There are two science fiction shows (actual science fiction, no fantasy) airing/streaming this season that have not received a lot of attention but that should be finding themselves on people’s watch-list. One is Orson Scott Card’s Extinct which is running on BYU TV and the other is the French-made series Missions which is on AMC’s streaming service Shudder with English subtitles. Both have gone mostly unnoticed in the Peak TV crunch but are worth a look as shows that try to deliver well-crafted science fiction tales.
What Is It?
This series takes place in a distant future after the human race has been wiped out by an alien invasion. A mysterious obelisk and its drones revive a group of humans using their “brain states” that were captured before they died in the invasion. Now these humans must build a new world in a hostile environment with unexpected enemies. It comes from science fiction writers Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston and stars Chad Michael Collins, Victoria Atkin, Yorke Fryer, and Matthew Bellows. It airs on BYU TV and the entire first season is currently available for streaming at their website.
Why You Should Watch It
Extinct has proven to be an interesting show thus far despite its limited budget and sometimes rather stilted acting (and did they raid a Renaissance Fare overstock shop for the wardrobe?). It reminds me a bit of the 70’s post-apocalyptic shows like Genesis II/Planet Earth, Logan’s Run (TV Series), and Ark II, though without the society of the week format. The show also has the Lost-style mysteries-upon-mysteries we have come to expect from a sci fi entry these days, but they seem to be pretty well thought out (instead of made up on the fly) and we get bits of answers with each episode. And unlike shows that throw in sci fi just as an excuse to do whatever the writers feel like (hello CW entries), this one appears to be establishing a set of rules based in some semblance of science and sticking to them. It also avoids too much in the way of copy-and-paste dialogue, though the scripts do slide in that direction occasionally or at times just feels trite.
Some may be scared away by the fact that it airs on BYU TV, but that appears to be due the Orson Scott Card Mormon connection. It does deal with themes relating to free will and family that could be given a religious spin, but the show has not gone that direction thus far, and some of that may be there by request of the network to give it a family-friendly feel. Remember that Card keeps his faith (and rather controversial prejudices) mostly out of his novels, and I expect the same in this show. And co-creator Aaron Johnston has a science fiction background as well, having worked with Card for many years. This one is definitely worth checking out as a decent science fiction entry on television, just be sure to adjust expectations as far as budget and production values go. If you don’t have BYU TV as part of your cable/satellite package (DirecTV has it in their basic plan), you can stream the show for free and without commercials at this link.
The first season wrapped up its major arc, but there is plenty more story to explore with this show. Aaron Johnston is currently urging viewers to contact BYU TV to request a second season. More on that at this link.
What Is It?
Missions is a French-made series (with English subtitles) that follows a privately funded expedition that takes the long journey to Mars. Once they arrive there, though, they make an amazing discovery that changes everything they know about the Red Planet. It stars Hélène Viviès, Clément Aubert, Mathias Mlekuz, and Arben Bajraktaraj and it is available online at AMC’s Shudder streaming service.
Why You Should Watch It
The synopsis above is brief and mostly spoiler free because the twists and turns come early and quick in this series. It reminds me some of 2009’s Defying Gravity, though with less of the soap opera subplots. And while the first episode does go heavy on soap opera, but that it just to establish a baseline with the main characters and it shifts to a straight science fiction tale pretty quickly. The CGI for this one is decent considering it is a television production, though don’t expect the same quality you would see from a blockbuster movie. As the show progresses, it seems to introduce supernatural elements, but they have tried to stick with science as the basis for most explanations, and I believe they will remain on that path.
The episodes are only about 25 minutes or less and there are ten eps in the show’s first season (a second season is already in the works). If you don’t want to shell out the money for a subscription to Shudder (it’s only five bucks a month), you can do the one week free trial and binge the show pretty quickly. I went ahead and paid for the first month and checked out some of the other offerings on the service (it has a horror/suspense focus) which included Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories. Missions is definitely worth checking as a decent science fiction entry and I will be looking forward to the second season which is scheduled to arrive at some point in 2018.
Keep up with the current schedule of sci fi and fantasy TV shows at this link and the weekly listings at this link. And be sure to follow The Sci Fi TV Site on Twitter for schedule reminders and breaking news. Also, be sure to follow CancelledSciFi.com for the renewal / cancellation status of your favorite shows.