Saturday, May 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Twilight Zone' - A Mission to Mars Highlights the Survival Instincts of Humanity in 'Six Degrees of Freedom'

CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone - Episode 1.06 "Six Degrees of Freedom"

A space crew preparing for the first human flight to Mars is faced with a life-altering decision... and its consequences.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone.

"Six Degrees of Freedom" was written by Heather Anne Campbell & Glen Morgan and directed by Jakob Verbruggen

Glen Morgan is grappling with some big ideas about the current state of humanity and our potential survival as a civilization through this series. In the first episode he wrote, "A Traveler," he offered the idea that humanity was too busy getting in its own way to ever evolve into something much greater in the universe. That was a very cynical take that led to the end of human civilization with an alien takeover. Here, the world once again ends. The Earth is presumed to fall due to nuclear war. However, it has a much more uplifting central thesis with the idea that humanity is still capable of remarkable technological achievements that could present us as the best case of advance life so far. Sure, it may ultimately be a test by some mysterious overlords watching from the great beyond. It's also riveting and intense to watch the journey getting to that clarity. But this hour still ends with the idea of salvation because of the human mind. That's a different idea Morgan is going for and succeeds just as much here as he did with the more cynical take. This hour suffers from the overall pacing problems that have plagued the majority of episodes so far this season. However, it presents a world that feels more lived-in and relaxed. It's actually a marvel to watch because of how intimate the character work actually is. It's set around humanity's first mission to potentially colonize Mars. A group of five astronauts have signed onto a mission that will take four years to complete to see if it's ever possible for human civilization to survive on another planet in our solar system. At the moment of liftoff, word spreads that the North Koreans have launched nuclear missiles. The United States fires back in response. The astronauts make the immediate decision to move forward with the mission. It's not a unanimous vote. It's their fate though. They survive with no clue whether or not they are the last remnants of humanity. This was a mission designed to look ahead to the future. It's to find a way to save the human race after the destruction that has already occurred to Earth. Instead, the mission almost immediately becomes about reflecting on the past and the profound sense of loss that accompanies the crew. It's a much more somber and depressing mission. One where they have to grapple with the realities of being the few survivors while also understanding they can't let anything compromise their central mission. It's tough on the entire crew. Most of the episode is just about the 200+ days getting to Mars. Them landing on the surface of another planet presents as the end goal. It's the evidence necessary to prove humanity is worthy of salvation. Along the way though, paranoia seeps in that this is potentially just one big simulation to see the psychological ramifications of a long-distance journey like this. This is what human scientists are expecting to put various people through in order to live on another planet. It's a long and grueling journey. One that required great sacrifices long before the crew stepped onto the ship. It's a mission that does end with success. But it still shows just how small everyone can be in the grand scheme of the universe. This mission was agonizing for the crew. They shared laughs and fears. They dealt with tragedy. They had a remarkable celebration about landing on Mars. But the audience walks away with the understanding that that vision may not be what's actually happening. It doesn't lessen the moment for the surviving four members of the crew. It just may only further tease that only one person is capable of breaking through the barrier to see the omnipresent connections of the universe pulling the strings and conducting these tests to see who is truly worthy of survival.