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 June 24, 2010 at 10:06am

I now see in my haste to write this that there are multiple typos.... whoops.


on June 24, 2010 at 10:03am

To those saying that it isn't well done... shut up. It is a community made project. I am waiting for the next episode eagerly and seriously it;s starting to get under my skin with all the people saying...blah blah blah this sucked... blah blah character development...blah blah... It was a 30 minutes introduction. Think of it as like a teaser trailer. It's giving just enough to let you know something you will be interested in is coming.... and I am most definitely interested.


on June 24, 2010 at 9:28am

Very good first pilot.I love low budget sci-fi with original stories.Keep up the good work.Don't let the negative comments get you down.Look foward to episode 2.Cheers.


on June 24, 2010 at 4:52am

The last 5 minutes should have been the first 5.
Writing F. Acting F. Directing F.


on June 24, 2010 at 4:20am

(FYI, I'm just a fan... so these are just my thoughts)

h.264 is NOT opensource, it's patent owners are just letting people use it without paying so it can gain traction... then BELIEVE that they'll charge for it.

Your problem with MKV is not surprising. I couldn't play it on my older computer. It wasn't until I got a modern core 2 duo type machine that I could play them.

Didn't you see the alternative (smaller) XvID version?

In regards to 20% of the world adopting MKV, as I understand it, people use it because of the lack of intellectual property restrictions. In other words, some business isn't going to suddenly say "everyone now has to license this" in the future, which could very well happen with h.264.

This is cutting edge, FREE stuff (independent cinema) so instead of being nasty about it, why not be more productive and ask for an alternative? Or open your eyes and see the alternative encoded XvID version.



on June 24, 2010 at 12:50am

A good effort considering the budget, but a few things that I want to point out.

1. The camera wasn't bad to be a low budget, but you can improve it a lot buy focusing on getting good frames. Some movement when several people was talking didn't give much sense.

2. The effects in them self was okay for the budget, but please check to make sure that they are covering all frames and at least represents what you are trying to tell. On the earth re entree, so did we see the stars true the planet.

3. If you have an actor for the roll, try to have him/her cover all dialog with other characters. Some phone calls where a bit tame without sound on both people speaking.

4. The plot in it self is good, but the story don't give enough to cover the hole 31 minutes and a lot of times so does the audience become lost. Try to figure out what you want to tell and how to tell it. The Stargate series have generally been good at telling a complex story without losing the audience, so might want to try and pick up a few pointers there.

5. The audio quality is a bit all over the place, specially when the main agent calls the old agent. A lot of noise when the old agent speaks on his side, but almost nothing when he speaks true the phone.

6. Try to introduce the characters a bit more cleanly. After watching the episode twice, I'm still having trouble catching the name of the main characters.


on June 23, 2010 at 7:24pm

Just finished the episode and spreading the word to get more people watching.

As for feedback:
I liked that people were a bit more natural than many Hollywood-made shows. Kathleen is indeed great, and Frank has very interesting style (i guess kinda along the lines of the X-Files' Smoking Man). The others had their moment, but it needs more care. Looking forward to knowing the characters more. :)

The story has a few gaps and jumps in it, sometimes had to think - hey, what??

The pace is slow, as others have said it - it's not necessary a bad thing (think of Twin Peaks), but some parts were lingering between different paces. Should figure out what the atmosphere the show is going for, and adapt the pace to that, either fast or slow...

For tech and science fact checking - crowdsourcing has great potential for you, in my opinion. The show's support is the crowd, and ppl can be good help - in moderate dose :D

All in all, looking forward to the next one! :D


on June 23, 2010 at 5:42pm

I can not donate because I am unable to watch your film due to the horrible video format, MKV. I hate MKV files with a passion. They're choppy, stuttering, pixelated pieces of garbage. Only 20% of the computer world has adopted it as as serious format. I have a moderately power PC, and I play every format imaginable when it comes to video using VLC, and the only one that gives me trouble is MKV. There are several open source H.264 based formats other than MKV that could be used, but you chose the Zaporozhets 968 of encoding? What a horrible way of introducing a pilot, you might as well sell video copies of it on Beta Cassettes while you're at it.


