TV Review - Extant

Halle Berry stars as Molly Woods, an astronaut who comes back from a solo space mission and realizes she's pregnant. While she's on the solo mission, on board the space ship Seraphim, she experienced what she thinks was a hallucination. She learns that there was another astronaut before her who did the same solo mission. He had hallucinations too. He thinks they were both victims of experimentation. The question is if it were experimentation or did both astronauts alternately encounter an alien being.

Brad Beyer (Jericho and GCB) plays the other astronaut called Harmon Kryger. Molly and Harmon's investigation as to what happened drove a lot of the narrative in the first three episodes, but, at the same time, something more interesting was also occurring.

Goran Visnjic (ER and Red Widow) plays John Woods, a robotics and artificial intelligence scientist. He's also Molly's husband. They learned that Molly couldn't get pregnant, so John created an android in the form of a child named Ethan, played by Pierce Gagnon (One Tree Hill and Looper). It looks and acts real, but it's an advanced robot. It's reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). It's no surprise being that Spielberg is an executive producer on this series.

John goes to work for a Japanese company called Yasumoto. The man who owns the company, the actual Yasumoto, played by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Twilight Samurai and Sunshine), wants to support John's project, as well as be closer to Molly and her space program. John's project is to create more androids like his son, or even more advanced version called Humanichs.

One of the best scenes in the first episode is when John is presenting the Humanichs and a woman in the audience asks him to distinguish between an actual human and his Humanichs. John responds by saying that there is no difference. The woman in the audience says the difference is that Humanichs don't have souls. John responds by basically saying that neither do actual humans.

I'm not sure if religion will be a factor in the rest of the series, but it was really compelling to watch this brief debate where John who is clearly an atheist advancing his position. I hope that this debate continues, perhaps through Molly's pregnancy.

Much like Spielberg's Minority Report, this show benefits for having great production design that imagines great futuristic designs that aren't far off from what might actually occur. One amazing scene is a museum that uses holograms in powerful ways.

Rounding out the cast is Michael O'Neill (The West Wing and Bates Motel) as Alan Sparks, Camryn Manheim (The Practice and Ghost Whisperer) as Sam Barton and Sergio Harford as Marcus Dawkins. The way it's directed is rather slow and methodical, but the exploration of its ideas warrants it and the makers of the show know it.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-S.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on CBS.


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