Extant Episode 1: “Re-entry”
These are exciting times! Molly Woods is having a baby, even though she’s been declared infertile! It’s a miracle!
Things get even stranger when you factor in her latest mission: a 13 month solo mission out in space. Solo, as in nobody there except her, and 13-month, as in over a year.
So how exactly is she pregnant, again?
Such is the mysterious premise behind Extant, a brand new sci-fi offering from CBS that’s already loaded to the brim with thought provoking ideas–and we’re only on the first episode! “Re-entry” wastes no time bringing on the intrigue, and begins with Molly (Halle Berry) returning home to her family before sending her straight into medical examination. She pleads with her doctor/friend to not include the pregnancy in an official report–she clearly needs time to figure things out–and absolutely insists that there was no other contact while she was away on her aforementioned 13-month mission.
Is Molly telling the truth? Maybe not–in a flashback sequence set in space, a solar flare takes out all communications on her ship, and during this time our heroine runs into Marcus, an ex-boyfriend long thought for dead.
But was he really there? Molly finds everything in working order after she wakes up from a nap, and upon review of the surveillance footage, she watches herself interacting with nothing. In a flurry of panic, she deletes all the video–an act she claimed to her superiors as accidental. Flashback sequence over.
Here’s the funny thing, if the mysterious pregnancy were the only narrative drivers in this episode of Extant, then it would have been a successfully fascinating hour of television–but there’s more! Oh, so much more!
Let’s take a look at the Wood’s family unit. Her husband, John, is a robotics engineer attempting to secure funding for a line of humanoid children–humanics, if you will. John ends up losing his cool during the pitch presentation, though, when a board-member demands to know how to effectively kill one the humanics. The two of them argue about whether or not robots have “souls”–she says they cannot, and he suggests that there’s no such thing–and the rest of the board agree that it is a valid question.
Oh yeah, forgot to mention another tiny detail: their son, Ethan, is a humanic (Molly is supposed to be interfertile, remember?). John believes that robots raised in human families can exist to fill void, and to exterminate one would be akin to child murder. The board disagrees with him, and shuts his proposal down.
The humanic concept is not unlike the premise suggested in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg is an executive producer for this show, so the similarities are not likely accidental), though Ethan seems to be a bit more “normal” than Haley Joel Osment’s character in A.I. He recognizes the fact that he’s not “real” (his father is quick to dispute this notion), though he still manages to have little-boy temper tantrums and prefers one ice cream flavor over another.
Another interesting thing that Extant brings to the table is the institute that sent Molly into space. It is revealed by a passing character to be private company run by the Yasumoto Corporation, and the big-wigs seem to know more than they’re letting on. They rightfully don’t believe Molly’s story of an accidental video deletion (she’s too thorough of an employee to let something like that happen), but rather than confronting her about it, they choose to take the creeper route and keep an eye on her instead. It also turns out that the Yasumoto Corporation are the same guys who denied her husband of his humanics money, but in an effort to “keep the family close by,” John gets private funding from big ol’ Mr. Y himself.
“Re-entry” ends with Molly encountering a fellow astronaut, Harmon, who claims to know what really happened during her 13-month mission. Oh yeah, Harmon is supposed to be dead as well, but he insists that he’s not “another hallucination.” Bring on episode 2!
Theories, Theories, Theories
It’s far too early to begin any sort of theorizing, but hey, there’s no law suggesting that we can’t marvel at what Extant has already accomplished: space pregnancy, mysteries and robots galore!
Here’s what we know so far: something happened in space during the solar-flare induced 13-hour blackout period. We also know that Marcus probably wasn’t really there–Harmon did, after all, bring up “hallucination” idea unprovoked, and he did complete a similar mission in the past. I predict that this is going to be the “big mystery” of the show. We probably won’t get any answers for while.
Also: the artificial intelligence quotient isn’t going to go away–it’s too major a factor to simply “be there.” Maybe the big reveal is that Molly is a robot?
And what about those futuristic trash cans? I need to get me one of those.