Martin Carr reviews Raised By Wolves…
Several serious questions are raised in this science fiction series created by Aaron Gozikowski and overseen by Ridley Scott. Featuring colonising androids, desolate scrubland and fossilised dinosaur remains Raised By Wolves is an intriguing hybrid. Opening innocently with a spandex wearing pairing landing on an unpopulated rock known as Kepler 22b narrative is unpacked quickly.
Delicate moments of solitude are grounded through restrained performances by Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim, while events slowly gather momentum. As parents their ability to make this world feel tangible is crucial if audiences are to stay the distance, which is achieved through a combination of nuanced choices and understated visual effects. With both of these elements working in union their reality grows in stature with every passing minute, as they begin cultivating the makeshift homestead alongside a growing brood.
Visually Raised By Wolves is stunning as you expect from anything involving Scott so intensely. Beyond the obvious comparisons to Prometheus and that entire Blade Runner slash Alien back catalogue, this show has more going for it than just science fiction royalty standing on ceremony. It asks questions which have been puzzling humanity for years and one that Scott has come back to time and again throughout his career. Artificial intelligence, technological self-awareness and the possibility of inanimate objects possessing a consciousness comes up time and again. A topic which not only opens up debate, but seems to be the primary purpose behind this premise throughout.
As Mother and Father continue raising their children and outside forces are brought to bear this question gets no easier to answer. Throwing in opposing opinions on both sides as to the validity of religion, turns it from a simple sci-fi melodrama into something more contentious. Creator Aaron Gozikowski ensures that these children, adults and androids are given a richly detailed backstory drip fed through selective flashbacks. Travis Fimmel’s Marcus alongside Amanda Collin’s Mother pack the most surprises into those first three episodes, revelling in character choices which are never less than troubling.
Unfortunately as a show Raised By Wolves simply feels too large for the format. There are innumerable possibilities offering countless deviations, yet without parameters things feel laboured on occasion. Jumping backwards and forwards in time may give audiences dramatic context, but if the two time periods are not equally engaging there will be problems. When the issues under examination include parental responsibility, identity theft and underage indoctrination into religious institutions levity is in short supply.
With technocratic atheists on one side and religious zealots on another, tackling the ethical correctness of machines or humans from a parenting standpoint is an intellectual step too far. At that point the line between mainstream sci-fi mini-series and small screen TED talk has been breached. For those that like their science fiction to feel like an academic paper this will be the show for you. There is a slow burn quality which some will confuse with pacing issues, but density and intensity mean that Raised By Wolves requires an immense amount of audience investment.
Despite the detailed back stories it feels like the show short changes audiences on character development in favour of addressing larger world concerns. For that reason although it is technically stunning in terms of on screen reality, there is a clinical undertone which diminishes any possibility for an emotional connection. For all the panoramic vistas, flawless effects shots and bravado world building Raised by Wolves may prove to be more intellectually appealing than anything else.