The writers behind National Geographic's Mars got lucky with some of their scientific predictions. Considering the rapid pace in which agencies like NASA make new discoveries, the creative team behind the show's second season were fortunate enough that their educated guesses turned out to be correct.
In season 2 of Mars, the series continues its unique hybrid narrative approach - splitting real life interviews in a modern setting with a fictional quest to colonize Mars in 2042. In the latter setting, five years have passed since the show's first season, and the first humans to settle on Mars are now in the process of terraforming the planet. However, they're not alone. A for-profit corporation has joined them on the planet to mine for water, bringing human drama and moral dispute on the Red Planet to a boiling point. The series combines fictional drama with scientific facts, but given that scientific theories evolve just as quickly as they're discovered, the writers behind season 2 of Mars ended up getting lucky with certain predictions they included in the show.
At New York Comic Con 2018, we spoke with Stephen Petranek (who writes the scripted part of the show) and The Martian author Andy Weir (who is only involved with the non-fiction segments). They discussed the complications involved with creating a series based on scientific theory, and how they were lucky enough to insert various theories into the show that ended up becoming fact. Petranek, who wrote the book on which Mars is based, How We'll Live on Mars, explained that "the writing for the show was done about two years ago" and that "a lot has happened since then." However, he added, "We got lucky, but we made our own luck because it's based on a lot of people who know an awful lot about this." As for what he got right, he said:
"We made some guesses, like, in the show, liquid water would be found on Mars. Turns out we were right. We made a guess that there would be tectonic plate movement on Mars or some kind of volcanic activity on Mars. Turns out we were right. We could've been wrong, but that was all based on very current thinking at the time."
Weir added to the educated guesswork implemented in earlier stages of the show's development, and he even referenced his novel The Martian, which Ridley Scott adapted with Matt Damon in 2015. He said, "In my book The Martian, I made a guess that there was basically no useful water on Martian soil. I was wrong."
In season 2 of Mars, human conflict directly affects scientific exploration - so much so that the planet's original settlers must split precious time geared at how they might terraform the planet more quickly with human politics. Still, within the surface drama, the scientific elements are just as potent. In fact, the split style of storytelling in season 2 feels even more cohesive than last season, where audiences can get a clearer look at how modern science (theoretical or otherwise) plays into the show's futuristic setting.
Season 2 of Mars airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on National Geographic.