When the Space Race began in in the late 1950s, a new type of hero was born: the astronaut. This was such a new frontier of exploration that even the name astronaut was a new creation. President Eisenhower called for test pilots to be these first astronauts and created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA with the goal of putting the first man into space.
Premiering on Friday, October 9th, Disney+’s new 8-episode series, The Right Stuff, takes viewers back to the early days of the space race and the birth of NASA. The stars of the show are the first 7 men chosen to be astronauts in what NASA called the Mercury Program and were thus known a the Mercury Seven. The series was produced by Appian Way and Warner Bros. Television with Mark Lafferty, Jennifer Davisson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Staples, Danny Strong, Howard Korder, and Chris Long as Executive Producers. The Right Stuff is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Wolfe.
The Right Stuff follows the pilots through the selection process until they are narrowed down to the final seven. Administrators, scientists, and engineers are all portrayed as NASA begins in a single airplane hangar in Florida and grows from there. Not only are there challenges of getting rockets that can reach space without failure, but also challenges faced by the astronauts themselves with their instant celebrity and their families being hounded by reporters. Though the series includes all seven of the Mercury astronauts, it focuses primarily on Major John Glenn (played by Patrick J. Adams) and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman) as well as their wives Annie Glenn (Nora Zehetner) and Louise Shepard (Shannon Lucio). Captain Gordon Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue), the youngest of the seven, and his wife Trudy Cooper (Eloise Mumford) also feature heavily into the storyline.
While The Right Stuff has scenes of rockets and mission control, much of the story deals with the interpersonal relationships of the main characters. While there is camaraderie among the Mercury Seven, there is also a lot of competition between them as to who will be chosen to be the first American in space. This rivalry is most pronounced between Glenn and Shepard. While LIFE magazine publishes picture perfect profiles of the astronauts and their families, the series delves into the reality unseen by the public. Annie Glenn faces the challenge of being in the the public eye while having a speech impediment as her husband begins dabbling in politics to help further the space program. Alan Shepard pushes to overcome health issues that could disqualify him from going into space while his wife Louise remains the anchor at home while taking in a niece to live with them. Trudy Cooper, an acclaimed pilot herself, puts her own ambitions aside and assumes the picture of a happy marriage so Gordon can be one of the seven.
The Right Stuff is a great series and not just a guys’ flick with rockets and explosions. It is a show that can be enjoyed by everyone. I would suggest it for those 13 and up due to some adult situations. I am a big fan of the 1983 movie of the same name. The Disney+ series is not a remake. If anything, the eight 45-50 minute episodes provide an opportunity to delve deeper into the relationships between the characters. I really enjoyed the first five episodes of the series I was able to screen in advance and can’t wait to watch the remaining three episodes. These legendary historical figures reveal their humanity as the series lays bare both their fears and weaknesses which they must overcome. I highly recommend adding The Right Stuff to your Disney+ watchlist. If you are not a subscriber, this is a great opportunity to try it out as this series is definitely worth the price of a one-month fee. After viewing The Right Stuff, be sure to also watch Hidden Figures which tells the story of the Black women who did the math that made it possible for the Mercury Seven to reach space. This movie is also currently available on Disney+. The Right Stuff premieres Friday, October 9th.
Here is a trailer to give you a taste of The Right Stuff.