Mars One: the plot shot, to the end and beyond

In Action/Adventure's adventure on the Red Planet, some very earthbound problems pop up

A.L. Adams has been following Action/Adventure’s series Mars One from its beginning, adding recaps after each episode of this brave comic quest into space. Well, it’s over. A/A has met the universe, and it is red. Or at least, the Red Planet is. Plus, Dr. Fraiser Crane’s up there. Following is Adams’ complete Space Log, from Day One to The End, complete with the revelation of the sleeper agent’s secret identity:


David Bowie asked, “Is there life on Mars?” Now Action/Adventure adds, “And if so, would it be worth living?”

ArtsWatch recently alerted you to Mars One, Action/Adventure Theatre’s newest original serial comedy, and then we thought, “Why not keep up?” Here’s what you may have missed in the now-closed episodes 1 and 2 of The Voyage Begins:

Episode 1:

Four human colonists of a planned six have been living in a small pod on the surface of Mars for two years, and they’ve developed a routine. Marritt (Katie Michaels) takes great care to pacify her fellow colonist Riley (Matt Hopkins), a growly alpha dog who’s both extremely territorial and compulsively messy. She gamely avoids sitting in the chairs he claims, or touching a proprietary collection of objects he calls “The Pile.” Instead, she busies herself with the absurdly un-demanding job of being the planet’s self-declared HR specialist. Their fellow colonist Mark (Sam Burns) sleeps almost constantly, apparently cursed with “Mars narcolepsy.” The fourth inhabitant, a female doctor, is mysteriously missing, and the others offer weak, nervous excuses for her absence.


Back on Earth, Mission Control (Jake Michaels) is concerned, as is comfort counselor Margot (Aubrey Jessen), over Riley’s spotty communication and uncooperative attitude. They’re hanging their hopes on a new leader—Ryan (Brett Mustard), one of the two final colonists en route to Mars to complete a six-person team. Ryan and his fellow traveler Tabitha (Noelle Eaton), a socially awkward botanist, land and arrive at the pod with high expectations which are quickly dashed by the run-down state of the building and the backwards attitudes of Riley and Marritt. Upon arrival, Ryan—a compulsive neatnik—starts challenging Riley’s authority. He also reveals an ulterior motive: he came all this way to win back his ex-boyfriend Mark. Mark wakes up just long enough to tell him he’s made a terrible mistake.

While the others are exploring, newbie Tabitha receives a flirty unsigned message and two mysterious metal pieces from the living unit’s matter materialzer. She hides them from the group. Meanwhile, Ryan, already fed up with Riley, calls mission control to tattle on him. While they’re talking, an alarm goes off, signaling an impending meteor shower. Mission Control asks Ryan to handle the situation and wrest control of the colony, but when Tabitha presents the right parts to repair the pod, she becomes the de facto hero.

Episode 2:

The five colonists we’ve already met—Riley, Marritt, Mark, Tabitha, and Ryan—are starting to settle into a working relationship while repairing their meteor-storm-damaged lodgings. The alleged sixth colonist “Carol West” is still MIA and unaccounted for.

Former lovers Mark and Ryan fight over how poorly Ryan handled their breakup back on Earth, but their communication is broken up by Mark’s sudden fits of slumber. Meanwhile, Tabitha has continued to receive mysterious gifts from the 3-D printing machine, which seems to have a mind of its own, as well as an uncanny ability to anticipate what the crew will need next. She shares her resources with the crew, leading Riley and Marritt to declare her the planet’s most valuable, popular colonist. Would-be leader and fellow new colonist Ryan begins to resent her, and the crew chafes at his bad attitude. “HR director” Marritt decides to put him in his place by appointing him “Mars’ first plumber.” At first, he’s eager to be helpful, but once he realizes he’s stuck with the role, he resents the general indignity.

Riley, while still possessive of his pile, initially seems more at peace than he did the previous week. He spends his days painting a giant message on Mars’ surface that reads, “F-ck you, Earth,” ’til an ominous call from the mission’s eerily calm “Comfort Counsellor” Margot seems to deeply upset him. The comfort counsellor tells Riley that her predecessor “cared about [Riley] until his final moments,” and though Riley presses her, she won’t explain the statement further. Mission Control warns the colonists that there may be a “sleeper cell” on Mars, and they’re all in danger. Soon after, a shocked Tabitha gets her most serious secret gift from the 3-D printer yet: a gun.

