by Anatoly IVANOV


Hats off to the colleagues at Haut et Court for pooling in an impressive amount of resources and talent to shoot the “Constellation” series for Apple+. However, the end result turned out as a pseudo sci-fi light-horror semi-drama that toys with quantum mechanics in low Earth orbit to spin its story from the ISS back to Earth and its uneducated masses.

The routine of science and family calls vaporize after a one in a million chance collision with a long-dead Soviet female cosmonaut still in orbit since the 60s. Because — feminism?

Noomi Rapace’s character — a Steely Crying Swedish Female Astronaut™, Johanna “Jo” Ericsson, of the mighty ESA, also feminism — survives the ensuing “depress” event on the space station, with 1 crew lost to… ahem… arm amputation (because “I’m stuck”).

Damage assessed, life support systems offline till… forever… Jo sends a remaining trio down, while staying behind to suffer from hallucinations and get some deus ex machina help to energize, undock and calculate — on a piece of paper — the reentry trajectory of a (t)rusty Soyuz MS back to wolf-infested Kazakhstan.

Somehow, a docked SpaceX Dragon remains unscathed and unused in LEO, while back on Earth she finds her memories don’t quite match up with reality. Her Volvo SUV (Emotional Support Vehicle) is blue. But she remembers specifying it in red to match her classy mid-century suburban home in Köln. And cross frozen Swedish lakes, occasionally. Something men are explicitly shown too scared to perform later. Because — feminism? Or because it was shot in Finland?

Anyway, Joe — for once, very accurately — goes through gravity-rehabilitation. Only to fall off her crutches — her inept husband doesn’t help — into alternate universes when in proximity to a CAL (Cold Atom Laboratory, a real instrument to study Bose Einstein Condensates) “main processing core” retrieved from the ISS, somehow splitting the spacetime continuum of the whole planet in 2 parallel dimensions while running on zero energy and at zero Kelvin temperatures — because quantum computer. Also, because placed in a bag filled with “legal ice”. Yes, a verbatim Jo’s reply to the inspection officer at the Swedish border.

The show throws in a bunch of quantum physics buzzwords — entanglement, Schrödinger’s cat (literally shown in all states as part of spooky decorum), the observer principle — all to thicken the plot. When that’s not enough, dead cosmonauts are thrown in as well.

The show’s creators grabbed some of the “cool” concepts from quantum physics and “laser smashed them up” to create a narrative where characters jump between realities, uncover space travel inter-governmental conspiracies, and, most importantly, face their own psychological battles, gender roles and parental duties. Like, you know, shouting “Alice!” and hearing “mama” in return… a thousand times. Or Johanna being accused by her husband-in-therapy kindergarten teacher of cheating on him with the handsome head of ESA… Who cries at Baikonur in a moment of despair?

The whole thing is a blend of supposedly mind-bending theories and tear-jerking personal drama, all set against the backdrop of space exploitation… without a firm grasp of the science or story-telling.

But hey, the cinematography, the special effects, the costumes and the acting are good. But you could watch the new Dune for that as well.



Find out more about my posting and comments policy, as well as publishing frequency and copyright issues.

TIP: To print images, enable “Print backgrounds” in your browser preferences.