DVD REVIEW: EXTANT: SEASON 1 / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: HALLE BERRY, GORAN VISNJIC, PIERCE GAGNON, HIROYUKI SANADA / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2ND
Halle Berry may just be one of Hollywood’s biggest hit or miss actors. Thankfully, Extant (based on her performance alone) is one of the hits. CBS’ straight-to-order sci-fi series from creator Mickey Fisher and executive producer Stephen Spielberg makes its DVD debut and they aren’t pulling any punches with this four-disc set loaded with interesting extra - just a shame about the content.
Berry (who also co-exec produces) plays an astronaut who after a solo mission discovers she is pregnant, opening up a secretive world of discovery, deception, and paranoia. The series offers a believable peek into a future that doesn’t look terrifically different to our present: iPads, electric cars, and advanced prosthetics. But it is an antiseptic vision of tomorrow, never as immersive as the L.A. of Blade Runner, instead it feels staged.
Episode 1, Re-Entry, is a thought-provoking look at re-establishing normality after a thirteen-month solo space mission. Though there was oodles of room for a more considered approach, Fisher opts for this way. From there on out, the brain gets left by the wayside, which smacks of a larger problem; the writing isn’t nearly up to scratch.
It’s all very familiar to seasoned sci-fi fans, and given Spielberg’s involvement it’s no surprise it bears more than a passing resemblance to his own A.I. Indeed, even the central idea is nothing new; a mysterious space pregnancy was explored in the so-so Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Child. The show balances two through-lines; the fear of artificial intelligence, and the search for alien life - and, try as they might, the two never quite gel.
Starring genre mainstay Hiroyuki Sanada doing what he does best, all wise and charismatic in a role strikingly similar to his turn in Helix. Pierce Gagnon gives a decent performance as the android child Ethan, and Goran Visnjic is noteworthy, but it’s Berry who carries the show with her powered performance proving some of the best actors are late bloomers.
Ultimately Extant is a show is about mortality, which plays it safe and avoids any risks. Episode 6 marks the show’s highpoint, and by the twelfth its gets bogged down in its own convoluted plot. Despite being picked up for a second series, the first doesn’t leave you particularly hungry for more. For those of you who find 2001 impenetrable, Star Trek too cerebral or Battlestar Galactica po-faced, Extant is the show for you.
Special Features: Eight featurettes / Gag reel
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