When we last left our intrepid bands of explorers, the strife so prevalent for the half of the season was placed on hold as one of the IMSF scientists decided to go alone out into the Martian landscape. The fourth episode of Mars (National Geographic, Mondays at 9 PM/8 CT) begins with a brief reminder of how close Marta (Anamaria Marinca) was to dying from lack of air and/or becoming a human popsicle. She begins to recover and is extremely lucky that frostbite hasn’t claimed one or more of her fingers and/or toes. Immediately (and as could be expected), she is confronted by Commander Hana (Jihae) for putting herself and the rest of the crew in harm’s way. Since she’s still on a hospital bed, Marta can’t run from the rebuke of her superior (not that she would anyway).
In another part of the science center, Javier (Alberto Ammann) and Amelie (Clementine Poidatz) have fallen in love with each other again and are looking forward to life with their future child. This could be a bigger issue when it’s born, but for now, the parents seem to be happy. Until . . .
All of a sudden, members of the Lukrum company begin to fall sick. They’re not ill as a result of the flu, but something significantly more sinister. It starts with a cough, followed by a lot a blood and (in one case) death. Nothing seems to be able to stop it from affecting people or spreading among the colony. Just as this knowledge is discovered, it seems one of the scientists returning from an outdoor expedition begins coughing and exhibiting the same symptoms. He’s placed in an isolation portion of the lab, but Javier checks on him and suddenly discovers he’s got the same thing. Amelie can only watch from behind glass as he suffers from an unknown contagion. What can be done?
In order to solve the problem, Marta realizes that she has to go backwards in her thinking. One of the samples that showed movement in the lab at the end of the third episode has mutated and doesn’t respond to ordinary drugs on Earth. Realizing this, her thinking leads her to understand that penicillin may be the answer. But will it be in time for both colonies? And what can she do (if anything) while still recovering from her near-death experience?
I was very surprised by the goriness and gut-wrenching emotion of the episode—it almost had a Michael Crichton Andromeda Strain feel to it. The real-life portion of the program brought the viewer to the Arctic again, but this time to northern Russia where reindeer are dying from a new strain of anthrax. Again, the government and oil companies don’t want the public to know about the issue, but if left untreated, things could get a whole lot worse for the people there—and potentially the general public.
This brings me back to Marta’s realization. In order to learn from the past, we have to look there on occasion. In fact, for the nation of Israel, one of the key words of life is remember. They looked back to the time when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelite people yet killed the first born of all the Egyptians, leading to the Exodus, parting of the Red Sea, and eventually claiming a land flowing with milk and honey (see Exodus 11). Christians take a look back every Christmas to the birth of Jesus on the outskirts of Bethlehem (see Luke 2). In addition, we all look at the past to be sure we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Looking back is truly a good thing—as long as we don’t lose sight of the present and the future.
Two episodes remain. There’s still much to discover on Mars.