by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Halle Berry, Goran Visnjic. Created by Mickey Fisher.
In film it is the place where creepy stuff happens, the home of frightening alien life, and where technology is at its most futuristic (except for perhaps, Back to the Future Part II – hello, hoverboards). Last year’s Oscar success Gravity played up isolation and visual grandeur, highlighting our insignificance has puny humans in a massive universe.
There’s more than a little bit of Gravity in Extant, the new television series from Steven Spielberg and starring Oscar winner Halle Berry. Set years in the future, astronaut Molly Woods (Berry) returns home following a thirteen-month solo mission into space, and is found to be pregnant. Molly hasn’t interacted with anyone during her time in space (other than some creepy visions, or so it seems) and is stunned at the news – particularly as she and her husband John (Visnjic) have been infertile for years.
It’s clear from the outset that Extant is more than just an action or sci-fi series – it’s a mystery. How did Molly fall pregnant? What life being is growing inside of her? Are the visions she experienced in space real, and the cause of her pregnancy? No doubt these questions will be answered, or will become more complex, across the next twelve episodes.
It’s also interesting that in many ways Molly’s pregnancy storyline plays second fiddle to another plot revolving around her husband John and their humanoid son (remember this is the future, folks) Ethan. John attempts to gain funding for a robotics project from Molly’s employer, Hideki Yasumoto, and introduces a board of staff to Ethan, who he designed himself as a prototype for the Humanics project. John believes there’s an opportunity to inject robots with emotion to make them more human.
‘At the Humanics project, we recognise that we live in a world of machines… We’ve outsourced many of our day-to-day activities to robots that have made our lives way more efficient but in the process we’ve removed the all-important element of human connection…’
In essence, Extant is all about connection. Molly has been disconnected from human contact and her family, and it’s changed her – but how can she fall pregnant in solitude? The future is filled with technological advances – but will humanoid children rob our world of family connection?
Our world was made for connection and Extant gives us a bleak view of our humanity. I often think that with the way we constantly check our smart phones, even when we’re spending time with other people, we’re destined for isolation.
As Christians, we’re called to be in connection with God, other believers, and our world. In Jesus, God has come down to earth to connect with us, to be human with us, to sympathise with our weaknesses and our temptation.
God knows what it’s like to be human because he became human. Not a humanoid, not a robot, but one-hundred percent God in the flesh. And while on earth, Jesus connected with people who nobody else would – tax collectors, prostitutes – sinful people like you and me. He even died and rose again to remove our sin so we could reconnect with our Heavenly Father. And now God’s Spirit is in us, and allows us to connect with our Heavenly Father. 1 John 4:13-16:
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
When we trust in Jesus we have the ultimate connection with God – He is not only our maker and designer, but also our Saviour. We can’t get any more connected than that because he has given us His Spirit!
Now we are called to connect not only with other believers, but also our world – sinners like us – and share the message of the gospel that has changed us. Our world longs for connection, for belonging, and the good news of Jesus brings that and much, much more.
Extant is an enjoyable mystery, complete with a big budget. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead. I’m giving it three-and-a-half stars.
Extant airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on CBS in the USA, and Sundays at 8:45pm on the Ten Network in Australia.