Hulu has another potential hit drama series coming soon to the streaming service, care of House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. Titled The First, the show will center around five ambitious astronauts hoping to be the first humans on Mars. Sean Penn stars as the mission commander alongside Natascha McElhone (The Truman Show, Californication) as the ambitious aerospace magnate setting the whole mission in motion.
More than just your typical sci-fi epic, The First plans on giving audiences a more humanist approach to the space exploration narrative. Delving deep into the lives and dramas of these astronauts, the series’ focus will be on what Willimon refers to as “the human spirit” — in other words, it will be, above all else, a character study on the brave humans attempting to set foot on the red planet.
Hulu released a trailer for the show yesterday, showcasing these very human dramas that make up The First:
Clearly, the streaming service is going for much less of a grand sci-fi adventure, and more a good hard look at what it will actually take for these people to make it all the way to Mars. The First trailer does not shy away from the grueling aspects of deep space exploration and the amount of training — including mental and physical preparation — it takes to accomplish this.
“Five people, fulfilling the destiny of eight billion.”
Specifically, it seems as if The First will feature a good deal of family drama along the way. Penn’s first declaration in the trailer is that his first priority, and his condition for going (or not going) to Mars, is his daughter. From the initial footage, it’s clear that his daughter has run into, or will run into, some trouble with the law and that her mother has been out of the picture for some time.
Other members of the risky mission seem more set, and less dependant on family members to sway their decision. Whether or not their families are as gung-ho for their pursuits should likely prove more challenging for the characters in The First than the mission itself.
“All our families know what we signed up for.”
Penn’s character hits home the fact that the lives and safety of his team all rest on his shoulders, further emphasizing the risk they are all taking. In the trailer, we see the kinds of strenuous preparation they are all undertaking, with McElhone ominously saying that these people have made so many personal sacrifices, to begin with, and then will go on to strap themselves to a rocket to risk life and limb.
“You could be the person that discovers life on Mars.”
The show already feels much closer to Interstellar than say the more comedic The Martian or Daniel Espinosa’s thriller Life — complete with the familial sacrifice, a focus on the humanity of its characters, and the father-daughter element that ties it all together. This should make for a more engrossing watch that will hopefully create more tension and anticipation towards the mission itself by making you understand and care about its characters before finally flinging them into the far reaches of space.
However, one hopes that when McElhone’s character says, “You’ll have to use your imagination,” she isn’t talking about the action and sci-fi bits of the series. Ideally, there will be a good balance between poignant, on-the-ground drama as well as the actual foray into space. Hulu could have something amazing to deliver fans of both gritty drama and space travel narratives, should they deliver on each aspect.
Hulu will debut all eight episodes of The First on September 14th, perfect for binge watching. It will be fun to see how they’re able to pull off such an ambitious project. At the very least, based on the trailer we’ll (probably) at best get to see Sean Penn booted from our planet’s atmosphere.