2004 Recipient: Television

AAAS Science Journalism Awards

2004 RECIPIENT: Television

Mark Davis
“Mars Dead or Alive”
4 January 2004

Mark Davis wrote, directed and produced this program about the drama leading to the launch of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers (M.E.R.).

“This program is perfect,” the judging committee stated.

Davis infused the storytelling with the scientists’ personalities, emphasizing the human drama of what went on behind the scenes.

“This program provides a private look at a public project,” said Dennis O’Brien of the Baltimore Sun. “Davis shows the decision-making process while it is going on.”

“He caught the drama and the scientists’ personalities shone through,” said Phil Beradelli of United Press International (UPI).

“The personalities really made this story,” said Chad Cohen of The National Geographic Channel.

“You really got a sense of the stakes,” said Beradelli. “You understand what the scientists invested in the moment the rovers launched to Mars.”

“There were a lot of memorable moments and this program will stick with me for a long time,” said Robert Coontz of Science.

Francesca Segre of Reuters Television declared the program a beautiful production and noted that the “tiny, clever edits really made the show rise above the competition.” She especially appreciated seeing the failures in science.

“And the writing was excellent,” said Segre. “Very clever.”

Beradelli agreed and commented on the engaging nature of the production. He felt the transitions from dialogue to images were especially strong.

“I was just riveted and it was such a compelling story,” said Allan Butler of The Science Channel.

Mark Davis is an independent writer, producer and director of science and history documentaries, and a long-time production partner of PBS series originating from WGBH in Boston. A 1972 graduate of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), he began his career in Arizona making films about the American West. In 1984, he arrived at WGBH as a freelance editor and soon moved on to producing programs for NOVA, The American Experience, and The People’s Century. He’s the owner of MDTV Productions in Newburyport, Massachusetts.