HBOMax’s new SF series (available in Canada on Space the Sci-Fi Channel) takes us to Kepler 22-B, where Terran survivors and some androids try to keep humanity alive. The planet isn’t overly hospitable– but our own demons may doom us a good deal faster.

Titles: “Raised by Wolves,” “Pentagram,” “Virtual Faith”

Cast and Crew

Writers: Aaron Guzikowski
Directors: Ridley Scott, Luke Scott

Amanda Collin as Mother
Abubakar Salim as Father
Winta McGrath as Campion
Travis Fimmel as Marcus
Niamh Algar as Sue
Felix Jamieson as Paul
Jordan Loughran as Tempest
Ethan Hazzard as Hunter
Aasiya Shah as Holly
Ivy Wong as Vita
Matias Varela as Lucius
Carel Nel as Surgeon
Jadon Holdsworth, Munro Lennon-Ritchie as younger Campion

Premise

In the distant future, a sectarian war destroys earth (or, at the very least, leaves it uninhabitable). Survivors from both sides head to the nearest inhabitable planet, where a pair of androids raise a group of human children.

High Points

The story features genuine SF-based dilemmas, but remains grounded in characters. The ambiguities surrounding the android’s true nature—do they feel, or only imitate feelings?—leads to all kinds of interesting interpretations that affect how we understand each episode.

Low Points

Predicting future tech is a tricky business, as is commenting on an apparent anomaly when a story is unfolding. That aside, the following seems off.

I accept the hyperspace travel to Kepler-22B as a necessary bit of handwavium and, really, I have no idea how such a thing would work, so I can’t preclude us suddenly discovering an interstellar short-cut. That aside, the ground-level tech seems fairly consistent. But then we have Mother, an android of the Necromancer class. Everyone knows what one is, so they obviously existed more than a dozen years ago, back on earth. Yet her abilities amount to superhero-magic. If that kind of tech exists, why don’t we see more evidence of it in the weaponry or in the flying devices? The handwaves necessary when consuming superhero media become more difficult in more realistic SF stories.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The premise contains much that is familiar to SF fans, though developed in a way unique to this series and its vision.

Acting: 5/6 The acting is strong throughout: in particular, Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim as the androids, Mother and Father.

Story: 5/6

Production: 6/6 The show boasts impressive effects and design, and makes effective use of its South African location shooting. They’ve created an earthlike Kepler-22B, but one that seems alien in nature.

Effects: 6/6 The show features so many strong effects that I’ll ignore for now those moments when the CGI veers into the obvious.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, Raised by Wolves, Episodes 1-3, receives 35/42

Notes

To simplify matters, we have atheists on one side of the war and a single monotheistic religion on the other. Although referred to as Mithraic, it is not synonymous with the Mithras tradition from ancient Rome. This future faith combines known elements of Mithraism with aspects of more familiar monotheistic faiths (various branches of Christianity, in particular) and traditions invented by Guzikowski. We do not know all of the reasons for this decision but, certainly, it establishes obvious dual sides in an ongoing debate, while avoiding objections by followers of any particular faith.

The writing, thus far, understands history. Fanaticism from devotees of supernatural faith has been commonplace, but we certainly have seen atheist/materialist zealots as well, such as Stalin.