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Ridley Scott Directs New HBO Max Series 'Raised By Wolves'

NOEL KING, HOST:

In the new sci-fi series "Raised By Wolves," the movie director Ridley Scott does TV. The series debuts on HBO Max today, and NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says it is inspired and also a little flawed.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "Raised By Wolves" is a good series that could've been great. It starts with one android speaking to another while they pull equipment out of a spacecraft that's about to fall down a huge crater.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISED BY WOLVES")

ABUBAKAR SALIM: (As Father) Would you like to hear a joke while we work this out? What did the male magnet say to the female magnet?

AMANDA COLLIN: (As Mother) Tell me.

SALIM: (As Father) He said, when I saw your backside, I was repelled. However, after seeing you from the front, I now find you very attractive.

DEGGANS: That odd interaction highlights one of the most interesting elements of "Raised By Wolves," the peculiar and stilted emotions of Mother and Father, two androids at the center of the show. They're trying to raise a colony of human children on a barren planet. They were sent out to rebuild humanity after a war between atheists and religious fundamentalists called the Mithraic wiped out most of the population on Earth. Mother tells the children in her care that atheism and a focus on technology will lead to a better world.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISED BY WOLVES")

COLLIN: (As Mother) Belief in the unreal can comfort the human mind, but it also weakens it. The civilization you're seeding here will be built on humanity's belief in itself, not an imagined deity.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) And if it's not imagined?

COLLIN: (As Mother) We will never advance unless you resist the urge to seek solace in fantasy.

DEGGANS: The plot gets thicker when a Mithraic ship bearing the rest of humanity comes to the planet. Father wants to contact the ship because after 12 years of living there, every child in their colony has died but one named Campion.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISED BY WOLVES")

SALIM: (As Father) There is only Campion. And when we break down, he will be alone. He needs to be with other humans. Even if the Mithraic are delusional, he is better off with them than with no one. We failed him, Mother, and we failed our children.

COLLIN: (As Mother, yelling) Stop speaking.

DEGGANS: As you can tell, Mother doesn't react well to Father's suggestion, leading to the mother of all parental fights.

Fans of Ridley Scott's "Alien" movies will recognize the look and feel of "Raised By Wolves." The technology and spacecraft has the sleek imagery of the tech in Scott's 2012 "Alien" movie "Prometheus." The planet's icky creatures look like some of the critters from 2017's "Alien: Covenant." And the androids have milky-white blood, just like Ash and Bishop from the first two "Alien" movies.

That's why the uneven quality of the show is so disappointing. The first two episodes are directed by Scott and outline a promising story on the nature of faith and humanity. But once the narrative moves beyond Scott's hands, everything gets bogged down.

Campion begins to mistrust Mother after her anger emerges in her fight with Father. He wonders if she really knows what's best for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAISED BY WOLVES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Campion) I know I'm not safe with her now, but I guess I never was. That part of her was always in there, hiding. Maybe there's something hiding inside of me, too.

DEGGANS: That's an interesting question which "Raised By Wolves" struggles to answer in the six episodes that I watched. Getting to the end of this 10-episode series is going to require a bit of faith that Scott and his team can somehow raise their game again. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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