Science fiction is a hard genre to translate to television. There have been many fantastic science fiction shows such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and Babylon 5, but for each one of those successes, there have been countless failures. A science fiction TV show has more work to do than just a simple drama or comedy, it needs to build an entire world, and make it believable. To achieve that you need a good budget, an amazing team of filmmakers, and also good writing.
To miss in any of these categories would mean that the illusion of a world where technology has reached levels that in reality are still just dreams would be shattered. Not being able to achieve this illusion would destroy every single chance of the audience getting into the world. Science fiction nurtures itself on ideas, and if those ideas are not compelling, or they are badly implemented, then it won’t matter what you do, the story will not be able to grab the audience.
Moonhaven, the new streaming show by AMC+ comes to try to achieve all those goals and deliver a new fantastic tale of possibilities. However, while the story of Moonhaven, and the characters are quite compelling, a generic world design and a lack of resources end up selling the illusion short. This is a shame because the show’s premise is the perfect scenario for the exploration of ideas on humanity and how we relate to each other when we are so different.
Moonhaven comes from the mind of Peter Ocko, the man behind the astounding and very short-lived series Lodge 49. Lodge 49 had an amazing sense of humanity, humor, and most of all fun. It was just a fun show to watch, even if you didn’t know where the story was going to go, or what exactly was happening in the story itself. It was all about the characters finding themselves living in a universe that doesn’t really care about the passions and wants of the people.
Moonhaven tries to capture those same feelings, but fails to be a fun show. Everything that happens is quite interesting, there is no doubt about that. The show premises circles around a Utopia that have been created on the Moon. This utopia had the job of working alongside a power AI called IO to solve the problems of humanity back on Earth. Hunger, war, sickness, the people on Earth can seem to catch a break, but our cousins on the moon have the solution.
The big problem is that as the Mooners get ready to finally come to Earth and share their finding with the rest of humanity, a dark conspiracy seems to be taking shape. This conspiracy will not only ruin the chances of the Earthers for survival, but also threatens to destroy the utopia on the moon. The fact that in just three generations, the people on the moon have become so different from the people on Earth is also a difficult issue that will surely bring issues in the future.
So, while the show is having all these great conversations about human nature, free will, and identity, the presentation falls too flat to make the show stand out. The sets look cheap, there is a severe lack of visual effects, and it all feels very tame, very in the present, although we are talking about the future. A future where traveling between the Earth and the Moon can be done in just a couple of hours. The show really needed a bigger budget, but also a bit more imagination.
The cast of the show includes Emma McDonald, Dominic Monaghan, Jon Manganiello, and Amara Karan. All the cast are doing their best jobs in the roles they are given. Emma McDonald especially shines as Bella Sway, the show’s protagonist, a rebellious badass young woman that comes in contact with the Mooners, with which she has a strained relationship. McDonald’s has tons of charisma, and she looks the part of the perfect sci-fi protagonist.
McDoland’s delivery in dialogue and body language is extremely cool, and she is a very compelling figure to follow around. Monaghan also shines in the role of Paul, a detective so naive and innocent that means he is quite ineffective in his job, and yet you want to root for him. Paul and Bella come together very quickly and their friendship is a major part of the story as they learn from each other, exchanging information from their very different backgrounds.
So, yeah, Moonhaven doesn’t really have the resources to create a believable world on screen, but the ideas presented on the show are quite compelling in their own right. The series starts with the introduction of a big mystery, and that pushes the narrative forward quite well. The show never gets tempted into screaming its ideas to the screen or to go as fast as it can to get the audience to the crazy revelations. Instead, it chooses to be methodical and trusts that the audience will go along for the ride.
It is something really hard to ask from audiences nowadays. But those who get trapped in the mystery, and the sense of dread that comes with the fact that the plan to bridge both Earthers and Mooners is doomed to fail, will love this show from beginning to end. The show’s first season will only last for six episodes. We can only hope that the ideas can remain fresh throughout. As it is, Moonhaven is a Sci-fi show that every fanatic of the genre needs to watch.
It is flawed, for sure, but there is also a lot here to appreciate and look forward to.