Monday, March 27, 2017

Amazon Prime's "Oasis" Pilot

Ok, not bad.

Let it be noted that I am not, myself, a real fan of dystopic fiction. Post-apocalypse? Nah. Zombie infestations? Nah. Nightmare attacks on the social order? Um...too much like real life for me right now. So this Amazon Prime pilot, made in the UK and based on Michael Faber's The Book of Strange New Things, had a lot of heavy lifting to do from the very start. It's set in a a world where the bad part of town is pretty much all of town, and the outlook is bleak. But!!!

But there is a new world--a brave new world--with brave heroes signing up to populate it. A future off earth. A new heaven in the heavens.

This is the premise surrounding Ecumenical Chaplain Peter Leigh's enlistment in the colony effort. What's Ecumenical? "It means I'm Christian." It's not clear if he's even that, or how important it may be beyond providing a clear basis for his recognition of scriptural references. In any case, Peter Leigh, upon receiving a passionate request from the colony co-founder, David Morgan, is shipped up on what may prove to be a one-way trip to the New World--which is no heaven. Bleak, dry, reminiscent of Dune/Arrakis, the planet itself is only the first unsettling surprise awaiting Leigh's arrival. He soon discovers the efforts to drill for water deep beneath the wind-blown sands have been stopped; that David Morgan has disappeared into the uncharted wastes, leaving only odd, scripture based messages as clues behind him; that the colony is haunted with visions and dreams, including dreams of the dead. A mystery is set in place, in an evocative, unhappy setting, as bleak it its way as the moors of Wuthering Heights and The Hound of the Baskervilles. 

I won't give away details--that would be to rob you of the elements that overcame my own apathy. The performances are reasonably strong. The filming offers clearly defined, strong atmosphere, unsettling world-building. The underlying mystery appeals, if only because those unfamiliar with the dystopic SF genre do not know where it could go--and those familiar with the genre can imagine multiple outcomes all based on reasonably clear story-telling. Round and round and round the plot goes--where it will end is anyone's guess. But, of course, I haven't read the novel...

As I have said, I'm not all that fond of dark, dystopic SF, but as that genre goes, this proved to be worth at least the time the pilot took. One hopes to see the entire story--though I will confess, it's not my favorite of Amazon Prime's offered pilots this year. That honor goes to the entirely non-SF "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," a dramedy about the professional birth of a female stand-up comic in 1958 that rings all kinds of bells for me. But Oasis rates second place for me in spite of its dark genre--and that ought to be an endorsement of sorts. I want to see more episodes, and I am now tempted to read the novel. I certainly do not regret seeing the pilot episode, and can only say "Go thou and do likewise."

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