First Impressions: For All Mankind

First Impressions: For All Mankind

The first episode was good.  I have to give it that.

I had subbed to Apple TV+ to watch *Luck, since I was pulling the plug again at the end of the month, I decided to look around.  There was a Tomm **Moore Irish folklore animated movie; the Youngest Dark Spawn adores those things.  There was also a Dinosaur pseudo-nature documentary hosted by Richard Attenborough. Which was every bit as exciting as a real nature documentary by Richard Attenborough.  After I woke up from that I gave Apple’s other sci-fi show a chance.

Presumed premise:  June 26, 1938.  Stalin is holding one of his drink orgies for the Politburo. All are appreciating his brilliant sense of humor and taste in American Cowboy movies.  Stalin is enjoying himself so much that night he has yet another bottle of vodka and changes history.  He breaks off from the drink orgy long enough to review the list of men to be arrested tomorrow, mistakes Sergei Korolev for a pianist he likes, and scratches his name off the list.  The matter is never pursued again, Andrei Kostikov is sent to the gulag in his place and dies there.  

His health unbroken, Korolev lives another few years, finishes the N-1 superbooster and the Soviet Union beats the United States to the Moon two weeks before Apollo 11 touched down.

Like I said, the first episode was really good.  I was into the show.  Ron Moore had done his homework.  Everything about the personalities of the late 1960s space program ran true.  When I was a kid, I was enough of a NASA nerd to be familiar with them and this show tried to get them right.  It presented a ‘what if’ story about how the people of NASA would have reacted to their biggest defeat and how the country might (I stress might) have taken it.  The America of 1969 and Richard Nixon would have both doubled or even tripled down.

The second episode was more okay than good.  It was about the direction the space program was going to take.  Nixon wanted a moon base.   Von Braun was against the idea, and that is true, he would have been.  

I put on my writer’s cap and considered.

Werner von Braun had three priorities, the first of which was a space shuttle, next comes a space station then finally a moon base.  There had been an Apollo Applications plan for a moon base.  It wouldn’t have been much of a base, but it was doable with Saturn Vs and off-the-shelf parts and technology of the era.  If you find water on the Moon (which they do in the show) and you aren’t held back by all the new technologies you’d have to develop for a shuttle, then putting a moon base first makes better sense.  You can build a really big space station and do it at L5, if it is being supplied from the Moon.

But all Nixon would have wanted was flashy short-term results before the next election. So, Nixon would have needed to get rid of von Braum and he wouldn’t have hesitated to have been underhanded about it.  Werner von Braum’s past was brought up in an unforgiving light and he was forced to step down.

The show made a point of mentioning that the timing of the Soviet Moon landing meant that Ted Kennedy would have rushed back to Washington with everyone else rather than destroy his hopes for the presidency at Chappaquiddick.  

I put my writer’s cap on again.  Okay, one of the main reasons Nixon won in 1972 was because he had an incompetent opponent.  Ted Kennedy wasn’t brilliant, but he was competent as a politician. The tears were still wet from his brother’s murders and Nixon had just lost the Space Race.  Yeah, I could see it.  

Let’s say you have three pro-space presidents in a row. That would be enough to push things significantly ahead in space.   Kennedy gets two terms (blech) but he was elected to pursue an aggressive expansion of space exploration, so it happened.  Reagan was very pro-space before the assassination attempt.  If that didn’t happen, it would have moved things forward even more.  

But now you have the problem of Bush.  He has to go and get replaced by somebody who is pro-space because he wasn’t; not at all.  I went w-a-ay off on a tangent at that point.  The reason Bush was elected was due to the fact that Reagan had been a hugely successful president.  Bush’s campaign was basically; Vote for Me and you’ll get seconds.  He was lying through his teeth but that was how he won.  For him to not be elected, the country would have wanted a big change in direction.  Why would America want that?  

Answer: Red Storm.  In 1987 there was a big conventional war in Europe, and the USA won. The country would want a change of direction after the Cold War (turned hot) was over and the Soviet Union had collapsed.  President John Glen?  Maybe, and in bitter truth, he would have been preferable to the birth of the Bush dynasty. 

The second episode was just ending when my writer’s cap fell off and rolled into a ditch.  

The second Cosmonaut had just landed on the Moon, and it was a WOMAN.


Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963. The next day the Pravda headline read: Our Spacecraft Are So Good Even A Woman Can Fly Them.  There is no reason whatsoever to believe the Russians would have aggressively pursued women in space.  But this show sure did.

The Mercury 13 were never part of NASA, and weren’t called the Mercury 13 until 1994.  It was a privately funded effort, not a government program at all.  But the Mercury 13 was suddenly a NASA program that got scrapped because sexism.

I started skipping ahead at that point.  The alternate history was about as Boomer-centric as you could get.  Reagan was elected in 1976 and was responsible for all of Carter’s failures. The Israeli-Egyptian Peace accords failed, Reagan was responsible for seventies inflation, the American Olympic hockey didn’t win against the Russians. The Soviet Union didn’t invade Afghanistan.  I dipped out when the show started getting into the Gay Oppression of the horrible Before Times.

It was clear that the notes had started flying from Tim Cook’s office after the second episode.  After a very promising start, For All Mankind became as Boomerlib as you can possibly get.  This is after all an ***Apple TV+ show.

When all is said and done, this show is a sequel to the Astronaut Wives Club. It’s for feminists, Boomerlibs, and Boomergays. If you are any of those things and have a taste for alternate history fiction, then it is absolutely for you.

I’m Generation X.  The show lost me when John Lennon wasn’t killed.

Okay, I’m done here.


*Since it was animated, I need see a high-quality picture.

**I did not misspell that.

***Here is an alternate history Tim. Xerox got a visionary CEO in the early Seventies, saw what Xerox PARC really meant and invented the PC industry.  Steve Jobs became an insurance executive and Apple was never created. 

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