‘Away’ season one aims for the stars, falls flat

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Commander Emma Green (Hilary Swank) prepares to suit up for a mission to Mars.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Houston, we have a problem. 

Season one of “Away,” Netflix’s latest original series on space, brings drama, emotion and Hilary Swank to the final frontier. Created by Andrew Hinderaker, the show chronicles an international space crew’s first journey to Mars, which proves to be anything but a smooth ride.

While among the stars, the crew, led by Commander Emma Green (Swank), encounters a new challenge with each episode. Whether it’s outing a member to the rest of the team or contracting a debilitating virus onboard (sound familiar?), the obstacles bring swift character development for each of the five astronauts flying the spaceship, Atlas.

And that’s not the half of it. Even though Earth becomes farther away with each hour-long episode, the problems with loved ones back home — such as illness and teenage drama — are strong enough to affect the crew. 

With the emotional storylines and exaggerated scenarios, “Away” is reminiscent of popular medical drama, “Grey’s Anatomy” — not just because of the heart surgery references. In both shows something unrealistic takes place, and a ragtag group of doctors (both the medical and non-medical kind) find a solution. The main difference in “Away” is the gang of characters are stuck on a spaceship instead of in a hospital. 

At its core, “Away” asks how each astronaut handles familial issues occuring on Earth when they’re stuck on a spaceship for the next three years. This alone is compelling enough to evoke viewer sympathy, but  despite the show’s potential, its execution doesn’t quite hit the mark. 

Viewers need to mimic the crew’s endurance to get through the 10 released episodes. The pacing is slow at first, but eventually picks up speed in the sixth episode. 

 

The performances, even from Swank, feel forced and mechanical. Actors seem to go through the motions of the scenes instead of bringing them to life. Bizarre slow motion flashbacks feel out of place and don’t add much to the plot. 

It’s also challenging to accept to the unrealistic dialogue. No teenage girl asks her dad for advice on what photo to post on Instagram.  

Subtitles are a must for “Away,” unless you’re fluent in Russian, Mandarin, Hebrew, Hindi and Fante, so get ready to read. The decision to bring in different languages adds to the character’s authenticity. The show’s multilingual aspect helps acknowledge an important point: astronauts whose native tongue isn’t English have to learn a new language on top of their other training.

Although the show is international in nature, Texas gets its moment in the spotlight thanks to NASA's Houston-based Johnson Space Center. There are trucks, smoked brisket and a Texas flag painted on a mailbox. Bonus points if you can spot the Longhorn logo. Luckily, no one is seen riding a horse to school, but Swank has no business saying “ain’t.”

Just like the astronauts’ dysfunctional journey into the unknown, “Away”’s mission isn’t quite as successful as hoped. 

Rating: 2.4 astronauts out of 5