The sci-fi, drama, thriller, mystery TV show “Extant” was created by Mickey Fisher and executively produced by Steven Spielberg which premiered on July 09, 2014 AD.
The story begins with astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) safely returning home after a baker’s dozen years in space to find herself pregnant with the date of conception being whilst she was alone on the solo mission.
The series contains some interesting double meanings in names, terms, scenery, etc. For example, the space station is called “Seraphim” which is the plural title for certain six winged paranormal entities within the Bible (see Isaiah 6).
This article is not so much about the, point by point, plot but about attempting to discern some of the meanings being conveyed via the show.
While on the Seraphim, Molly Woods experienced a sort of vision of her dead boyfriend (with whom she had shacked up and had unmarried sex as she had been pregnant: there was a car accident wherein he was killed and she lost the baby).
The show also pertains to the artificial intelligence aspect of transhumanism (see my section on transhumanism) and we find that Woods’ husband, Dr. John Woods (Goran Visnjic), has built an android (a human looking robot) whom they take in as their son. The android, called Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), a Hebrew name meaning strong, consistent, is the result of the “Humanichs Project” thus, such androids are known as “Humanichs.”
Dr. Woods plays the utterly stuck up Atheist as, for example, within the first episode the following exchange takes place:
DODD: Dr. Woods, my name is Femi Dodd. I chair a number of programs for Mr. Yasumoto. What is the protocol in the event your experiment fails? Do you have an emergency plan for their shutdown? To preserve their power?
WOODS: Absolutely. It’s called Interlude Mode.
DODD: Excuse me, Dr. Woods. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for the resting mode. I meant for their termination.
WOODS: To kill them?
DODD: That wording is a bit inelegant but yes.
WOODS: Do you have a child?
DODD: I have a daughter.
WOODS: Do you have a plan to kill her? (scoffs)
DODD: My daughter’s a human being.
WOODS: I don’t understand the difference.
DODD: Well, for starters, she has a soul.
WOODS: With all due respect, Ms. Dodd, there is no such thing as a soul. What you call a soul, I call a cumulative effect of a lifetime of experience. Simple information traveling in the neuropathways in your daughter’s brain.
DODD: Believe it or not, Dr. Woods, there are plenty of people in this world who still believe that there is more to us than can be explained by science.
WOODS: Well those people are idiots.
DODD: I am one of those idiots.
WOODS: I’m sorry.
DODD: I accept your apology.
WOODS: No, I mean I’m sorry you’re one – of those idiots. How dare you? – How dare you ask me do I have a contingency plan to murder my son.
DODD: And you’re asking us for funding that can unleash thousands, maybe millions of these Humanichs on the world. It’s a perfectly valid question…
WOODS: Absolutely none.
Not only are androids, full robots, being built but advances in technology have continued producing prosthetics for humans. For example, Julie Gelineau (Grace Gummer) Dr. Woods’ Humanichs Project assistant has two artificial legs from mid-thigh down (in the first season alone she had unmarried sex with two men).
The aforementioned Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) is the owner of the Yasumoto Corporation. He has sustained his life for circa one and a half centuries via a fluid he found which dripped out of a meteorite. He must receive periodic treatments with the fluid and when he does so he is shown wearing only a leather looking apron which appears to be symbolic of the aprons worn by Freemasons. In fact, there is a “Dr. Mason” within the show.
There is also a heavy reliance on evolution. There is a scene in which the camera pans from a book shelf contains Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” then pans to the episode titled, “A New World” and keeps panning to another book shelf on which a book is see the title to which is “Genesis.”
At one point Ethan is in a museum looking at one of those mythological displays showing the supposed evolution of man from apes at which time the museum guide robot approaches him and the following exchange ensues:
ROBOT: Please step back. The Chain of Evolution is not an interactive display. I see you are interested in the Neanderthal. I can tell you more about him, if you like.
ROBOT: Neanderthal Man went extinct about 30,000 years ago.
ROBOT: “Extinct” is to no longer exist.
ETHAN: Why did they go extinct?
ROBOT: Extinction happens for many reasons. In almost all cases, strong species survive and the weak ones die. It’s called survival of the fittest.
ETHAN: What happened to the Neanderthal?
ROBOT: Homo sapiens came to Eurasia, where the Neanderthals lived, and they were better able to survive because they were stronger and smarter.
ETHAN: What’s a Homo sapien?
ROBOT: Homo sapien is the name of the species that modern man is a part of. You, for example, are a Homo sapien.
ETHAN: No. I’m not.
ROBOT: I apologize for my mistake. What species are you?
At this point Molly interrupts, as she had been looking for Ethan, and the conversation ends. There is also a reference to hoping that human with alien hybridization will cause an evolutionary punctuated equilibrium: a quantum leap from humanity to………something else.
Molly ends up giving birth to what is a half human and half alien. The alien protects itself from real or perceived danger by causing people to murder each other. At one point, she argues that the “Offspring,” as it is called, was only mass and serial murdering people due its Darwinian survival instinct so it must be okay. So much for evolutionary ethics.
As it turns out, Yasumoto Corporation had sought the source of the fluid and encountered some form of sentient alien life which is referred to as spores as that is how they appear. The aliens have the ability to induce hallucinations. Thus, they attempt to control and endear themselves to humans by having them hallucinate deceased loved ones. For example, aboard the Seraphim, Molly hallucinated her dead boyfriend and underwent missing time. She reviewed the video footage which only showed her interacting with nothing/no one.
Yasumoto is running out of the fluid and only has days to live. He seeks immortality via uploading the content of his brain into a robotic body (something envisaged at least since Fritz Lang’s 1927 AD movie “Metropolis”).
Thus, Molly is the styled mother of two boys in an immaculate manner, in a manner of speaking. She is mysteriously pregnant with the one and adopted the other non human one. In fact, Yasumoto makes reference to various such miraculous births in the stories of Vishnu, Buddha and Jesus.
Other terms/names of interest are the Seraphim stations’ artificial intelligence which is named Ben which is Hebrew for “son.” At one point, Ben states, “I’m afraid I can’t do that” which is an amusing reference to Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Another artificial intelligence being developed that is names Lucy. This appear to be employed, much as in the Scarlett Johansson “Lucy” as a reference to the monkey that was at one time thought to be a human ancestor and is sadly, still being promulgated as such in some textbooks, museums, pop-culture, etc.
Ethan is also called “Rabbit” by Gelineau and when he was still a program within a computer system she used to read the story “The Velveteen Rabbit” to him. The story is about a boy who has a favorite stuffed animal toy that he loves so much that it becomes real: a rabbit version of the Pinocchio story.
There is also an anti-high tech advocate who uses the pseudonym “Odin” which, within the show, is said to be the god of war and poetry.
One character gets high on a gas called “Absalom” which is a Hebrew compound word/name made up of abba – father and shalom – peace.
There is also some pyramid/triangle symbolism as well as a metal ball levitation game that, when completed properly, looks somewhat like a Kabbalistic “tree of life.”
By season 1’s end, Ethan’s body is destroyed and it turns out that he lives on now existing “everywhere” within the show’s version of the internet. Thus, he has become omnipresent if nothing else.
Thus, overall the show is interesting as it combines existential issues, transhumanism, evolution, etc. and does so via the obvious, the metaphoric and the symbolic.
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