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 19, 2010 at 12:17am

Guys, at least check on wikipedia the "facts" you are presenting. Location of Baikonur is one of them
And, please, find someone who really speaks Russian.


on June 18, 2010 at 11:44pm

Yeah, whomever mentioned Defying Gravity took the words off my fingertips. There are also some supposed real stories of lost cosmonauts that you can wrap into this for future episodes - if it isn't in the works already. Anyway, enjoyed it and look forward to the next one.


on June 18, 2010 at 9:34pm

I loved the first episode and look forward to future installments. You can see my review of Episode 1 at this link:

I have also opened up a thread to discuss the viability of this model for episodic sci fi on reddit at this link:


on June 18, 2010 at 9:32pm

I just finished watching the episode. I thought it needs more development as well. Characters need to be developed a little more, because their background is not very apparent. (names, expertise, etc.). The shooting of the episode is probably expensive, but a viewer would like to see more location shooting scenes, ( for future episodes), because if they keep repeating the same location a viewer becomes uninterested.

Dr Fell

on June 18, 2010 at 8:57pm

liked it, hope to see more

on a side point UVB-76 the russian shortwave that has been sending out a buzz 21 - 34 times per minute for decades went silent recently then changed.


on June 18, 2010 at 8:15pm

Yeah, too shaky.
And the girl definitely does not speak Russian. I mean not the accent, the whole phrase was pronounced just wrong. Sorry to point it. Good luck though with the next episodes.


on June 18, 2010 at 7:48pm

This IS a decent effort and I do like it, but I must agree with jesperc20 on the camera-related issues: a shaky work at best, giving the viewer a major headache, too soon into watching the episode. Some color enhancement would be a bonus too.
Having the overall budget in mind, all I can say it thumbs up; can't wait to see the next apisode! Though it would be nice to see (some of) those actors
being more motivated, therefore come on people - DONATE!


on June 18, 2010 at 5:27pm

I've just finished to watch the episode. I found it globally encouraging. Concerning the initiative, I purely like it. We need to bypass and shortcircuit the film majors.
A few remarks:

1) Subtitles. For foreign people like me, who speak english but are not used to hear a speech flow so fast, it may come in handy.

2) Filming mastery: nearly perfect. You know how cameras work.

3) General effects: I know this movie is a low-budget, and that's good, but we really see too few. It's frustrating to hear actors speak about a thing and not being able to see it.

4)Actors: good. But avoid the traditional clichés.

5) Storyboard: In the mean. Maybe a bit random.

Continue. Series are the most difficult films to realize. Good luck.


on June 18, 2010 at 2:31pm

Subtitles, we need subtitles ! (english)


on June 18, 2010 at 1:48pm

Great! Can't wait to watch this tonight! :o)

Donated $5 for the theme song, but don't know where to download it??


on June 18, 2010 at 12:08pm

BTW, one last thing I meant to mention-- PACING IS TOO SLOW. Trim some of the fat, cut out the unneeded stuff (and DONT cut out what IS needed) and speed it up a bit.


on June 18, 2010 at 12:06pm

Honestly--I liked the idea and tried to follow it but had to quit watching halfway through. Some of the actors are pretty good, Mulder is fairly good, Scully passable, some others pretty decent, but on the other hand when they suck they SUCK. i.e. "Lead Scientist #1" (early on) , and then theres this guy with the blacked out glasses and slicked back hair? I heard that story about the almost-end of the world nuclear accident. Told correctly, it should be pretty riveting and awe-inspiring to think that if it werent for one man doing the right thing we'd all be dead. Unfortunately I was too busy being disgusted/laughing at the TERRIBLE delivery, acting, and even worse, the WEIRD switches between "ohhhh... SO close, dude" Southern accent (in person) and terrible nasally Yankee twang (on the phone especially, but also in a few shots that I figure must have been retakes on a different day.) Maybe a Yankee might not notice such things but we notice this in films all the time and this character totally broke my suspension of disbelief, I had to shut it off here. Honestly I don't want to hate on the film because I applaud somebody trying to do something and put it out there for free, I think that's the future as cameras and other equipment become more available. So I'll just throw out what I noticed and let y'all run with it. #1 People's eyes need to be in view of the camera a lot more often than they are. I noticed a lot of scenes with people delivering several lines, all with them staring off somewhere besides where the camera is. Most prominent with the doctor "explaining patient's condition" scene; the few times he makes eye contact with the other actors is great, but the rest of the time he's staring off and it doesnt work. #2 Camera work is overall decent but can use some refinement. Camera is poorly positioned in a few scenes and the "documentary" style is to avoided (zoomed in too closely on actors in some scenes, shaky cam in others, etc) at all costs. #3 Lighting is wrong. Too much white. It feels like office lighting; TOO realistic. Try toning it down a bit, maybe adding in a bit of sodium lamp (yellow tint), or even regular incandescents. The "just another day in the office" feel is what you have now and it just clashes with your aims. #4 Grittiness may not be your aim, but you do need SOME grit to blur over the imperfections in your representation of "real life." Speaking of realism, why is every office so spic and span? Even the neatest person goes to SOME kind of effort to personalize his area. The lakefront view with weirdo old man was the first scene in the movie that really looked "lived in." #5 Regarding actors, one thing that just came to mind is that scene when they all realized that this was a spacesuit laying before them. Where's the "sudden realization"? All I saw was blank, muted stares which looked more like pauses waiting for the next line rather than a real reaction from a real person who just saw this smoking Soviet spacesuit laying before them. I don't mean to be rude, again I applaud the effort, but are you telling me NOBODY who watched through this video before release caught any of this?


