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  • Writer's pictureTrusty Henchman

Review: Alien Worlds Season 1 (2020)

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Too many humans walking in slow motion, not enough aliens.

I may have had a certain set of expectations that it wasn't fair to hold the series up to, mostly because I never saw the trailer and only had the series pitch of, "Applying the laws of life on Earth to the rest of the galaxy, this series blends science fact and fiction to imagine alien life on other planets.", to go off of. See I'm a big fan of speculative biology books (see Wayne Barlowe, Dougal Dixon, or the newer Almost Real books), so when I first spotted this I got super excited. And there are a lot of great bits to this short four episode series, but man do they lean hard on Earth.

Slooooow dramatic walking and a nice fancy dramatic shot are about 65% of the production.

And I don't want to be a complete asshole and poop all over the many accomplished specialists featured on the show and the very nice production values and cinematography. It's just that when you cut from this guy:

To this guy:

And subsequently spend more time with the falconer, if you're me then you quickly adapt a tone of, "Yeah yeah yeah yeAH YEah GET BACK TO THE SPIKEY TEETH MONSTER." To complicate that mood, everytime we cut from an alien planet to Earth we spend more time with the conceptual groundwork, and then when we cut back to the alien world they replay the previous alien footage. Which can be categorized as, "Hey we paid for the CGI, we're gonna use the CGI, even if it means regurgitating the same scene three times."

Which isn't to say that there isn't interesting information and well presented entertainment in the Earth sequences. I'm just saying that's not why I am here. I am here for these duderinos:

Besides my own hang ups from my expectations, the pacing is a little too repetitive and it distracted from the overall presentation. Essentially you can expect an episode to break down like this:

[Slight tease of cool aliens] or [Open with disappointing Earth]

>Jump to Earth example of concept

{Nice nature shot} + {Slow motion human walk}+{Learn something}

>Jump to alien world, set up creatures

{Cool, cool, cool oh we done already?}

>Jump back to Earth

{Nice nature shot} + {Slow motion human walk}+{Learn something}

>Jump to alien world

{Repeat end of previous CGI footage} + {Ok, some new stuff, cool oh we done?}

>Jump back to Earth

{Nice nature shot} + {Slow motion human walk}+{Learn something}

[Repeat 3 more times]

It's so exact in this type of structure that I essentially got used to the oncoming disappointment of how little alien world CGI there is in the show overall. And then to be a bit nitpicky, with only four episodes to the season I found the last two creature features to be a bit disappointing. Ep 1 and 2 give us some interesting designs, whereas Ep 3 gives us alien moth bunnies and stretchy arm monkeys. And while those are fine if we were talking about filling the ranks of a longer series, it feels like kind of a bland addition to such a small offering of servings.

And hey, this is someone who loves monkeys talking, alright?

Meanwhile, Ep 4 focuses on a civilization more advanced than our own and their colonization of other worlds. While interesting, it sort of broke the narrative tone of everything for me considering that alien culture should be observing our stupid ass civilization. And hopefully steering clear of actually making contact, which I know was one of the hopes of the human specialists of the episode but yeah, if 2020 has taught us anything it's that we shouldn't punish the rest of the universe with our existence just yet.

As an interesting aside, Ep 4 does feature a segment on the Arecibo Observatory, and the next day after I watched it this footage was released. Just saying, totally wasn't me trying to spare aliens from getting messages from Earth.

Despite my complaints, there are plenty of merits to the show. Visually it's sharp and offers plenty of beautiful shots during all the Earth sequences. There are interesting educational benefits to a lot of it, which are used to shore up the conceptual evolution of the alien world sequences. The CGI is really nice. Sophie Okonedo's narration is great, which is an important element because I've tried to watch some nature documentaries and the narrator just took me out of them completely. All in all, it's good with the exception of some pacing decisions and content balance.

Listen, I just want more alien duderinos, alright?

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