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 21, 2010 at 11:11am

I'm loving the storyline so far. It *is* jarring to hear the end of Petrov's story told wrong, but that is characteristic of urban legends -- the true history is altered to make a point, that heroes sometimes are punished rather than rewarded (think of Prometheus!), and this fits the foreboding foreword narration: "we had no idea the price we'd pay."

Petrov's actual history -- a bit of nervous breakdown later, and he took early retirement, but otherwise his life has gone on unharmed, and he has even been interviewed for documentaries -- would foreshadow an altogether different storyline.


on June 21, 2010 at 8:52am

Just a heads up. While Calgary did have a Canadian Forces Base, it was shut down and parceled out to commercial interests. The base did have an old airfield - but dating from WWII, and has been paved over with commercial/residential buildings, as well as a high school and a post secondary school (recently upgraded to a univeristy). There is NO "defunct airbase" in Calgary - any remnants of the airfield have long since been outright removed (as opposed to being mothballed). I served with the Canadian Forces for some time through the 90s, have worked on that base, and have lived in Calgary throughout my life (off and on).

Now, if the story were to take a twist into a parallel universe/alternate reality type storyline, this may be easily overlooked.

Otherwise, I think the story has good potential. A lot of the other comments have alluded to editing/acting points. Take these into consideration, but I would suggest to keep doing what you feel is best. For a price tag of a mere $6k, I wasn't expecting oscar quality. Hell, Blair Witch sucked on a lot of the same points. Just make sure the story stays reasonably interesting and believable. :)


on June 21, 2010 at 5:16am

Is that a sonic screwdriver being held by the guy in the opening scene who is writing his resume for this first time? A good start for me :)


on June 21, 2010 at 4:06am

One suggestion on the file format?...I came across this at the EZTV site and downloaded it because it looked interesting but it defaulted to the 720p version which my set-top player can't play...I had to run it through my DivX converter and downsample to 'home theatre' which is 720x480. You might consider going for maximum compatibility with the XVid version by default rather than the max quality of the 1280x720p...sounds like a few people had trouble with it and didn't know why.


on June 21, 2010 at 4:02am

I can't wait until the next episode. I thought the writing was good and the actors are excellent! The minimalist sets leave everything up to the writing and acting -- which worked in the pilot....


on June 21, 2010 at 3:27am

Just finished watching this and i want to say , what mostly i liked is the ending , the conclusion , the message been told .
I loved the mysterious feeling you guys achieved at the end > loved the message that has been said by this work:"we usually mark the past by the wars we fight...after the world war is born out of human strugle and cruelty,sometimes there are events that are born out of human ingenuity and courage...sometime a little both."
I liked the unknown feeling that is bound with the idea of kosmos and human existence in it ; what we are , where are we , why , and so on.

(cold war theme,the past of it,what came out of it-the unforseen consequences of it.I sense there is some kind of nostalgia for those times on one side, but on the other, there is sense of hate and betrayal.human strugle an cruelty=human ingenuity and courage-do i see it right? :) ).

I see potential in the plot: if it progresses well , if everything evolves accordingly , and if you keep it steady and add new, unknown twists , i think, storywise, it will be a success. As for the acting- it was good and solid , i liked it . Some people mentioned that characters need some development , and i totally agree with that ;also, too much camshake; i like the camshake, but don't use it if it is unnecessary:don't over do it - that is the key word.

All in all , great job people.Really wished i could make something like that (maybe i will,who knows).Anyway,keep up the good work ! I think that is all i wanted to say.Cheers and good luck!


on June 21, 2010 at 3:10am

The only two things I liked about this short are the price, and... well.. O.k. maybe just one thing!


on June 21, 2010 at 2:47am

I liked it...good first effort. I donated in the hopes of seeing some more episodes :)


on June 21, 2010 at 1:22am

I really hope this project succeeds and have blogged about it
Congratulations to everyone involved getting it this far.


on June 21, 2010 at 12:21am

I had to do some research on satellites and satellite tracking systems for several projects at university when I studied astronomy. My information about the capabilites of NORAD come from there.

