Review of the biographical series about the explorers of space The Right Stuff

Pros: History of the first US astronaut corps and early years of the space race; emphasis on rivalry within the team and astronaut relationships with families; Perfectly recreated style of the 60s. last century; interesting intersections with the series For All Mankind Cons: Not all members of the Mercury Seven received due attention; the way some historical characters are portrayed raises certain questions; the last episodes seem unreasonably long; the test pilot part is just missing. The Right Stuff / “The Right Stuff”

Genre biographical drama
Creator Mark Lafferty
Cast: Patrick J. Adams (John Glenn), Patrick Fischler (Robert R. Gilruth), Eric Ladin (Chris Craft), James Lafferty (Scott Carpenter), Shannon Lucio (Louise Shepard), Jake McDorman (Alan Shepard), Gus Grissom (Michael Trotter), Colin O’Donoghue (Gordon Cooper), Jackson Paice (Glynn Lanny), Eloise Mumford (Trudy Kupper), Nora Zehetner (Annie Glenn), Aaron Staton (Walter Schirra), Mami Gummer (Jerry Cobb) and others .
Disney+ channel
Release year 2020
Series 8
Site IMDb

The Right Stuff series is the second film adaptation of a documentary book by journalist Tom Wolfe, one of the most successful and recognizable American authors of the end of the last century, a pioneer of the “new journalism” direction in literature. Woolf spent seven years collecting material for this piece, talking to test pilots, astronauts, and their families. The result is a work that examines the psychology of pilots and astronauts, trying to understand what pushes them to incredible risks. The book was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

In 1983, “The Right Guys” (another translation of the novel’s title is “Battle for Space”) was filmed. Director Philip Kaufman shot a monumental three-hour film that failed miserably at the box office, but was very warmly received by critics and was nominated for eight Oscars, four of which he won. We recommend watching this tape if possible, the television adaptation from Disney + / National Geographic turned out to be completely different in tone.

First, the television version, which is twice as long as the 1983 film, pays more attention to the rivalry between the astronauts and the relationships in their families. It’s not bad, just the accents in the film were different, although this part was also present. The main theme of the series is the rivalry between the very correct and positive John Glenn and the windy and selfish Alan Shepard. Each of them wants to become the first man in space and each believes that he deserves it more than others. They are ready for almost anything to be the first to go beyond the earth’s atmosphere.


Secondly, and this is even worse, a large layer of the book, which was presented in the 1983 film adaptation, is simply missing in the TV version. This is the part dedicated to the test pilots. And this is a shame, because one of the main characters who inspired Tom Wolfe to create this work was just Charles Yeager, the man who first broke the sound barrier, according to many the best pilot of his generation, who, for unknown reasons, was not selected for the astronaut corps.


There are also some complaints about how well-known historical figures are shown in the series. Of course, we understand that Americans have only recently learned that Wernher von Braun was a Nazi, but this is not at all a reason to show him as an eternally drunk impudent. The same can be said about the excessive whitening of the image of John Glenn, do not forget that the fault for the fact that the Americans got into space so late lies with him, and not with Gordon Cooper, as shown in the series. And although John Glenn later apologized for his words and even helped female astronauts, it was his statement at a congressional hearing that put an end to the Mercury 13 / Mercury 13 program.


Do not assume that all of the above makes The Right Stuff / “The Right Guys” a failure, this is more of a space-themed fan’s grumbling than a serious claim. The atmosphere of the 60s, the mood of the space race, the main historical events are shown in the series absolutely authentically. Like many personal qualities of the members of the first seven, and the difficulties in their families.


An interesting feature of the new The Right Stuff is that it looks like a prequel to the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind. It is unlikely that Disney + planned to play along with competitors, but it just happened. The fact is that many characters: Wernher von Braun, Dick Slayton, the same couple of Coopers (in For All Mankind they are husband and wife Stevenson) or Jerry Cobb are in both series. And the point of divergence of stories is precisely the creation of a women’s squad, which is discussed in The Right Stuff and made a reality in For All Mankind. An additional connection between the series is the actor Eric Ladin, who plays the same role in both, although two different people. At The Right Stuff he is Flight Director Chris Kraft, at For All Mankind he is Flight Director Gene Krantz. Both of them are real historical characters.


And despite the fact that we have certain complaints about the series, for example, how long the last episodes are, or that some of the Mercury Seven astronauts have almost no screen time, it is still a good series about space and astronauts. About those who wanted to be the first.


A good series about the start of the space race and the people who began the conquest of space, although he failed to surpass the 1983 film adaptation.

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