10 part French sci-fi series Missions certainly knows how to make the most of what it has, given the low budget this show ended up having. Boasting an intriguing mystery woven through the episodes and a constant feeling of uneasiness hanging over large stretches of the narrative, Missions is both compelling and competently written. The core group of characters at the heart of the show keep the narrative flowing at a consistent pace but its ultimately the tonally resilient way this sci-fi series keeps the mystery and dread high that makes it such a decent watch.
The story begins with an ominous prologue from 1967 showing a Soluz 1 Capsule losing control and disappearing en route to the Red Planet. Fast forward in time and we begin our tale with a planned European expedition to Mars featuring the brightest mind from Europe’s elite talent pool. Among them is Jeanne Renoir (Hélène Viviès) who works as the ship’s psychologist, evaluating the mental well-being of those on-board. 10 months into the flight and hours before touching down, they’re told by the financier of the expedition, William Meyer (Mathias Mlekuz), that a previous ship touched down before them. It’s at this point where the mission directive changes to one of rescue rather than exploration. When they do eventually touch down and go looking for the lost ship what they find is far stranger than they could ever have imagined.
While Missions’ story unfolds at a decent pace, wracked with a heavy dose of tension and dread, the unsettling performance from Vladamir (Arben Bajraktaraj) is ultimately what makes this such a compelling show to sink into. Hélène Viviès does a good job trying to match his performance, especially during the more important bites of dialogue, but Vladamir’s performance is still the stand out here. As the episodes progress and Vladamir becomes more and more important to the main plot line, his acting keeps the tension high with every unpredictable action he takes. At 23 minutes an episode, Missions is relatively easy to binge watch too and marks an impressive, accessible entry from France into the sci-fi genre.
The show is is really well shot too, given the relatively low budget. A wide array of camera angles help give this one an artistic flair but the sound design is really what sets this apart from other, more generic sci-fi thrillers. A masterfully executed use of off-key string segments and bites of silence combine to make the action far more tense-stricken than it perhaps would have been without this.
Missions is simply a well written, impressive sci-fi series that uses its constantly evolving mystery to good effect. Although at times it isn’t quite as absorbing as other sci-fi shows nor is it likely to garner a large audience given its low budget sets and primary focus on characterisation, but despite this what Missions does it does very well. While this one is unlikely to be remembered as a classic in years to come, there’s still a compelling, well written story here worth checking out.