on June 23, 2010 at 5:42pm

I can not donate because I am unable to watch your film due to the horrible video format, MKV. I hate MKV files with a passion. They're choppy, stuttering, pixelated pieces of garbage. Only 20% of the computer world has adopted it as as serious format. I have a moderately power PC, and I play every format imaginable when it comes to video using VLC, and the only one that gives me trouble is MKV. There are several open source H.264 based formats other than MKV that could be used, but you chose the Zaporozhets 968 of encoding? What a horrible way of introducing a pilot, you might as well sell video copies of it on Beta Cassettes while you're at it.


on June 23, 2010 at 3:37pm

Have always loved and supported the independent movie or short film producers. I would like to say fantastic work for the character who was never introduced in his mansion retired etc. Great acting great filming and script at the start. The end I leave for yourself. I must really commend this actor I think he has a interesting and attractive persona that immediately speaks to the viewer. The filming of this was sadly left a little lacking. Filming of the back of an actors head while another is speaking was badly done and continued for far to long in the doctors seen.
The introduction of the main character as a hard nose 'Gibbs' is fine but the very next scene buckling under pressure does not follow.

Would like to say even with these small problem I would watch more. But was completely unable to follow the link from a hurtling object from the deep reaches of space to a radio active Russian Astronaut from the past am left thinking of 'Lost'

I hope you keep working on this series it is a fantastic idea but remember those watching dont know your thoughts we have to imagine our own.


on June 23, 2010 at 3:25pm

Really impressed! This is so exciting, I've donated only a little but I'll contribute more. Thank you for being brave and inspiring, oh and for making a great show.


on June 23, 2010 at 11:04am

If another episode is made, I will definitely watch it. That being said there were some things that were kind of off, the agressive amount of sarcasm and negativity (almost every other line was sarcastic), the woman assistant knowing 47 languages (come on!), and the strange rebellion of the homeland security department of montana against the rest of the federal government. However, the end was soo cool and I really want to watch another episode!


on June 23, 2010 at 8:03am

watching it after eating dinner, the camera work made me feel sick. aren't there ways you're supposed to spin the camera around without making watchers ill? and the shaking too, can't you use a tripod? Also, a lot of the dialogue is really bad, completely unnatural too, making the acting worse than it is. I had to stop during the flirting scene, i couldn't take it anymore.


on June 23, 2010 at 6:25am

I made a large donation, but it isn't clear how to get the promised bonus material. I even sent an email with no reply.


on June 23, 2010 at 4:44am

I don't understand why you have planned 4 seasons? It doesn't make sense to me, since BitTorrent is not dependent on TV seasons. IMO, it would make more sense to just organize the show by episodes and produce them without interruption (if you have the funds), until the last planned episode, which I guess would be 21.


on June 23, 2010 at 3:05am

I absolutely loved this. I donated immediately after READING about it, and when I finally watched it a couple days later I decided to donate again. GREAT JOB!

I'm very disheartened by the number of people complaining about obvious budget and technology related issues for a FREE pilot created from $6,000. Seriously people? Get over the handycam/steadycam. Get over the imperfect cuts and transitions and camera work. This was an awesome pilot, and I sincerely hope the creators aren't discouraged by the nauseating number of complaints coming from this echo chamber.

Wonderful job! I'm telling as many people as I can about this. I really, really hope you reach your goal, and can continue to make episodes. I also sincerely hope you surpass your goal by leaps and bounds so you can begin to pay your talent. Everyone did a great job! I wish I had the guts to do something like this...



on June 23, 2010 at 1am

I like the story but what is with the video quality? It's over 1 GB for a 35-minute video yet there are noticeable artifacts, and the motion blur is very annoying. Is it just poorly encoded or just filmed with a cheap camera?


on June 23, 2010 at 12:05am

I liked your first episode! Please add a Flattr button on your donation page so I can donate by using Flattr.


on June 22, 2010 at 11:16pm

I really liked this film and I hope there's more coming. I thought it was a really good idea having it posted on the Utorrent web-site. I think it's totally cool to have indie films on the peer to peer file sharing networks. I read that it cost a huge some of money for this production so I will donate to help your team out.


on June 22, 2010 at 11:05pm

I really enjoyed this!

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