Let’s face it: reality TV has become stale; Mars offers a whole new level of horror and degradation
I used to think the idea of colonizing Mars was brain-dead stupid. What would be the point of spending billions of dollars just to build a tremendously fragile billionaire’s panic room on the red planet?
But then I realized: it’s actually a fabulous idea. Reality TV on Earth is played out. We’re bored with small groups of people shut away in artificial environments for a few short weeks where the worst that happens is shouting and insults. We’re bored with celebrity chefs screaming abuse at terrified employees. Ennui creeps over us as we watch contestants competing for love, promotion, or a new pacemaker.
We need something new.
Mars offers the ideal solution. Firstly, the six-month voyage inside a cramped spaceship is ideal for all kinds of personal disputes and hatreds to develop. Plus, who doesn’t want to see someone’s poop floating around in zero-G?
If we’re super lucky, something will go wrong and everyone will die. Ideally slowly at first, spread out over two or three episodes, and then a big explosion right at the end to seal the deal (or unseal the airlock). But if we don’t get lucky, the poor saps will reach Mars and then the real fun begins.
First of all, they’ll need to make underground bunkers because otherwise all the lovely solar radiation that’s been shredding their DNA during the six month voyage will continue to shred them and they’ll all be dead from cancer in a few short years. Which is not good, because we may want to extend the series if the ratings on the first two or three are sufficiently encouraging.
As they build their concrete homes-to-be we can watch them having industrial accidents, getting sicker from having to work on the surface for hours each day and being bombarded by more of that lovely solar radiation, and finally succeeding in building their gloomy cramped artificial caves. This is guaranteed to make the surviving colonists even more irritable, which will lead to spectacular fights. Personally I hope we get some hand-to-hand combat with sharp objects because that would really push up the viewing figures.
Assuming a sufficient number of colonists survive the first year of setbacks, fights, systems failures, and sheer discomfort, we can all settle in to watch as their bones shed mass due to the fact Mars’ gravity is only one-third that of Earth. Their eyes, already bulging from six months in zero-G, will never return to normal, causing a wonderful array of vision problems, headaches, and hopefully a few cases of low-gravity blindness.
Meanwhile various cancers will be developing among the colonists as a result of so much radiation exposure, so there’s bound to be plenty of human interest associated with all the sickness and death that will result.
And let’s not forget the great brand management opportunities! As all the water will have to be recycled from urine, every drink on Mars can be branded as a Trump Treat. Should be worth a few million at least.
Let’s hope there is microbial life on Mars. It will have to be buried some distance underground in order to be able to survive the constant bombardment of solar radiation. But assuming some sort of extremophile microbial life has managed to cling on over the billion-plus years that have passed since Mars lost its last surface water, the possibilities are truly fantastic. Because even a relatively benign and slow-reproducing microorganism will be totally unknown to the human body’s immune system and thus will cause all kinds of sicknesses.
Imagine the possibilities: microbes are tracked into the human environment on boots and space suits. They get inhaled. Now we will see lungs filling with liquid, skin breaking open, intestines liquifying, brains swelling up inside skulls! This will be really compelling viewing and will push ratings through the roof.
Maybe for Series Four we can arrange to have two adjacent colonies fight over some buried water-ice. This would let us move the action above-ground, which after years mostly stuck inside boring concrete bunkers, would be a real win for the show. Sure, Mars isn’t exactly Resort City, being mostly endless vistas of brown-red gravel and rock, but at least it’s not Bunkerville.
Around Year Five we can have a few pregnancies. This provides two different kinds of viewing enjoyment. First of all we can watch as the mothers-to-be try to avoid falling and thus harming their babies, because moving around in 1/3rd gravity is never going to be normal for humans. Secondly the mothers’ bones will be so fragile from calcium loss that if they do fall or bang into something, it’s snap-snap-snappy time! This will make for great slow-motion replays, and we can probably work the screams of pain into some kind of Martian rap song in order to maximize total value.
Best of all, if any of the mothers survive their pregnancies we can look forward to a truly global audience for the first baby born on Mars.
Sure, it will likely be deformed by our standards, but that’s exactly what will boost the ratings! And we can watch it as the weeks go by, getting either a little stronger or much weaker. I think a sad lingering death would make for the best viewing figures but worst case we can ring out some pathos from watching it learning to stumble around, struggling to see with its bulging eyes, and all the rest of the trouble that’s predictably going to come from trying to grow an Earth-evolved organism under conditions for which it is totally unsuited.
Over the years it’s true that people will get bored, just like they get bored with everything. But there’s one final twist that provides the show’s Grand Finale and one last opportunity to push ratings through the roof. The atmosphere of Mars is only one-hundredth that of Earth. Which means even tiny meteors, instead of burning up on their way to the surface as thousands do every year on Earth, will reach the ground. Statistically it’s very, very likely that any Mars colony that survives for more than a handful of years will get one of these fast-moving little rocks coming down right on top of it.
Just a small meteor weighing less than half a kilogram but moving at 30,000 kilometers per hour will be enough to punch through the thickest concrete dome. The kinetic energy released will act like a sizeable bomb, blasting the colonists into pieces of flying mincemeat.
If you can think of a better way to end a series, I’d like to know about it!
So let’s go ahead and spend those billions! Let’s line up the dumb suckers who actually think trying to colonize Mars is a smart and stable genius idea!
And then let’s watch the revenues roll in as we broadcast each episode to those of us who continue to live comfortably on the only planet for which our bodies and minds are actually adapted.