Episode 3:

Having gotten over the initial shock of the gun, Tabitha has begun enjoying the feeling of power she gets from toting it around. Ryan, eager to help but also wishing to lead, horns in on her conversations with Mission Control and is appointed “co leader” of the effort to find the supposed sleeper agent who’s sabotaging the colonists’ mission from within. He scoffs at Tabitha’s idea to spy on each of her fellow colonists in turn, but she decides to move ahead with it anyway.

Ryan and Mark have another heart-to-heart, and Mark finally reveals why he’s reluctant to accept Ryan’s romantic gesture of travelling to meet him in Mars: he’s not the real Mark. The real Mark recovered from their breakup by first signing up for the mission, and then inventing a software app and selling it for millions. Only once he was rich and comfortable did he learn that he’d been chosen to colonize Mars. He commissioned an avatar of himself to be made, and arranged to control it remotely. The Mark they see does not have “Mars narcolepsy,” but is a robot. Whenever the signal fades from the real Mark’s android control station, the robot Mark goes to “sleep.” He later has to reveal the same information to Tabitha when she attempts to spy on him and becomes afraid, upon finding no pulse, that he’s dead.

Comfort Counselor Margot wants to get into Riley’s head, so to speak. She asks Ryan to help her by wiring Riley’s helmet to receive her voice directly. The next time he goes out to the surface to work on his painting project, she begins to taunt him about everything she knows about his past. She reminds him of the cat ranch, Rancho Gato, he had back on Earth, and the tragedy that apparently befell it, poisoning all the cats but one to death. She tells him that his favorite cat, Fivel Mousekowitz, managed to escape, and that she has since adopted him. Riley is anguished, and runs back to the camp.

Ryan, in a bid to outshine the others, has announced a discovery: he can create acid (the drug kind) from simple ingredients on the planet. Bent on revenge against Ryan for helping his nemesis Margot, Riley decides to dose Ryan’s helmet with acid. Ryan visits the surface high, and hallucinates various crew members doing and saying bizarre things. He also encounters the long-lost Carol West, who assures him that she’s real and alive, and says she wants to introduce him to her alien companion.

episode 4:

Carol West turns out to have been either rescued or kidnapped by an alien being (played by Pat Moran) who refers to himself as Dr. Frasier Crane. The alien, who has been accessing mid-90’s television signals from Earth, has become obsessed with Seinfeld, Frasier, and Friends. At the time of her capture, he forced Carol West to participate in re-enactments of the shows, but they since seem to have moved into a healthier relationship. Ryan gets acquainted with them.

Marritt, who’s been proudly touting her Norwegian origins and closely guarding a silver briefcase throughout the story, is finally caught in the act of unpacking a slew of Norwegian flags and placing them all over the surface of Mars, a gesture she hopes “claims” the territory for the nation. Tabitha confronts her and “arrests” her, threatening her with the gun. When Mark gets in their way, he is shot, and must finally reveal his robot identity to the rest of the crew.

We learn in a flashback that Marritt and Riley initially shut Carol out of their pod. On the day that Carol’s surface explorations led her to Dr. Frasier Crane, Marritt and Riley had been watching the movie Alien. They became fearful of being “infected” by extraterrestrials, and when she returned with one in tow, they made a snap decision to deny her re-entry. Once Carol saves Ryan’s life by providing him with an acid-free oxygen tank, Ryan covers for her as they return to the pod together. He opens the door for Carol and Dr. Frasier Crane and the group gets over their fears.

Back on Earth, Margot has staged a coup on Mission Control. We learn that her takeover is motivated by Margot’s desire to avenge the death of her sister, a casino developer who’d bullied Riley out of land rights to Rancho Gato, but had then been killed by him when he set fire to her new casino. Margot shoots a supervisor.

Rather abruptly, two years pass, and the identity of the sleeper agent is finally revealed: Tabitha herself was sending the implements back in time to her former self, perhaps using alien technology introduced by Dr. Frasier Crane. We get to watch her scrawl the quick notes that we already saw her receive, and push “send.” It appears that she, Ryan, Marritt, and Mark now live elsewhere on the surface and are just stopping through the pod. A pathetic-looking Riley greets them excitedly and offers to make popcorn for “movie night.” They cringe at the smell and the state of the place and sneak out on him. Riley settles down alone to watch his movie.




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