Pioneer One (2010) HD

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Pioneer One

A mysterious spaceship has entered Earth's atmosphere. A US Department of Homeland Security investigation has uncovered a live human being in a Soviet space suit in an unstable condition. A note in Russian, found at the crash site, claims the man is the child of cosmonauts living at a base on Mars.

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Episode 6: "War of the World"

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Taylor prepares to go to the public with Yuri's story, and everyone discovers the consequences of their actions in the conclusion to Pioneer One's first season.

Pioneer One is a serialized drama produced and distributed online through VODO and the DISCO network. Downloaded almost 2,000,000 times and winner for Best Drama Pilot at the 2010 New York Television Festival, the show is independently produced and financed by viewer donations.

Episode 5: "Sea Change"

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When an unannounced visitor breaks in to the Calgary base with just days left in the Quarantine, tensions are at an all-time high. The fate of Yuri and everyone on Tom Taylor's team is about to be decided.

Episode 4: "Triangular Diplomacy"

As the media begins to question the story about the crashed satellite, Secretary McClellan starts to play hardball with the Russians in pursuit of his own truth. But everything hinges on what Yuri, the frightened boy at the center of it all, might have to say…

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Episode 3: "Alone in the Night"

Quarantined to the Calgary base for two weeks, Taylor and his team have bought time to get answers from the supposed Martian cosmonaut. But who can get him to talk?

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Episode 2: "The Man From Mars"

Mars expert Dr. Zachary Walzer (Jack Haley) fights to prove the validity of the Mars story. Can he convince the government to mount a manned mission to Mars? Agent in charge Tom Taylor (James Rich) faces pressure from both the Canadians and his own superiors, and has to make a call.

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Episode 1: "Earthfall" (Pilot)

An object in the sky spreads radiation over North America. Fearing terrorism, U.S. Homeland Security agents are dispatched to investigate and contain the damage. What they discover will have drastic implications.

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The Pioneer One Team

In late January 2010, writer Josh Bernhard pitched his Untitled Mars Show idea to director Bracey Smith. In February, the pair quit their jobs and got down to work on the pilot episode of Pioneer One, finished by May with a budget of $6000. The enormous response to its release on VODO prompted them to continue producing the first season with viewer-donated support.
The Pioneer One team is based mostly in and around New York, NY. At its core is a group of filmmakers who met at the avant-garde cinema department at Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY. With P1, they've amassed an amazing group of talented performers and crew, all willing to work for free because of their belief in the project.

Pioneer One

  • At 22:04 on 14 Dec 2010

    Episode One: This 35-minute sci-fi pilot revolves around the discovery of an object from space, a lost cosmonaut and the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the situation. The production values are impressive given the low budget, and the scripting, acting and direction are solid. If you enjoyed the slightly talky but eerie Quatermass series, Pioneer One would probably be right up your alley.

