The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station follows the story of astronauts and engineers on the International Space Station
In an age of bi-polarity and tensions between the United States and Russia, the rival states made the decision to put their disputes aside in order to give birth to something unique, beautiful, and somewhat terrifying: The International Space Station. The desire to move forward and explore space like it had never been seen before was so strong that it eased geopolitical issues just enough for the NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), the JAXA (Japan), the ESA (Europe), and the CSA (Canada) to create the International Space Station, which helped advance space exploration and allowed for a new understanding of the world around us to develop. The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station on Netflix gives viewers a more intimate look at life in space for astronauts.
The Wonderful is directed by Clare Lewins (I Am Ali, Kareem: Minority of One, The Lost Tapes of Memphis) and produced by BAFTA and Emmy-nominee George Chignell (Citizen K, Searching for Sugar Man, I Am Ali) with Dog Star Films in association with Fisheye Films. It was previously screened at film festivals worldwide to appreciative reception. It landed on Netflix only recently. The documentary is a fascinating, feel-good look at life on the International Space Station, as well as the lives of those close to the brave and curious people who decided to live in space for the sake of science and exploration. It veers away from the sensationalised, conspiracy theory-esque style of documentaries that has become very popular in recent times to create a documentary that is filled with heart, valuable information and a never-before-seen perspective on space exploration. Despite having to cover serious topics such as witnessing 9/11 from space and failed launch missions, it still manages to maintain a positive tone by showcasing the exemplary feat of cooperation amongst the astronauts and space agencies from different states with different agendas.
The stories being narrated by the astronauts create a sense of intimacy and intrigue; showcasing the unbreakable connections that bring them together as colleagues while also keeping them tethered to a life with their loved ones on earth.
The Wonderful follows the journeys of astronauts on the space station, as well as of their loved ones on Earth. Sergey Volkov, the son of a famed Russian cosmonaut, talks about living aboard the space station, and how concerned his parents were when they found out that he had applied to join Russia’s space programme. Cady Coleman joined the space programme and left the Earth’s atmosphere to take up residence at the space station for six months. Her son, Jamey Coleman, recalls the unadulterated joy and fascination he felt when he witnessed the event as a child. Samantha Cristoforetti, a flight engineer with extensive expertise in space, explains how she continues to be in awe of everything that she sees, despite having learned about it throughout the course of her career. The stories being narrated by the astronauts themselves create a sense of intimacy and intrigue; showcasing the unbreakable connections that bring them together as colleagues while also keeping them tethered to a life with their loved ones on Earth. Although it may seem like we are just a drop in the bottomless ocean of space, The Wonderful successfully manages to turn this into a lesson in human resilience and our potential for invention and exploration.
It manages to be an informative documentary while also bringing into focus innately human traits such as curiosity, cooperation and ambition. Based on everything that takes place in The Wonderful, the ultimate objective of this documentary is to show how much humans can achieve through cooperation and understanding, even amidst obvious conflict and disagreement. It does this rather successfully. This is a much needed and much appreciated narrative in the current climate of divisiveness around the world. It has the potential to be inspiring and gives viewers a sense of hope, because no matter how bad things get, humans will still find a way to work together and work through their differences to achieve something awe-inspiring.
The author is a staff member and politics and international relations graduate from the University of Hertfordshire.