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SDCC2018: When Earthlings Become Martians: ‘Mars’ Season 2

Guest post by Dr. Livingston Bear

San Diego Comic Con attendees were given a look at the second season of National Geographic’s docudrama, Mars. The fictional story jumps nine years forward, to when the established scientific sector must adjust to the introduction of the first commercial venture on Mars, a mining colony.

This is a true science fiction narrative that explores the growing pains of expanding from a small research lab to the economics and business of settling a new planet. Although the documentary interviews will take more of a backseat to the personal dramas this season, the creators assured one of the audience questioners that the material will remain high school appropriate.

The panelists highlight a range of knowledge and talent that makes the series possible. Here are some of the highlights of what they had to say in interviews after the main panel.


Leland Melvin, an engineer and former NASA astronaut, is a huge advocate for S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). He believes that art allows us to visualize what is possible with technology, which is a crucial objective of the Mars series. In addition to his authoring Chasing Space, he is also working on writing a graphic novel, which you can catch a glimpse of on his website .

“I try to promote the arts because that is the tapestry that weaves through all of us, music, art, food, beauty. We all love it. We all want it. And so that’s that common thread I think can really help save us and make us better.”

“That’s one of our missions as astronauts, to let them feel this perspective, the whole world perspective, the overview effect. When you come back from space, you feel like you’re connected with everyone, because you go around the planet every 90 minutes, and there are no borders. And you fly over Afghanistan or Iraq; there’s no wars down there. It’s beauty. It’s the Mediterranean Sea, these things. It’s all beautiful. And it changes the way you think about your planet, your society, your neighbors, your race, the human race.”

Stephen Petranek and Leland Melvin take a photo with Dr. Bear


Andy Weir, author of The Martian and Artemis and voice on space law and the economics of Mars.

“We really know what we’re about on Mars, probably up to 2050. The science is very good, and the technology is very good in knowing exactly what we have to do, and how we will live physically on the planet, and how we will accomplish that safely. So we’re not projecting too far at the moment. We’re not making much stuff up. She’s making stuff up with the story-telling.”


Dee Johnson, showrunner and executive producer, gave some insights into the unique blend of the documentary and fictional plot format of the series.

“Merging these two things actually gives such relevance to the possibility of life on Mars, because it’s on Nat Geo. We have these people telling us the truth of it, and how possible it is.” “We started working very early on with our documentary partners, when we were developing the arc of the season, we worked with them to cultivate and find the right big thinkers and the right analogies that would support the drama in every episode.”

“We’re scripted, I know exactly what we’re shooting, what we’re going to get. With documentary, you know what you want to get, and you hope you get it. They shot concurrently, as we’re shooting our scripted, they’re shooting the documentary stuff. In terms of planning as best we could, making those transitions, in and out of documentary and scripted. We would script, and sometimes it worked and sometimes you gotta do the final pass in editorial and make it work. It was challenging.”


Jeff Hephner plays Kurt Hurrelle, the leader of the Lukrum Industries Mining Colony in season two. He remarked that luckily he’s had some experience coming into the second or third seasons of different shows and being the new kid.

“It helps because my unit was going to be separate anyway. We’re there to build tension in the story. We’re there to be the drama.”


Dr. Bear sitting with cast members Jeff Hephner and JiHAE

JiHAE plays Hana Seung and her twin sister Joon Seung, respectively the Mission Commander of Olympus Tower and the Former Secretary General of IMSF. She is an accomplished musician and runs a multimedia studio. This is her first acting role and had some initial doubts about taking on the role.

“If I have the opportunity to be a role model for a young ethnic girl who had never thought she could be an astronaut, or an actress, or a leading actress for that matter, I thought, if I can contribute in that way, I have to do it.”


Susan Wise Bauer is a Big Thinker for the show and an expert on colonization throughout history.

“There are huge messages for us in history as to what might actually happen on Mars. Of course, the big difference is, as someone pointed out, there’s not an existing culture on Mars, but I don’t know if that makes that much of a difference in the way people exploit resources. I just don’t think it changes.”


Stephen Petranek is a Big Thinker, Scientific Advisor, and Co-executive Producer.

“I firmly believe economics drive everything.”


Mars: Season 2 Lands on The National Geographic Channel on November 12th



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Livingston Bear is an erudite world traveler who enjoys art, food, and culture.


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