Opening Pandora’s Box
When it comes to science fiction, the genre is chock full of imaginative and impressive titles. From the criminally underrated The Expanse to the juggernaut of both the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, it’s always a tough ask to deliver something that’ll stand the test of time next to these titles. The CW’s latest effort, Pandora, is not just a bad show, it’s one that unfortunately feels lazy, with stilted, ham-fisted dialogue, questionable costuming and an underwhelming first episode that does little to hide the issues with this series.
We begin with a young woman out for a jog only to find her home, and family, destroyed by a powerful blast from space. After mourning her loss in the flames, we then jump forward in time to see her on board a space shuttle, landing on another part of a futuristic Earth. The year is 2199 and it’s here where we meet our protagonist for the first time, a woman named Jax. Her Uncle and Professor prepares her for class at Earth’s Space Training Academy. She arrives late to her first lesson and her teacher gives her a frosty reception for her troubles. After the initial embarrassment wears off, she heads off with a few of her classmates for some drinks at the nearby bar.
It’s here we meet Thomas, Greg Li and purple-haired Atria. After sharing a few drinks and eating what appears to be a bowl of Doritos, we then meet Ralen, an Atarian and the first of his race to come to Earth. He thanks Jax for her hospitality but the rest of the group aren’t sure on him. Later that evening, Jax has a shower and gets ready for an evening party. Once there, she asks her Uncle for help with the investigation into her parents. He refuses, prompting Jax to storm out while Xander tells him he should tell her the truth, which he declines.
The classes continue and Jax finds herself out on the field in a computer simulation. Unable to deal with the explosions, given they remind her of her parents, she runs out crying. Ralen hurries after her and she tells him about the closed investigation into her parents prompting them to spring into action and find some answers.
We then receive more background on our characters before Jax flies out away from Earth where they learn the investigation hasn’t actually been completely closed. Detecting lifeforms, Jax lands the ship and immediately runs into Xander who tells her to leave but she refuses. Giving in, he shows her recovered data-logs which she deciphers immediately. It turns out her parents found something that threatened the galaxy.
Deeper in the cave she finds a mysterious portal but, ignoring all warnings, she grabs Xander and pulls them into the portal. “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, Jax laughs, a reference she shouldn’t understand given that film came out 200 years prior to the show’s setting. Hearing gunfire, they head back through the portal and find themselves under attack. The kids band together and stop the alien threat before we cut back to a space freighter where Jax tries to learn more about Xander. After getting nowhere, she says goodnight and heads off while Xander discusses the alien with one of the scientists who informs him that Jax is not wholly human.
Back at the Academy, Xander debriefs Osborn and he calls her Pandora, warning against her threat while Ralen has orders not to allow the freighter to reach Earth with the alien specimen.
With a lack of world building and some really sloppy dialogue, I really wanted to like Pandora, given my love of all thing sci-fi. Based on this showing it’s a difficult show to recommend. With so many other options out there, Pandora stumbles over almost every facet of its production. It’s always tricky to build a believable world so far in the future and in a way, Pandora’s enthusiastic attempt at showcasing something so far ahead of our time was always going to run into problems without the budget to back it up.
The costume design is lacklustre at best too and some of the questionable jokes and anachronisms feel out of place in this time period. Whilst the main narrative around Jax’s parents has enough intrigue to keep you watching the episode, despite being pretty cliched, whether it has enough to see you through the entire series is another matter. The contrived dialogue feels like a wall that’s been placed between the actors and every time the script feels like it finds its groove, we receive another ham-fisted monologue that offsets the pace of the conversation.
If Pandora had embraced its 90’s feel and attempted to deliver something that paid homage to these old shows, perhaps akin to something like Galaxy Quest in both tone and style, Pandora may well have hit its stride. As it stands though it’s a show that fails to really make its mark on the genre with an indifferent first episode with too many flaws to look past. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but Pandora’s opening episode gets this new CW series off to a disappointing start.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!