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 22, 2010 at 11:04pm

You should add the Pioneer One Orkut community on your *comments* list:

(So far, the topics are in Portuguese, but people can use any language they want there.)


on June 22, 2010 at 10:04pm

Everybody stop winging its free (unless you donate) of course. I was a first time effort, so what if the boats are there one shot and not in the next your supposed to be looking at the characters not scrutinising every shot and as for the one comment that said "piracy is wrong" if so what why are they looking at pirate bay anyway!


on June 22, 2010 at 5:56pm

Great show and a breakthrough for Creative Commons and free movies... I really enjoyed this!
Though there are some things I did not like:
-first: this is just another movie where an american tries to speak russian and fails in so many ways you can't imagine...
-there's just too much anti-sovietism


on June 22, 2010 at 1:49pm

Morally and by treaty, the investigators are obliged to inform the CIS/Russian consulate (as successor to the Soviet Union) that their citizen is in custody. Here is a new dilemma: the CIS may want their cosmonaut back, to lionize as evidence of their reaching Mars; but will that mean his death due to cancer which can only be treated successfully at the most advanced oncology clinic in NYC?

There should be a great episode where Taylor gets the CIS/Russian consul to the base, discusses the USSR mission to Mars, the consul denies everything, then Taylor shows him the suit and the remnants of capsule. The mission had had radio failure shortly after launch, so it had been regarded as a failure and wiped from history; after that, no-one had expected the cosmonauts would actually survive and succeed. Of *course* the consul wants their child back.

"But here's the problem, Gennadi: the kid has cancer. It wouldn't be a surprise if he got it from the nuclear battery; but he may have been sick all the way back on Mars -- his parents risked his life sending him here, maybe just so that we could save his life. He needs the most advanced cancer clinic there is. That's in New York City. But he needs the company of his own people. That's yours. He doesn't know Americans, he doesn't trust Americans, his parents left during the Cold War. He *is* your citizen, you should have people with him at the hospital -- but in that hospital is where he should be. If you insist on parading him anywhere else, at the cost of his health.... well, he's going into that hospital as an anonymous sick kid, and this whole conversation never happened, and there never was a teenage cosmonaut from Mars."


on June 22, 2010 at 11:47am

This is a really great series and MORE PLEASE!!!!! I think that the criticisms may be missing the point which is does "Pioneer One" make your "willing suspension of disbelief" kick in? For me the answer is a resounding YES!!!! And to the point where I just didn't notice any tech/scripting issues at all!!! I will be donating (only a small amount at first as that's all I can afford but later on hopefully a larger amount). If this funding and distribution method can produce this sort of quality then I suspect that the 'big boys' will start to get very worried, very soon! Well done and please keep up the good work!!!



on June 22, 2010 at 10:01am

This was clearly not filmed at 24 fps, and it looks like the frames were averaged together. (Like linear blend deinterlaceing, even if it might have been progressive to start with.)

Please don't do that in future installments, it looks terrible and gives no benefits. (Unless you absolutely have to shoot on equipment that does this automatically, but that seems unlikely.)


on June 22, 2010 at 6:54am

I very much enjoyed the episode and will be tuning in to future installments. I think the plot is a good one, but the dialogue and delivery can use some work. Seeing as how Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favorite books, humanity’s first Martian is always going to catch my fancy; however, the two lead characters working for DHS need to simply be better actors. Their dialogue delivery was terrible. Many of their lines just seemed like off hand chatter and not meaningful conversation. By comparison, the ex-CIA chief seemed much more polished in his scene.

As to actual production I don’t have many complaints. I must have a better constitution than most, because I did not even notice the much complained about shaky camera. I will agree though that the laptop with the DHS sticker is way out of place. I work for DHS on the US/Canadian border in Buffalo, NY, and I can assure you that everything is a PC (Dell in fact) and no one is using a cheap webcam for a conference. Blackberries are standard issue for anyone at the GS12 level and up.


on June 22, 2010 at 6:15am

Does anyone know who plays the piano at the end of the film?


on June 22, 2010 at 5:48am

I liked it very much. Budget permitting, I think it has the potential to go the way of "Sanctuary". i.e. Started as webisodes and was picked up by sci-fi. Good stuff folks, keep it up!


on June 22, 2010 at 3:52am

Innovative concept and I rate this pilot as good overall. Excellent if you think about the budget and the approach! Already donated as I believe this as potential and would like to see what comes next. Everything will change? That is setting the highest expectations! Keep up the good, innovative work.


on June 21, 2010 at 8:53pm

Pity about the weird frame rate mangling... it's very distracting.


on June 21, 2010 at 8:32pm

absolutely great. better than anything currently on tv. bravo! can't wait for next episode.


on June 21, 2010 at 6:45pm

WOW, thanks for this. Really enjoyed it and look forward to following the series. Even more impressive is a group of artists willing to perform and add value to this world, without a price tag :)

Unfortunately i cant afford to donate at the moment, but i do appreciate the good quality free entertainment. Im sure it will grow and evolve into something great.


on June 21, 2010 at 6:42pm

Congratulations from Brazil.

Fantastic. It's been a long time I haven't seen a good sci-fi story like it. Just donated and I can't wait for the next episodes. Great job!



on June 21, 2010 at 4:12pm

Good start. Pretty good, actually. Although the amount of factual errors was... sad, to be honest. Here's my addition to those already mentioned:

In the "astrology" scene it was estabilished that the object was not going to "catch us" (the characters were "pretty sure"), and yet in the very next scene it's already spreading radioactive debris and hitting the ground. This discontinuity leaves the viewer asking more questions than really necessary. (Also, unless it is a plot point to be explained in the following episodes, a Soyuz lookalike that's already "crossing our orbit right about now" is not getting to Earth under its own power, not with the couple hundred m/s of delta-v like they have.)


on June 21, 2010 at 2:25pm

Lost me at scene 1. Poor audio and camera work....I really just didn't get in to the illusion. It felt like actors telling a story rather than an interaction of characters making a movie. Sorry........


on June 21, 2010 at 12:22pm

meh. That pretty much sums Pioneer One up.


on June 21, 2010 at 12:11pm

Pretty fine, i enjoyed music and atmosphere. But, like many people said, too much mistakes. For example Baikonur cosmodrome is actually situated in steppe of Kazakhstan, and Star city in Moscow Region in Russia.


on June 21, 2010 at 11:37am

to the cast of pioneer one: cashU is a great way to accept donations mainly because of it being a secure payment solution and an easy one at that, plus some extra advertisement in the cashU mall.

Its really easy to set up you should check it out


on June 21, 2010 at 11:35am

English subtitle spelling corrections:
[ ]
(32) here -> hear
(55) they're -> there are
(63) How close is going -> How close is it going
(122) need -> need. [add full stop]
(332) caller id -> caller ID
(509) possible -> possibly
(527) his -> this

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