The Man Who Fell to Earth Review | TV program

An alien (Chiwetel Ejiofor) crashes into the desert of New Mexico on a mission: to find maverick scientist Justin Falls (Naomie Harris), the only person on Earth who can help save his planet. Together, the unlikely duo soon discover that it’s not just his world that needs saving.

Stream on: Paramount+

Watched Episodes: 3 of 10

Though one of the more unlikely picks for the requel treatment, a 21st-century update of Nicolas Roeg’s cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth (itself an update of Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel) actually makes a lot of sense. The story of an alien crash-landing on Earth, on a mission to save their dying planet, is an allegory for immigration and the human experience that has only become more topical over the years. And it is this contemporary resonance that showrunners Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek: Discovery) and Jenny Lumet (Picard) in this stylish, intriguing, sometimes unfocused decathlon.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is here in good shape as Faraday, the alien titular who arrives on Earth naked and alone in hopes of saving his kind. A soulful Naomie Harris forms the emotional core of the show facing him as brilliant scientist Justin Falls, whose work on cold fusion could save Faraday’s (and her own) kind. The fascinating dynamic between the pair – one childlike and wide-eyed at earthly wonders and the other dulled by her daily struggle to feed her daughter (Annelle Olaleye) and care for her ailing father (a twinkling Clarke Peters) – anchors the series due to its turbulent opening.

The dedication to sensorily evoke Faraday’s discombobulation through extreme close-ups and immersive sound design holds together the otherwise disparate elements of the show.

The combination of the show of Resident Alien-ish fish-out-of-water antics with more involved efforts to create a contemporary analog to the American immigrant experience leads to some sadly shocking tone shifts. To the credit of Kurtzman and Lumet, however, their dedication to sensory evoking Faraday’s discombobulation through extreme close-ups and immersive sound design pretty much holds together the two otherwise disparate elements of the show.

The introduction of Thomas Newton (formerly David Bowie, here cleverly recast as Bill Nighy) as Faraday’s mentor helps align things and tangibly connects this series to its cinematic predecessor. Elsewhere, the presence of Jimmi Simpson’s finicky CIA agent Spencer Clay, and Sonya Cassidy and Rob Delaney’s warring Big-Tech siblings Edie and Hatch, helps build more than enough mystery to make this worthwhile.

If you can get past its shaky start, this space quirk becomes an enjoyable exploration of humanity.

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