This is a sponsored article as part of a paid activation with HireInfluence on behalf of ExtinctTV. This article contains spoiler-free references to the premiere episode of Extinct.
Don’t let the fact that Extinct is airing on BYUtv throw you off. Just because the station is owned by Brigham Young University, which in turn is operated by the Church of Latter Day Saints, doesn’t make this show “churchy” sci-fi; neither does the fact that noted author and LDS church member Orson Scott Card is attached to the project. Extinct has a premise that measures up to any science fiction show from more traditional outlets: what if humans went extinct and then were brought back artificially after centuries had passed on Earth?
In fact, the vision that Extinct outlines is a completely novel one, presenting something quite different from the dark space dramas and pessimistic post-apocalypses that dominate genre television these days. Instead, the show begins with the rebirth of humanity and only glimpses through flashbacks the alien invasion that wiped out the species. Although conflicts exist between those who revived the chosen humans and those who would see them remain extinct, the message is one of hope: through courage and unity, the group will survive.
BYUtv is not new to this type of programming. After the critical success of its drama, Granite Flats; starring Christopher Lloyd, Cary Elwes, Parker Posey, and George Newbern; the network is broadening the scope of its mission with the introduction of Extinct to the line-up. That mission is to bring “a breadth of original ‘see the good in the world’ programming that fills a void in entertainment the entire family can enjoy,” according to the BYUtv website. So how does a science fiction show about survival in a barren and sometimes hostile world keep its edge while staying family-friendly?
For one thing, the premiere episode, which was written by New York Times bestselling author Aaron Johnston, who co-created the show with Card, has a strong central mystery at its core. The question of why humanity was wiped out by aliens in the first place lingers in the background, but the more immediate conundrum is why and how the three main characters, Ezra, Feena, and Abram, were brought back by a different race of aliens 400 years after the last Earth native died. The exposition and dialogue that has the characters familiarizing themselves with each other, their new existence, and the world around them is deftly handled, which can be tricky to balance with plot in a pilot episode.
Additionally, the premiere has plenty of suspenseful moments and unexpected twists to nicely round out the introductory nature of the story. For example, the life of one character is in danger almost from the start after confronting a human-appearing pursuer that is not what he seems. The landscape is dotted with remnants of civilization as well as evidence of the apocalyptic conflict centuries ago, and new technology that has sprung up in its place presents its own unknown dangers as well, intriguing the audience right away.
All that being said, there are some metaphysical questions that do in fact arise. For instance, the Reborns, as they’re called, are re-constituted by tiny, bioluminescent DNA weavers called “sparks,” and when Feena asks if they’re God, their drone guide asks philosophically, “Is the plow a farmer?” implying the instrument of their resurrection was but a tool. Later, when a character’s injury is healed, one of the Reborns asks, “Was that a miracle or was that science?” and another answers, “Both, I think.”
But who says theology and science fiction don’t mix? One character in a flashback does entreat her family to pray, but why shouldn’t she? The aliens have come to destroy all life on Earth! And besides, Extinct does not shy away from crises of faith in the group’s journey towards understanding how such absolute destruction could be allowed to happen and why they, of all people, were chosen to return as progenitors for a renewed human race. Hints at a dark secret in Feena’s past, for example, prove that the Reborns are far from perfect.
Extinct should be on everyone’s list this fall, not because of its message or its origins, but because it’s good sci-fi, period. A compelling puzzle is presented from the very start along with likable characters, a beautifully-shot future setting, and a script that moves things along at a swift but believable pace. The show begins with six of the ten episodes available right away on October 1, 2017 via BYUtv and online at extinct.tv. Follow the show on social: #ExtinctTVFan and @Extinct.tv.
*Disclosure: This post was written by Den of Geek as part of a paid activation with HireInfluence on behalf of ExtinctTV. All thoughts and editorial opinions are on behalf of the writer.*