Extant, TV review: Slick sci-fi series has an intriguing plot, but the characters aren't quite out of this world

 

If you're yet to sign up for an online streaming service, then Extant, the glossy new Steven Spielberg-exec produced sci-fi series, may be the one that lures you in. Episodes will be available on Amazon Prime Instant Video one day after they're first broadcast in the US.

Oscar winner Halle Berry stars as Molly Woods, an astronaut who's recently completed a 13-month solo space mission for her private employers, the Yasumoto Corp. Upon her return, a routine medical examination reveals Molly is pregnant, which mathematically astute viewers will realise should be impossible. This also means that Molly's got some 'splainin to do with her husband John (ER heart-throb Goran Visnjic) and young son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon).

For the moment, though, John is busy with his own sinister baby-making project. He's seeking funding for a new race of androids, or "humanics", and anyone who questions the wisdom of this endeavour gets the same emotive response: his son Ethan is the prototype, and he's so adorable, what could possibly go wrong? When John loses his cool during the presentation – as mad scientists are wont to do – one interested party remains: the shadowy Hideki Yasumoto of Yasumoto Corp.

Sci-fi fans will recognise familiar themes here: robot insurrection, alien insemination and over-ambitious medical research, but if this series makes good on the pilot's most intriguing threads, it should evolve into Rosemary's Baby meets Alien meets Homeland. Molly feels uneasy, but is it her home that's changed? Or is it Molly?

For viewers also, the world of Extant is at once familiar and strange. The metallic spacesuits of Sixties sci-fi and the disturbing dystopias of the Eighties are both gone. Instead, Extant gives us a near-future that's very much like our present – only more beige. That's in keeping with cinema's current trend, but if Extant is to be the TV series that helps Amazon rival Netflix, the characters, at least, will have to develop more colour.

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