  • At 19:42 on 23 Apr 2011

    Here’s a bold statement: episode three of Pioneer One may go down in history as one of the most program-revolutionizing episodes in a series, ever. In this episode we saw a complete gear shift – characters were fleshed out and brought to life in a hitherto unexplored fashion, giving far more depth to the show on the whole. The actors, whether under some adjustment of direction or simply achieving comfort in their roles, seemed to blossom and take a giant step forward towards achieving their potential. In some cases, such potential was revealed where it had previously not been clear. Before I go any further into my review, I must disclose two things. First, this review does contain spoilers, and I will not clearly label them. So if you have not yet watched it, stop reading and stream/download it now – then proceed. Second, unlike with the previous two episodes I was completely sober when watching this third installment. See? No need for an intervention. I have already lauded the character development and acting in this episode, and these elements will comprise the bulk of this review. Why? Because the story was not greatly advanced. Plot took a back seat to “getting to know you”, and this is more or less OK. The end result was an episode that was thoroughly engaging regardless. My only concern is that what plot was advanced seemed to be mostly sub-plot – and I would hate to see the primary storyline diluted by too much flotsam and jetsam. There was nothing inherently bad about these asides and incidentals. However, some struck me hit or miss. Some I am fairly certain will have a major impact on future episodes. Time will tell. One example of such hit or miss storytelling was the puzzling glimpse into Tom Taylor’s personal life. After a cursory and somewhat clumsy conversation between Tom and Dr. Walzer about Walzer’s failed marriage, Tom was suddenly desperate to escape quarantine to go to his rather impatient and mostly unlovable significant other to pop the question. No doubt this was intended to grip us, as it was left a cliffhanger, but it seemed so hastily thrown-together as to feel like a non-sequitur. I found myself not the least bit emotionally involved in the scenario. And while I’m speaking of Tom Taylor, let me state that while your mileage may vary, to me he went from being one of the most, if not the most, likable characters on the show to something of an unsympathetic dick. It’s the only character whose progression, in my opinion, ended up a regression. Case in point: in this episode he delivered the worst pep talk in history to a distraught Jane Campbell when she was doubting her suitability as companion to the stricken “Martian boy”, Yuri. His idea of motivation was to tell her, “Sure, there are tons of people who are better than you. But you’re the one we’re stuck with, m’kay?” Now, I have already pointed out that he seems unprepared and unsure of how to handle the situation in which he’s at the helm. Understandable. Maybe that sequence was intended to underline this. And, while I’m proposing excuses, maybe the whole rush-to-marriage-proposal thing was meant to illustrate how fed up he is with being in charge. Maybe his sudden desperation to escape quarantine was, whatever his ultimate motive for so doing, more or less symbolic of his need to escape the turn his life has suddenly taken. But at this juncture you may be asking yourself, unless you were good enough to watch the episode before reading this review, “Who is Jane?”. She’s a new character brought abruptly onto the scene to help keep Yuri company, and to perhaps elicit from him some intelligible responses to the inevitable onslaught of questioning to which he’ll be subjected when he’s recovered more. In a nutshell, she’s a nurse who’s experienced working with sick kids, and she happens to have a passable grasp of the Russian language. (Though this was never fully illustrated.) She is, quite simply, the most stunning element of the show thus far, and if the preview of episode four is to believed, she will (thankfully) play a much larger role in plot to come. She is well and believably acted, but more importantly, she’s identifiable and you cannot help but relate to her on any of a number of levels. And for my money the best scene in the entire series thus far is her attempt at storytelling, guiding the clearly frightened and suffering Yuri through a little good old-fashioned escapism. It wasn’t not the first time someone reached out to him with a personal touch – more on that in a bit – but it’s the most touching outreach. Combining a simple fairy tale with something I can only describe as interpretive dance (and this is the only time you’ll ever hear me mention interpretive dance in a positive light), she came across as graceful, almost ethereal, and you couldn’t help but fall in love. And, for what it’s worth, it was one of the least choreographed-looking dance sequences I can recall seeing in TV or film. The end result was a totally organic scene. Since we’re on the topic of reaching out to Yuri, let’s discuss the brief but important conversation Dr. Walzer had with the young lad. Walzer veered sharply from his Vizzini-esque path in this episode, becoming someone it’s possible to truly like. During his little chat with Yuri we saw a side of him that’s not yet been highlighted. We were given a chance to better understand what motivates him. And the show is better for having one of its central characters clearly explained. But that’s not the only case of “meet and greet” with already-established players. Remember the guy with the emo haircut? Turns out he’s not so much emo, but actually just a nerd, and a fun nerd, at that. (He never stood a chance at being hip; he was named after Adlai Stevenson.) Why it took three episodes to learn more about him I can only speculate – however, getting to know him brings about another layer of polish and greater chance of immersion to the series. Perhaps it’s coincidental that it was Jane who brought him out of his shell. Then again, maybe not. One last instance of character development, as well as a shining example of acting vastly improved from the previous episode, came in the form of the Canadian liaison, whose acting was stiff and actually distracting in episode two. In this episode, however, we were shown more of his character – a character who continues to assert his importance to Tom verbally, but more or less rolls over when told. And finally, this was brought to life with better-delivered dialog and body language. Hell, he even made a witty remark. A vast improvement. “Vast improvement” is actually the key phrase when it comes to the entirety of episode three. And considering Pioneer One was a solid show to begin with, that’s a feat. As I pointed out in my review of the first two episodes Pioneer One began with much room for growth. It has made good on its promise and grown. I am greatly looking forward to episode four and hope you’ll join me both in watching it when it’s released, and in reading my future reviews of the series.

