Is Stowaway based on a true story? Netflix's sci-fi film and The Cold Equations

Eve Edwards April 25, 2021

Is Stowaway based on a true story? Netflix’s latest offering sees Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim deal with an interloper on their mission to Mars.

The film, directed by Joe Penna, was released to Netflix on 22 April 2021.

Now, viewers of the film want to know if there is any truth behind the story.

What is Stowaway on Netflix about?

The film follows a three-person mission to Mars. The team is led by Commander Barnett (Toni Collette), who is joined by scientist David (Daniel Dae Kim) and physician Zoe (Anna Kendrick).

The two-year mission will be carried out to assess the habitability of Mars.

But the mission is interrupted as the crew realise there is another person on board. After discovering the interloper (Shamier Anderson), a tense moral dilemma ensues.

Is Stowaway based on a true story?

No. The new Netflix sci-fi is not based on a true story, but a short story from 1954.


The bones of Tom Godwin’s short story “The Cold Equations” are used as the basis of Stowaway. In the original story, hard science and morality are used to punish a female trespasser. In Joe Penna’s modern take, we see the females take centre stage as the heroes, not the story’s victims.

“The Cold Equations” originally appeared in the August 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

STOWAWAY (L to R) TONI COLLETTE as MARINA BARNETT, DANIEL DAE KIM as DAVID KIM and ANNA KENDRICK as ZOE LEVENSON. Cr. JURGEN OLCZYK/© 2021, Stowaway Productions, LLC, Augenschein Filmproduktion GmbH, RISE Filmproduktion GmbH. All rights reserved.

Stowaway and The Cold Equations

Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison are responsible for writing Stowaway’s script. Penna also directed the sci-fi film, while Morrison was responsible for the editing.

When looking for the main similarities between Stowaway and The Cold Equations, it largely lies in the major plot point. Both stories feature a stowaway aboard a spaceship. Both result in moral dilemmas, given they do not have enough supplies for the crew and the stowaway.

So, who makes the sacrifice? Tom Godwin takes a harsher approach to his story’s interlopers, while Penna and Morrison view it as a moral dilemma to figure out together.

Eve spends her days writing about everything culture-related. From celebrity news to music, film and television, Eve covers all bases. When she’s not writing you can find her making music or mastering the art of homemade pasta.