Last week marked the series premiere of Extant, a CBS science fiction series starring Halle Berry. Wait, Halle Berry is doing television? Didn’t she win an Oscar? Hmm. I recall a joke on 30 Rock about Oscar winners who return to the small screen. How did it go again…
The fact of the matter is that I want to support original short-form science fiction. When I have to turn to Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and my Babylon 5 DVDs to get a space opera fix, it’s a pretty clear indication that there’s a disconnect between what I want, and what the powers-that-be feel I deserve. Be that as it may, I couldn’t even manage fifteen minutes of Extant without feeling like there were better ways to spend my time. Moreover, I felt like the victim of a very cruel bait and switch. This isn’t a space opera, it’s a space baby. Fast forward a few more days and I found this Wikipedia summary of Extant’s first episode:
Returning from a thirteen-month solo mission aboard the space station Seraphim, astronaut Molly Woods tries to reconnect with her husband John and their “son” Ethan, an artificially intelligent android. Molly is shocked to learn she is pregnant despite prior infertility and claiming no sexual contact occurred during her mission; however, she recalls a mystifying encounter with a deceased friend during the mission. John, who developed Ethan, seeks funding to continue his project from Hideki Yasumoto, Molly’s employer. Molly is contacted by Harmon, a fellow astronaut who supposedly committed suicide and claims to know what happened during her mission.
You have got to be kidding me. A magic baby story that is predicated upon a space ship named after the highest order of Angel per the Old Testament? Come on, guys, you couldn’t be more obvious if you drew a crude picture in MS Paint, which, I think, would look something like this.
Then there’s the business about a robot child. Why are we having robot children again? That’s right, because Steven Spielberg is Extant’s Executive Producer, and, as such, would like to remind you that he also directed A.I. Why couldn’t I have been born into the timeline where Kubrick got to make that movie? I wager it still would have been terrible, but at least it would have had frontal nudity and robot orgies.
It’s bad enough that this story already seems derivative ad absurdum, but it strikes me as nothing less than an act of sheer hubris to try and foist in a bit of Immaculate Conception subtext on top of it all. Granted this is just my knee jerk reaction to fifteen minutes of a dull series premiere and a very reductive précis of the episode in question. As per usual, I will give Extant a full three episodes before offering up a summary judgement on the series. But I have to say, I don’t think pandering to a religious and/or reproductively challenged audience via a space baby meets space messiah story is going to do much for me.