Parenthood and religion dominate the engrossing, new sci-fi series Raised by Wolves, which mixes startling violence with philosophical conundrums. The brainchild of Prisoners screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (Ridley Scott joins as executive producer), this AI-obsessed stunner asks: can robots raise human children – and successfully rebuild civilisation in the process?
We won’t spoil what happens here, but the experiment doesn’t run smoothly. In charge of the operation are Danish actress Amanda Collin, who plays an android called Mother, and Abubakar Salim’s (Fortitude) Father. Together, they flee Earth which is gripped by a vicious religiously-motivated war, for the planet Kepler-22b with a booty of frozen embryos. Both are relative newcomers, and each gives a good account – but it’s Collin whose tour-de-force performance will be talked about the most. Similarly to Alicia Vikander’s creepily mechanical turn in Ex Machina, the lycra-clad actress expertly cycles through a progression of fierce emotions while retaining an otherworldly aura.
Elsewhere, Scott’s barren, futuristic wasteland will no doubt welcome Prometheus comparisons. Raised by Wolves flashes back to scenes on a spaceship, but we’re mostly bound to a mountainous, alien landscape littered with gigantic snake bones. Released several months after Westworld’s tech-heavy third season, this is a refreshing addition to the AI sub-genre.
Raised by Wolves doesn’t ignore its lineage though, and pays a debt to what came before with obvious references. Eventually, we discover that Mother’s true form is that of a necromancer: the name given to a supremely powerful machine capable of annihilating her enemies with one foul scream. Primed for attack mid-air, like a sinister cross between Marvel superhero Vision and Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, her piercing cry also evokes the Black Riders from Lord of the Rings. Other touchstones include the Terminator movies and Scott’s own ’80s masterpiece Blade Runner. It’s a sci-fi nerd’s dream.
“We will never advance unless you resist the urge to seek solace in fantasy,” Mother warns the children, before enemy soldiers from Earth crash land on their fledgling home world, bringing into play renewed theological tensions. This includes a couple played by Vikings’ Travis Fimmel and Calm With Horses‘ Niamh Algar, who make a strong case for themselves alongside Collin, Salim and the rest of the young cast. Some may struggle with the show’s perpetually dark imagery, but there’s enough moments of touching affection between child and robot to keep things afloat.
Having aired in America to widespread acclaim back in September, Raised by Wolves has already been commissioned for a second series. No complaints here – it’s one of 2020’s most unmissable TV experiences.