The Right Stuff





Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

In 1959, more than 100 military test pilots from all over the United States were given a chance by the newly established U.S. agency NASA to become part of a small, select group that would be the first to fly to space.

The goal was to prove to the world during the Cold War that the United States was the greatest superpower, excelling in technological advances and military strength. And that they could, above all, beat Russia into the solar system.

But the only way to have a chance at winning was to hand pick the best of the best. Of those 100 men competing against each other in rigorous physical and mental exams, only seven would be chosen to make history: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter and Gordon Cooper.

These men were known by many names: the Mercury Seven, the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1. But regardless of what the group was called, each of its members was determined to make their historical mark. Perhaps the two most ambitious was the arrogant, womanizing Alan Shepard and the apparently noble, fierce John Glenn.

The Right Stuff sets these two men against one another from the beginning: Glenn and Shepard, we’re told, fought toe-to-toe to see who would become the man that would go down in history as the first to space. But their rivalry was one complicated by government demands, personal problems and family affairs that not even the furthest corners of the galaxy could dissolve.

Fly Me Away

National Geographic has given a new life to Phillip Kaufman’s 1983 film, as well as the 1979 best-selling novel by Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff. But despite being found on Disney+, this newest adaptation of The Right Stuff heads, at times, in the wrong direction.

One of the very first scenes includes Alan Shepard, a married man, in bed with a topless woman who is not his wife (we see her bare back). As the story progresses, it’s clear that infidelity was common among some of the astronauts and openly discussed. Additionally, men in uniform drink their fair share of whisky and use harsh language.

Plus, if you’re a space fan looking to get into the gritty, scientific details of how to get a man into orbit, you won’t find those details here. Instead, personal stories are the focus as the life of each man is examined and dramatized.

Turns out, according to this rendition, that the Original Seven each had their own set of personal and family issues which give depth to this series. But much of that depth is concentrated on the two main characters here, Shepard and Glenn, while the rest of the seven fade into the background.

The Right Stuff is a mix of interesting storylines and historical depth mixed with the above problems that give it its TV-14 rating. So, while this might be good for some, it certainly won’t be right for all.

Episode Reviews

Oct. 9, 2020: “Sierra Hotel”

In the series premiere, more than 100 pilots are offered a chance in 1959 to become members of NASA, a new government organization tasked with sending men into space. Two rivals Alan Shepard and John Glenn, quickly take center stage.

Pilot Alan Shepard is a known, married womanizer. In one scene he lays in bed, topless, with a woman who is also topless (we see her bare back and the top of her chest) and they flirt and kiss. Elsewhere, he walks another random woman to her room while touching her rear. (It’s insinuated the two have sex.) Men are seen shirtless, wrapped in towels. Multiple pilots joke about infidelity, male genitalia and having causal sex.

Competition, arrogance and dishonesty are common amongst members of government, the military and between friends and family.

Broken families try to mend. A faithful husband kisses his wife and prepares to take his family to church.

Men often smoke cigarettes and drink hard liquor. A test pilot falls to his death while flying a plane. Later, his grieved best friend wakes up with a hangover, lying on the floor with a bloodied hand, with glass scattered around him. A funeral is later held and a minister reads Scripture.

God and Jesus’ name are misused a few times each, the s-word is heard and other profanities include multiple utterances each of “h—,” “d–mit” and “d–n.”

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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