National Geographic Channel’s new ten-part docuseries One Strange Rock not only has the backing of a group of the world’s most notable astronauts, but also the star power of Darren Aronofsky behind it as one of its EPs .
“It is a very different show than you’ve seen before,” Aronofsky said at TCA on Saturday. “What was exciting about this was taking astronomy, anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, and trying to sort of blend them together to talk about this home that we’re all living on.”
The series, narrated by Will Smith, will bring a planetary perspective to viewers’ experiences on Earth, with awe-inspiring footage from the farthest corners of the world, and unique stories from the viewpoint of astronauts.
The project had a cinematic, storytelling value for Aronofsky, especially when it came to bringing together all the footage collected by production company Nutopia. “I think my idea with everyone else was to create a visual bible that all these different teams could follow,” he said, “so kind of like the Charles Eames Powers of Ten film, there was a relationship between all the different footage from all over the world that could come together and tell a story.”
Smith as the narrator is an “everyman” figure for the viewer, Nutopia EP Jane Root said. “He’s the person who’s going to hold the audience’s hand and come and say, ‘Come and look at how astounding the Earth is.’ He epitomizes joy.”
But Smith will not be taking on a scientific expert role, as with Sir David Attenborough with BBC America’s Planet Earth. “What we’ve tried to do is tap into their connection with the planet in the way the audience can feel moved by,” showrunner Arif Nurmohamed said. “Will is a great part of the storytelling mix but it’s not like we have an Attenborough figure, it’s something quite different.”
Aronofsky said the astronauts’ experiences were vital to the perspective of the show. “What was interesting for me in this journey was that all of these amazing people, they all had a very, very similar experience, and I think when you’re here on this strange rock, it’s hard to look outside it. One of the great ideas during the research was when we went to the moon we actually discovered the Earth for the first time.”
Astronaut contributor Mike Massimino said of his own personal experience of seeing the Earth from space. “It’s not a two-dimensional experience,” he said. “I think the Earth was meant to be seen from space. We can see all these beautiful things on Earth, but if you can step away from it, that’s what this show does, it brings it to everyone so that they can experience it.”
As for whether millennial viewers will be drawn to a science documentary, Aronofsky laughed when he said, “I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been to a millennial party and they have Planet Earth and all those BBC shows playing in the background. “Well its legal in California now,” he joked. “I think they’re going to be loving this show because the visuals are great.”