The Inverse Interview

Apple's Biggest Sci-Fi Series Will Never Use This Star Trek Trick, Showrunners Vow

The science fiction of For All Mankind will only go so far.

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For All Mankind

If you’ve got a sci-fi epic that spans decades, and includes several generations of characters, then certain characters will naturally stop appearing on the show. For All Mankind Season 4 takes place in 2003 and we’re down to only three cast members from Season 1, with some uncertainty about how long they’ll last into Season 5. But For All Mankind is a science fiction show, so surely there could be creative ways of bringing back actors for future seasons, even if there are several time jumps involved, right? In other words, couldn’t For All Mankind stick Ed Baldwin in suspended animation and have him wake up hundreds of years in the future — just like Khan in Star Trek?

As Season 4 marches on, and a few familiar faces return, showrunners Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert are resolute about which sci-fi tropes the show will never touch.

Mild spoilers ahead for Season 4, Episode 3, “Bear Hug.”

Because For All Mankind is easily the hardest of Hard SF TV to come along in quite a while, part of the mission of the series is to be careful not just with falling back on gonzo sci-fi tropes. Season 4, Episode 3, “Bear Hug,” sees the return of Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi) the firebrand mogul of Helios Aerospace, For All Mankind’s pseudo analog for SpaceX. But just because Dev is all about cutting-edge technology, that doesn’t mean he’s going to get Kelly (Cynthy Wu) and Aleida (Coral Peña) to invent some cryogenic tubes for preserving characters far into the future. That kind of thing might work on Star Trek — or Foundation — but don’t expect to see it in For All Mankind.

Cynthy Wu and Coral Peña as Kelly and Aleida in For All Mankind Season 4. Both characters are in their 40s in the show, although Wu is 25 in real life and Peña is 31.


“We can’t completely reveal who will and will be around for Season 5,” co-showrunner Ben Nedivi tells Inverse. “But we really try to hold off on that kind of thing.”

“Somebody might've pitched that at one point,” series creator Ron Moore tells Inverse. “But we felt that cryo-chambers were outside of the realm of our realistic approach.”

Time travel is also off the table, as are aliens in For All Mankind. So, if alien tech isn’t extending people’s lives, there’s no time travel and cryo-chambers are out of the question, are there other ways to bring back actors as different characters? Brent Spiner has played various versions of members of the Soong family at different generational points in the Star Trek timeline. Could For All Mankind do something similar? Back in Season 3, Inverse chatted with Nedivi and Wolpert about the idea that after young Jimmy Stevens (David Chandler) finished serving his prison sentence, he could emerge as an adult, now played by Michael Dorman, who, of course, played Gordo in Seasons 1 and 2. With so many families in play, couldn't one of the actors who has left, reemerge to play a future-tense decedent of themselves?

“Let's just put it this way. That's definitely not in the cards,” Wolpert says with a laugh. “I will say we love Michael Doman so much that I can't tell you how many times it comes up in the room.”

Michael Dorman and Joel Kinnaman as Gordo and Ed in Season 2 of For All Mankind. In Season 4, Gordo is deceased and Ed is in his eighties.


Nedivi adds that the idea of Michael Dorman playing an older Jimmy was “one of the crazier pitches in the room,” but that when it comes to thinking about ways to bring back actors from previous seasons in creative ways, the writers are just like the fans.

“I think we go through what you go through,” Nedivi says. “There's that instinct to always bring back the cast, the people we love because you fall in love with the actors and the characters. And I think something we've been trying more and more to do recently is really holding off on that or that instinct.”

For now, For All Mankind has its eye forever on the future. The new season is set in 2003, but Wolpert and Nedivi say the goal is still to bring future seasons up to a point that aligns with the present. But, Nedivi says that it’s natural that when that happens, we’ll have a lot of new characters: “By the time we get to seasons 5, 6, 7, you don't want it to be about 120-year-old astronauts.”

For All Mankind airs on Apple TV+.

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