A nuclear battery (also known as an atomic battery) converts energy from radioactive decay into energy. Even if using plutonium the amount of radiation emitted is negligible. I had to research on probes. The Cassini for instance uses three plutonium powered radioisotope thermoelectric generators (a type of atomic battery).

Friend of mine who used to work in NBC warfare for the U.S. Army back in the 1970s and 1980s and was also tasked with the event of satellite recovery.

But agreed... Homeland Security would have zero jurisdiction in this situation in Canada.


on June 20, 2010 at 11:57pm

Hey! Really love the initiative. Also the fact that it's a sci fi is nice since there seems to be somewhat of a draught in that department.. Several good comments have been made already (for exampl by Stecman). I'm sure we all can appreciate this for what it is ; a TV series equivalent to unix/linux early years - so theres no need to be too tough on actor performance/shooting/props etc..

However - the story / script behind this type of venture must be rock solid. And as several have pointed out - it's clear that there is a need for someone who actually took some science classes in school.

The general idea is super cool and daring which is nice compared to whats on offer today (due to the networks' shoot from the hip strategy (RIP Firefly)).

(Although someone made a weird comment along the lines of that Defying Gravity was intelligent, and this was just a bit much I think. That show was more like Greys Anatomy meets Star Trek meets Oprah.. But I digress..)

I seriously hope that one of these torrent shows will hit a large audience soon, because as someone already has pointed out here - we are on the eve of major changes. They are not inevitable and may be cancelled by the major leagues, but they make a beautiful idea that is worth pursuing.


on June 20, 2010 at 11:46pm

Also, I concur with the Canadians here that Canadian authorities would probably not let the Americans take over. Moreover, they have ready protocols and international agreements in place for Soyuz landings, as there is an alternative emergency landing site for Soyuz capsules in Saskatchewan, which has never been used. That's why they always have English instructions in addition to Russian ones on the capsule's body.

[email protected]

on June 20, 2010 at 11:10pm

Why 24 frames per second? The episode got heavy motion blur during camera swoops, and there are a lot of camers swoops. And the video is studdering, too, like it wasn't filmed in 24p in the first place.

Next time make it 30fps or more. There's absolutely no reason to stick to past technological formats when you are not part of the established industry.

[email protected]

on June 20, 2010 at 11:10pm

Why 24 frames per second? The episode got heavy motion blur during camera swoops, and there are a lot of camers swoops. And the video is studdering, too, like it wasn't filmed in 24p in the first place.

Next time make it 30fps or more. There's absolutely no reason to stick to past technological formats when you are not part of the established industry.


on June 20, 2010 at 11:02pm

Good job. But you should really crowd-source a bit. Anyone who grew up as a kid in USSR could tell you that Star City and Baikonur Cosmodrome are two very distinct locations very far apart: Star City is a (closed) suburb of Moscow, where cosmonaut training takes place (NASA has a few plots there as well), while Baikonur is in the middle of Kazakhstan; it's not even in the Russian Federation, although it's on a long-term lease and effectively under Russian jurisdiction (they use Russian roubels for money there, for example, not Kazakh tenge). Also, the computer in the end of the first episode is distinctly western stuff. Soviet tech from the mid-eighties looked rather differently (and far less sophisticated).


on June 20, 2010 at 10:24pm

Great quality entertainment. Some money your way with regards from Denmark.


on June 20, 2010 at 9:39pm

audio/video all fu*ked choppy as sh*t . best part was fhe free runner at the start dudes crazy. funniest part was when that guy drew on that other guys computer screen with a marker i guess there was a paper jam in the printer or something.overall 2.5/10 (question ;why do low budget films always look low budget ?)


on June 20, 2010 at 7:10pm

So far I love it. It WILL be a great series. Keep up the good work and I look forward to donating soon.


on June 20, 2010 at 7:08pm

So far I love it. It WILL be a great series. Keep up the good work and I look forward to donating soon.


on June 20, 2010 at 6:51pm


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