It’s pilot season, and Amazon is again asking viewers to suggest which of their shows should move forward this year. One of them is Oasis, a scifi drama about a chaplain who helps bring religion to a dying space colony. Also, God might be there. Or aliens. Or both. It’s kind of hard to tell at this point.
Oasis stars Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden as Peter, a priest with a past who’s asked to travel to Oasis, a distant space colony that’s supposed to be humanity’s last hope (in 25 years, our entire planet’s gonna go to shit... so we all have that to look forward to). The corporate-sponsored colony is presented as a sustainable utopia for the 1%, an Elysium-type paradise that’s also proudly free of religion. Only problem is, Oasis is far from perfect. The crops are dying, the station’s leader has vanished, and oh... people keep oddly killing themselves like they forgot The Happening sucked.
As Peter grows accustomed to his new life on Oasis, along with his dyslexic botanist buddy played by Haley Joel Osment, he grows more worried that something truly strange is going on. Colonists keep having visions of people and animals close to them, leading them to hurt or even kill themselves. This episode’s victim is Mark Addy, who previously shared screen time with Madden as Robert Baratheon on Game of Thrones. His death came after an emotional confessional scene between Addy and Madden, easily the best in the episode because those two can act circles around everything else. Then, he walked into a drill, and I was pissed. Dammit, another Baratheon gone too soon.
The pilot ends with more questions than answers. The interim station manager has seized command, Peter’s having visions of his dead wife, and no one’s explained what’s actually in the “Turkey Surprise.” It’s obvious something metaphysical is going on, but right now there’s no way of knowing who or what it actually is. At this point, it’s unclear how much Oasis will even follow the plot of The Book of Strange New Things, the 2014 novel it’s based on, which was about a preacher teaching aliens about Christianity.
The Oasis pilot has its flaws, as most pilots do, but it shows a lot of potential. It’s directed by Kevin MacDonald, who previously did The Last King of Scotland and 11.22.63, and it’s fantastically put together. The whole planet looks dangerous and foreboding, and MacDonald really makes you feel lost in space, but the limited sets of the inner colony do get repetitive. Madden sells every scene he’s in, giving Peter a lot of depth and sincerity, but most of the other colonists need more character development. They’re kind of two-dimensional stick figures at this point. Plus, and this is a minor nitpick, the score sounds like it was ripped straight out of Mass Effect... and even that soundtrack was inspired by other futuristic works.
Still, I definitely recommend checking Oasis out and sharing your thoughts with Amazon. Given the positive reception so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets picked up for a season, and I’d be excited to see what they do with the show. I love seeing scifi stories that examine the relationship between faith and science, from Shepherd Book on Firefly to Netflix’s show The OA. On Sunday, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on one of Amazon’s other intriguing pilots, the vigilante comedy The Legend of Master Legend.