In March Amazon released the pilot of a new sci-fi show, Oasis. Set in a near-future where the climate change has damaged the Earth seemingly beyond the point of no return the show follows the path of Peter Leigh, a priest who travels to a distant planet that it is hoped can become a new home for humanity.
Peter Leigh, played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark), is a priest in an overcrowded, poor slum in an unhealthy near-future Earth. The pilot begins with him comforting his wife who is dying of cancer and some of her final words to him are that God has plans for him.
The programme wastes no time in bringing Peter into “the plot” as he is contacted by David Morgan, the chief architect of the Oasis Project, which aims to colonise another planet and save the human race from its dying world. After the death of his wife he agrees to travel to this colony and see if he can contribute.
The planet he arrives on has similar gravity to Earth but it is an arid world with little water and frequent sandstorms. This as a dangerous place to live, and despite having a breathable atmosphere the lack of water is the major hurdle the colonists have to overcome. There is tension as Leigh arrives. The colonists were hoping for an engineer but instead were sent a priest, and the project’s leader, David Morgan, has gone missing into the wilderness of the planet.
While I agree that it seems a ludicrous idea that a priest is summoned to Oasis, there’s clearly a reason that Morgan felt it necessary to send for a priest and I hope this is gradually revealed as the story progresses.
Oasis conveniently glosses over much of the background and science that make this colonisation possible. I would expect an explanation of how the planet was discovered, why it is the only hope for colonisation in the whole galaxy, how they can travel half way across the galaxy so quickly, how it has a breathable atmosphere with no plants, which country or agency is responsible for the mission, how do they communicate with Earth, and many other questions. As an audience with greater knowledge of the realities of space travel and planetary colonisation, and that is more used to seeing these things explained in a believable way (The Martian, The Expanse) we expect more from sci-fi shows nowadays. Maybe these things will be explained is the first season – I think they will need to be explained well to make it believable.
What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light
It gradually starts to become clear that strange things are occurring in this new world. People are having visions that lead to several untimely deaths, and the phrase “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light” seems somehow relevant.
Oasis is based in the the novel “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michael Faber and follows the well-trodden path of pitting colonists against unknown forces in a hostile alien environment. We’ve seen this familiar Sci-Fi trope in a host of Films and TV shows over the last decade, including Outcasts, The 100, Lost, Terra Nova and even Avatar.
The show has a strong, multicultural cast, the acting was good throughout, and production values are very high as you’d expect from an Amazon Production.
Ultimately the pilot episode shows us just enough to be interesting, but not nearly enough to know where the story is ultimately going. The final scene leaves our “hero” in the dark as to what’s causing things to go so badly wrong – it’s a case of wait and see for him and for us viewers.
Oasis was an enjoyable way to spend an hour, creating a reasonably believeable world in which to develop an interesting plot. It was good enough that, had it already been made, I would have immediately watched the next episode.
However I fear it could be in danger of a very quick cancellation if the pilot doesn’t create enough buzz or the first season doesn’t get decent viewing figures.
It reminds me most of Outcasts from the BBC. Colonising a barren alien world far from a dying Earth. An actor from Game of Thrones. Mysterious external dangers. But Outcasts was cancelled after just one season and I can see the same happening to Oasis. On the other hand, if the source material is good enough and the inconsistencies in the science can be explained then it could become a hit like Lost. I guess only time will tell.