For Mickey Fisher, sci-fi series Extant has been the stuff of fantasy in more ways than one. Just six years ago he was an up-and-coming writer producing plays for a Kentucky theatre. Now, he claims the titles of creator and executive producer on a hit show, which stars Halle Berry and will make its UK TV debut on Syfy this month.
Everything changed for Fisher when his first TV script found its way into the hands of one of the most influential fantasy filmmakers of all time. “About three years ago I moved to LA to try to break into TV, and I spent about six months learning to write television,” Fisher told us. “I wrote this pilot and entered it into a contest. A couple of months later I was sitting in the offices of Amblin Television, and they were telling me they were going to show the script to Steven Spielberg.”
Extant sees Berry playing astronaut Molly Woods, who returns from a 13-month solo mission on a space station orbiting the Earth and discovers she’s pregnant. As she tries to reconnect with her family, she begins to uncover a conspiracy in which she might have been used to bring alien life to Earth. “The big themes are the questions we keep coming back to,” Fisher explains. “What does it mean to be human, and how do you preserve that thing that is human when you’re faced with an extraterrestrial life form and a powerful artificial intelligence? We go at that in a couple of ways. We’ve got it through Molly’s story with this new life that she’s brought back to Earth, and then in Ethan’s story.”
Ethan Woods looks and acts like a six-year-old boy, but is actually a sophisticated robot designed by Molly’s husband John (Goran Visnjic). Because John and Molly believe they can’t have children, they are raising Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) as their son, thereby testing John’s theory that exposing robots to human experience will make them more human.
Spielberg has clearly had a great influence on Fisher’s creation. “We were doing these phone meetings, and Steven was calling back with his thoughts. It was about an hour long, and we were brainstorming, kicking ideas back and forth. It was like an out-of-body experience where I floated outside of myself and realised, ‘You’re on the phone brainstorming with Steven Spielberg.’”
Extant: Season One is airing in the UK from 20 January at 9pm on Syfy. Keep up with the latest genre TV news in the most recent issue of SciFiNow.