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'Mars' Season 2 is a perfect blend of fiction and science-based documentary

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Life on Mars has always been a standard science fiction topic, but Season 2 of National Geographic’s “Mars,” which premieres tonight at 9pm EST, shows how real and attainable that focus has become. The first season of the docudrama series aired in 2016 and was notable for its blending of fiction and science-based documentary, a format the show has maintained and improved. Season 2 picks up several years into the development of Olympus Town, a colony of astronauts working with the International Mars Science Foundation (IMSF), a fictional group. Close quarters living and the extreme environment take clear tolls on characters and their relationships, especially as love interests are established and a number of astronauts fall victim to the perils of space. But for a show titled “Mars,” a significant amount of the footage is of tundras, deserts, and oceans on Earth, as well as people who are not astronauts, but who are currently working to one day put men and women on our neighboring planet, like Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and even Bill Nye. The choice to merge documentary and drama was pioneered in “Mars” Season 1 and continues, polished, in Season 2. Episode four of the series, titled “Contagion,” offers a balanced fusion of these filmmaking approaches using a dual storyline; a pathogen outbreak in the Mars colony parallels the recent emergence of anthrax in the thawing Siberian tundra. Scripted portions of the show are spliced seamlessly with iPhone footage from Yamal Peninsula natives, and the story of a Russian environmentalist whistleblower highlights our lack of knowledge and caution in new climates. Read the rest

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