The Beau Willimon-produced and written show followed the first human mission to Mars as part of the effort to make interplanetary colonization possible, sharing the stories not only of the astronauts but also their families. Natasha McElhone, LisaGay Hamilton, Keiko Agena and Hannah Ware also starred in the series.
The series marked Penn's first regular TV series regular role, and as of its cancellation had a 68 percent rating from critics and 79 percent rating from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
In September, Willimon told The Hollywood Reporter at the launch of the series, "It's not unreasonable to expect, having seen this launch at the end of season one, that we will [continue to] see the astronauts on the way — perhaps even get to the surface of Mars. But, because we've invested so much time in Earth, as well, in a parallel fashion we can tell the stories of the people they left behind and who are working on the ground."
He added to Deadline, “It’s a story about the human spirit. About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost of that vision, the danger and sacrifice – emotional, psychological, and physical – that’s required to achieve it. How ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary.”
Among critics and fans alike, the show was criticized for its slow pace, with many saying it took until the end of the first season to get moving. Others criticized Penn's performance, saying they were unable to get on board with his character.
Willimon previously told Metro that the slow pacing was part of the creative vision for the project, showing how much work would realistically go into the Mars mission.0comments
"We wanted to dramatize the cost, sacrifice and determination required to accomplish something extraordinary," Willimon said. "Our extraordinary thing happens to be the longest, most dangerous pioneering event in human history. In order to do that, we felt it was important to see how much work was required, how many obstacles had to be overcome whether externally or internally, just to get to the point at which you're launching into space and on your way to the red planet."
Photo credit: Hulu