Amazon has rolled out a pilot for a new science fiction series called Oasis, based on the novel The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. Unfortunately, I have not read the novel. The novel’s description barely sounds like what unfolded in the pilot. Readers compare the book to A Case of Conscience or A Canticle for Leibowitz, while I thought of Solaris while watching the TV show. Because we’ve only seen the 59-minute pilot, there’s no telling where the show will go, but I hope it incorporates more of the book – The Book of Strange New Things sounds fascinating.
As I watched the pilot, I felt I was seeing a series of iconic science fiction tropes that should appeal to the average science fiction fan looking for a new science fiction show. The only thing, the story didn’t feel very science fictional – at least not so far, and not to me. Peter Leigh (Richard Madden) is a pastor/chaplain whose wife has died and he’s mysteriously invited to travel to another planet because they claim to desperately need his skills. Peter arrives at the colony world only to find a miserable outpost where people suffer from menacing hallucinations. Three have died already. In the book, the preacher goes to another planet to teach the natives about Christianity. Now that could still happen in the television series, but the pilot didn’t introduce any native inhabitants on the colony world. It seems quite barren.
I ask, “Where’s the science fiction,” because of the nature of the story. It feels like a mystery. Why is a pastor needed to solve what might be a psychological or medical problem? Why are the people hallucinating? The same plot could be set on Earth today. Of course, this might reflect my jaded feelings toward science fiction. Spaceships and colony worlds don’t equal science fiction to me anymore. Conflicts built around off-world corporate shenanigans or galactic palace intrigue no longer means science fiction to me. I need something more.