is one of the best dramas you’ll see on television this year.
Away streams on Netflix from 4 September.
Photo credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix