Saturday, October 10, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Right Stuff' - NASA Begins the Selection Process to Find the Very First Astronauts in 'Sierra Hotel'

Disney+'s The Right Stuff - Episode 1.01 "Sierra Hotel"

A new agency called NASA chooses seven test pilots to be the nation's first astronauts.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Disney+'s The Right Stuff.

"Sierra Hotel" was written by Mark Lafferty & Will Staples and directed by Chris Long

It took heroism and bravery in order for seven test pilots to be willing to strap themselves onto a rocket reverse engineered from a bomb and hope that the science was right to carry them to space and return home safely. This series - like the book and film that preceded it - hopes to tell the true story about the men behind the mission. The action opens with John Glenn and Alan Shepard competing with each other over every single detail leading up to a mission in 1961. That sets the template for what the audience should expect from this story. Both men are regarded as heroes and icons. And yet, their competitive nature always drowns out every other detail of the story. That becomes even more apparent as the story goes back in time two years to detail the selection process of becoming the first American astronauts. Glenn and Shepard are well-known names. Glenn has a public image. One that makes him noticeable and regarded by the public at large. People perceive him to be a certain way. And yes, he does largely match those expectations. He is a noble man who comes from a stable, picturesque nuclear family. He is focused intensely on the space program because it would allow him to be the first person to achieve something in history. That has always been his noble ambition. He has been the best in everything he has done. But he was never the first to accomplish something. Someone always did it before him. This allows him the chance to fill his soul with that sense of notoriety. It can sustain his legacy no matter what happens. He wants to be the first man in space. Meanwhile, Shepard is the typical bad boy. A man who is casually destructive with every aspect of his life. He cheats on his wife. He lashes out at anyone who wants too much personal information. He views his skills as being enough to secure a spot no matter what shortcomings some doctors might raise about his emotional fitness for the job. He is the best. He will be part of the seven regardless. It's his destiny. He doesn't even have to try hard. He has already made a name for himself in this community. That comes with the awareness that he is reckless. But people can't dismiss that he is the best. These egos are destined to clash. And yet, it's already annoying after one episode of seeing them spar with each other. That is the core dynamic of the series seemingly. These two egos both see this as an opportunity to achieve everything they are looking for out of life. They approach the situation in different ways. As such, it's always an alien concept to see the two of them sharing a conversation and admitting when the other is doing something well. Caught in the middle of all of this is Gordo Cooper. He was willing to transfer out of his post after the death of a friend. He has to lie to NASA in order to even pass a background check. He has to convince his wife to return home to sell a fantasy. They aren't a happy couple. In fact, Gordo may be every bit as destructive as Shepard. And yet, he appreciates the ideals that Glenn has. It's majestic to think of the possibilities that exist out in space. This could be a massive venture forward for the entire country. That pressure is immediately placed on these astronauts. Their success is directly tied to American exceptionalism. They all can have a place in that concept. And yet, they are all essentially carbon copies of one another. The story showcases some differences amongst them. But these men are given the opportunities to succeed while so many hoping to achieve the American dream are left behind. That's just casually looked over here. As such, it makes the story seem incredibly simplistic. Yes, it's miraculous to think about how quickly this program came together. These astronauts will go to space. Within the next decade, a man will walk on the moon. It's incredible and important history. They are human beings behind it all though. People who want to project a certain image. Seeing the nuances in who they are and what this program needs them to be for the country isn't all that apparent yet. It mostly plays as typical period drama storytelling. It is beautiful to look at but rife with individuals making decisions over and over again that highlight extreme personal failings without really exploring that apparent darkness that looms over it all.