  • At 16:42 on 15 Mar 2012

    Today we’re revisiting a series that I kinda gushed over last year. Since reviewing the pilot, Pioneer One has since been able to crowdfund five more episodes for six in total, they won the drama category for 2010′s NYTVF (and should’ve won pretty much everything else. Illuminati Brothers? Greg And Donny? Really?), and their first two episodes as of January 2011 received over 1.7 million downloads. So, for the equivalent of an hour-long television pilot, they had more viewers than either of the first two season premieres of Breaking Bad. According to their blog, it sounds like creator Josh Bernhard and director Bracey Smith are tiring of discussion over their novel distribution methods—hint: torrents are effective! I’ll skip that. Let’s talk the show itself. Are you watching it? You should be. You should be talking about it. When people say, “there’s nothing good on the web,” or “you can’t do drama on the web,” you point them directly to this series and you say, “shut up.” With each episode, small revelations, things that on the surface appear mundane, have major and lasting consequences. A single word near the end of Episode 4 (by this time, our running time is deep into TV Miniseries lengths) and with no shocked response, no intense musical cues, everything you thought about the series changes. Political intrigue is shown through devil-in-the-details moments, from using old immigration agreements and laws as ammunition for forcing the Russians into backing down to simply not answering the phone until they’re damn good and ready to buy time. Humanity shown through old clips of a character begging Congress for funding to go to Mars because “it’s the next step,” and the power of simple human contact for someone who may have never felt it before. We talk a big game about the web overtaking TV, about the creative freedom it provides. And while only a semi-full picture of its ratings are known for the first two episodes, less than 1,500 people have watched Pioneer One‘s fourth episode on YouTube, released on October 4th, 2011. You want us to overtake TV? You want to talk about how it can provide something that TV never could or would? Viewers are gonna have to do better than that. We’re going to have to have the balls to bring it up at the water cooler. We’re going to need to be willing to discuss it at least the way we would a Sundance film. We need to take the “just” out of “it’s just on the web.” When someone produces something that at its core stands up against anything on any medium, we as advocates for our particular medium better step up. Not just for a pilot. But continuous. I’m not going to lie — that Pioneer One‘s producers are unable to make this their full time, somewhat lucrative job pisses me off. Doubly so because I’m partly to blame. I forgot about them. I talked it up but I didn’t champion it. It was only through dumb luck talking with Marc a week or two ago that I was reminded about the series. They’ve made it on the summer issue of Moviemaker Magazine. They won best drama pilot in 2010 for NYTVF. I gave it a full on, no-strings-attached win review. What more do you want, a cookie for watching? Fine, I’ll start baking. We want great dramas on the web, ones that are independently made and don’t sink to the lowest common denominator? We only need to get up off our asses and watch and talk about the ones that’re already here to those who don’t necessarily watch series on the web. It’s entirely that simple.


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on July 06, 2010 at 6:45am

No puedo esperar para ver los siguientes

Digital Jedi

on July 06, 2010 at 3:11am

I was a little septic at first while watching the beginning of the pilot. Poor dialogs, bad filming, camera always trembling instead of being fixed on a support.
Only thrilling dialog is at 24th minute with the allusion to the Cold War story.
But at the end of the pilot, i want to watch the following ones so i am donating 10$ to make it happen.


on July 05, 2010 at 9:27pm

it was a good episode in my opinion. of course we have to consider the low budget for the production. anyway it´s just the beginning...

Don Reba

on July 05, 2010 at 7:24pm

— What does that mean... Are you sure you are translating this right?
— 47 languages...
— Seems like a silly question, but is Russian one of them?
— Well, no, I specialise in African tribes, but that has to count for something, right?

Don Reba

on July 05, 2010 at 6pm

Execution was a bit wanting, but the idea is good, so I donated in hope you will keep getting better.

Also, if you decide to show Russian text in a future episode, please don't use random sequences of consonants, as Bourne Identity did, among others.


on July 05, 2010 at 3:49am

I enjoyed it. Premise seems a bit hard to believe, but it's definitely interesting.


on July 04, 2010 at 10:57pm

Great show, can't wait for more episodes. Donated some money to show my support.

Did notice the acting was a mixed bag: some actors doing good, others worse and distracting that way. The 'golfing pensioner' worked really well for me.

Most problematic is the weird framerate conversion that makes it look awfully stuttery (especially with TVs that do frame interpolation to make the 24p material more smooth). I would normally refuse to watch this kind of material, but it had me hooked enough to cope. But please improve for next episodes or I will have to give up!