on June 18, 2010 at 11:46am

Awesome!! Can´t wait the next episode!! Cool idea kinda x-files... ;)


on June 18, 2010 at 9:56am

I enjoyed it! The quality was comparable to a Syfy channel movie with surprisingly better acting. The plot line also promises to be interesting. Don't worry about the complaints--there will always be those who nitpick about the little things. However, I'm guessing you don't have a $5mm per episode budget either, so we shouldn't expect the CGI or special effects of a Star Trek or BSG. I'm making my donation and hope others do too so we can keep this thing going. Well done!


on June 18, 2010 at 9:48am

Excellent work, keep it coming.

It really reminds me of 'Stanger in a Strange Land'. Wonder how similar the storylines will be.

It wouldn't hurt to use some close-ups of the actors (not just from behind), some fast cuts and cutting on action for more intense sequences or go with the half-documentary format.
Battlestar Galactica managed to use the shaky cam to an extent that I always felt I was watching from a bystanders perspective. It's not easy, but may help in the long run.

Also, different emotional themes or characters' themes would be great for the soundtrack.


on June 18, 2010 at 6:36am

As long as the episodes remain cheap, I can see this being a great success. If this is what inexpensive filming looks like, I can get used to it. I think other people will learn to live with it, too.

There are plenty of people who get bored with special effects driven movies, and will happily help this cause. People like me are dying to get plot, character, and dialog driven entertainment. And it is out there, but is hard to find, and you often have to wait a very long time to watch the intelligent movies you read about on the internet. Mostly foreign movies. This is the biggest strength with this model.

Saying that, the biggest tool you have to work with is the script. I know it is very hard to gauge not only who your audience is, but how they will receive the show, so I understand the need to play it safe with black and white characters. But you are presenting too many opportunities for viewers to resent your writing.

But you know what? It was good enough. I am able to overlook the flaws and see something great here. Something with a lot of potential. And for how much the pilot cost, there was a very high entertainment value vs cost. Looking at it like that, this effort was a great success. So I will do what I can to support you guys, because I know my money will be well spent.


on June 18, 2010 at 6:27am

I'm pretty sure that in future episodes we'll find out that evil Soviets sent a couple to Mars to make a child for some experiment or something, cuz you know, they were so crazy and never cared about their own people etc etc...
Seriously, I thought it was supposed to be intelligent sci-fi series, not a collection of cliches and myths for general public.
But I hope I'm wrong though, and we'll see something more original than that.
And btw, the story about Stanislav Petrov was told wrong in the movie, of course. He wasn't sent to any GULAG in Siberia, nor he was rewarded. The soldier just did his job right, that's it.


on June 18, 2010 at 4:21am

Piracy is wrong, this shitty free movie proves it.


on June 18, 2010 at 3:48am

A few little niggles;

The acting was was a little stiff.

Harping on about the Soviets being worse/crazier ect than the Americans.

Baikonur is in Kazakhstan, not the Russian Federation. Star City usually refers to the military / space base of Zvyozdny gorodok in the Moscow Oblast (which is in Russia).

The computer in "Baikonur" looked far to sophisticated to be of Soviet origin, the Russians were still using a ZX Spectrum knock-off as the primary computer on the Mir in 2001!

But very good overall, looking forward to more!


on June 18, 2010 at 12:26am

Not bad. Most natural acting done by Kathleen, I think. Tom's sympathetic, but not strong enough. The dialogues need to be polished in general, and Tom's autority needs to be established. He's now getting his ass kicked one on the phone, once in a videoconference and once by the scientist he's hiring. He also looks so worried ALL the time, with the frowning and sighing, you wonder really think he's not up to the job. Some of the conversations should have been cut tighter, as most scenes - especially the silly one with Tom calling an old friend for advice. I mean, a 5 min. 40 sec. phone call in a 35 min show? Please... And the content of that call was... nonsensical and useless, really. The character on the other end of the line should have been kept for introduction at a later stage, when friends in high places become necessary for some reason. Video: could we keep the camera in 1 place, please? Exploring Tom's legs (or the shot of the scientist with just the other guys' waste are not what we want to see. The idea of this show is innovative enough, if you want to keep an audience, stay conservative in some areas - expected angles + more (and appropriate, non-obtrusive) music. Some expensive looking shots (e.g. hire a conference room for a decent office) would be nice too.
So all in all.. shorter scenes & conversations without white noise, traditional camerawork, more background music (especially for suspense), and bit of work on the acting of some.

Sounds like a load of criticism and it is, but I did watch the whole thing and will watch the next episode. If only to see how you can turn the rather mundane storyline into something interesting.

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