Also, some scenes clearly try to cover up the low budget (i.e medical scenes) but I can understand this and can live with it. The story is more important than the scenery, but if this can be improved a little by more clever location scouting that would be awesome. Even some backgrounds from, say, a dentist office or other medical-looking supplies might be helpful to prevent completely blurring/whiting out the image, but only doing it somewhat to cover up the details...


on July 04, 2010 at 5:39am

Screenplay: Pretty good.

Acting: This left me somewhat wanting. I felt the actors in the film largely were not confident of the role they were to be playing, or over-acted the part.

Concept/Story: Awesome, looking forward to where you go from here with it!


on July 03, 2010 at 9:19am

The scene starting at like 10:49, was that filmed at the Jacob Burns Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville, NY? I take classes there and the building looks really really familiar!


on June 30, 2010 at 11:37pm

Sound is in and out of sync for me too for the mkv - on two different machines no less. Also it does have a strong low-budget feel, but I love the story - it has potential - and ultimately that's what I care about.


on June 30, 2010 at 10:18pm

Great !
M.Walzer is the "Bob Zubrin" of the show i guess !
ie "The case for the Red Planet => The case for Mars"


on June 30, 2010 at 6:45pm

yep.....i really like this idea...TV forces u to watch what it has to offer....this is much better


on June 30, 2010 at 6:43pm

this first episode is generally not bad at all especially considering the limited resources....i really was drawn in to the storyline...can't wait for the next episode.......the part abt the homeland securiy lady speaking 47 that true or were they joking...


on June 29, 2010 at 6:55pm

The writing is good. I liked the part about the russian guy watching for nuclear strikes.

My complaint, though, is that it focused too much time on setting up the characters, and not enough time (or any time even) setting up the major conflicts and pressures that will need to be dealt with for the rest of the series.

Also if you're going to work off donations you should probably make the cliffhangers at the end of the episodes a little stronger than this one.


on June 29, 2010 at 1:47pm

I think that the Americans will not allow the Information about ussr
cosmonaut to get out to public. I think that the reason for him to
come back was problems back on the red planet, in the underground
colony counting tens of Russians. He'll ask US to let him contact
Russians or for help in containing the problem, they'll refuse and try
to shut his mouth. One of the agents will try to go to press to spread
the word and save others on mars - will die. US will kill cosmonaut or
let him die of cancer. But he will not die. His cancer will occur to
all as paracite that lives within human body but shields it from
different kinds of radiation. Cosmonaut will get shot. Before that he
will tell the doctor about a cosmic body that will cut across earths
orbit destroying its radiation blocking ability, killing all
"unprepared" people on earth in 15 years, and that the cosmonauts
(more of them) are comming to spread the patacite and save the world.
Then other capsule will fall in Mexico.


on June 29, 2010 at 1:21am

I can help improve video quality by far, as well as eliminating the irritating blending (makes it really annoying for the eye to focus at times) and stabilizing shakycam. Free, of course...

Not that anyone normally accepts this kind of offer, since they're usually so conceited about their own abilities, but I figure it's worth a shot - especially because of the staff's nature (indie).

Contact: [email protected]


on June 29, 2010 at 12:11am

Very good effort. Really reminds me of some of the older Sci-Fi programs when it was still focused on science fiction. Keep up the good work


on June 28, 2010 at 11:26pm

I hate this show. Too much boring dialogue that leads nowhere.


on June 28, 2010 at 12:56pm

Have watched again and still have no idea of what the story plot is. Time travel, radio active fallout, people in hospital but theres no radiation on the pilot. Lets remember a all time classic no Budget series Red Dwarf.

You have a great idea but need to make it clear to the viewer the basic idea, let them dream what could happen and then share you series. We all love Sci-Fi and you have picked the hardest Audience.

I wish you every success and will look forward to episode 2, although I think you should re release the first with some fixes to the plot.


on June 28, 2010 at 3:55am

Kudos! I watched the whole thing, a little hard to see where it could go. Shot on a Canon DSLR maybe? Fun premise. There's so much weird Russian cold war secrets history to mine (e.g. UvB76). Couple of continuity things: scientists don't generally use mac towers, govt agencies definitely don't! Watch x-files, they are the masters of the government vibe: big SUV's SCARY people phoning in—overall it could have done with a bit more weirdness/suspense, as if there was another level of plot at play.

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