If you happen to watch any series of a scripted nature on The CW, you won’t be surprised when I describe the emotionally complex (and, of course, the highly attractive) cast of the new science fiction drama “Pandora.” Priscilla Quintana is Jax (a.k.a. Pandora, the code name given to her by the EarthCon Intelligence Services), a badass, yet vulnerable young woman who enrolls at Earth’s Training Academy after losing everything. There she connects with a group of also millennial-aged individuals as they learn to defend the Galaxy from threats (amid the typical relationship turbulence of anyone in that age range).
Next is John Harlan Kim as Greg Li, a brilliant medical student and Jax’s initial love interest. Oliver Dench is teacher’s assistant and intelligence agent Xander Duvall. In this role, Dench finds the right balance between heroism and vulnerability. Ben Radcliffe is Ralen, a member of an alien species that was at war with Earth some years ago and who is distrusted by Earthlings. Ralen, who is the son of an alien ambassador, has his own agenda for attending the Academy. Banita Sandhu plays Delaney Pilar, Jax’s roommate, and a young woman who has her own special connection to the “Datastream” of the future. Then we have Raechelle Banno as purple-haired Atria Nine, the bubbly and free-spirited member of the group; and Martin Bobb-Semple as Thomas James Ross, the son of a telepath who retains some of his father’s psychic abilities.
Oh, and did I mention that Thomas happens to hook up with Atria (who also, by the way, is a clone)?
Since no CW drama is complete without a fatherly figure, Noah Huntley is pitch perfect as Professor Donovan Osborn, Jax’s uncle and an intimidating professor at the Earth Space Training Academy. As with other popular CW series, “Pandora” is chock full of guest stars, many drawn from the world of sci-fi television.
The scoop: After the unexpected death of Jax’s parents during a surprise attack on an alien planet in the opening scene of “Pandora,” which is set in 2199, Osborn enrolls Jax in the Earth Space Training Academy, where he informs Jax that the investigation into her parents’ death has been called off. Naturally, Jax is not about to let that stop her from finding out the truth. Not surprisingly, there is more information that Osborn is not telling Jax, which sets this unsolved mystery in motion. And Jax is not without some secrets of her own.
Like any CW superhero drama or science fiction entry that warrants great debate about what exactly has occurred, nothing is ever simple on “Pandora.” And that specific distinction is all the more reason to expect an ongoing discussion on social media (not to mention a presence for “Pandora” at any Comic Con gathering). There are many angles to consider when deciphering the various storylines on “Pandora.”
With the stage set for what feels like the science fiction version of “Riverdale,” with shades of the type of storytelling seen on the granddaddy of them all, “Star Trek,” “Pandora” feels like a combination of part soapy college drama, part conspiracy drama, part sci-fi drama, and, at its best, Netflix sensation “Stranger Things.” One scene in the pilot episode of “Pandora,” in particular, is reminiscent of the Upside Down in that troubled fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
As the center of this tale of youthful angst and ambitious redemption, Priscilla Quintana looks like Jessica Biel and Courtney Cox combined (aforementioned badass meets the likability factor). Determined in her search for answers, Quintana’s Jax is someone not to mess with. Yet, with age (or lack of it on “Pandora”), the interaction of the key characters gives the series another level outside of the core mystery. And the mystery in this first season (through episode five in this review) offers an array of diverse, young characters we want to learn more about. Add to that a solid production, an effective futuristic backdrop and costume design, and the type of mythology we can ponder indefinitely, “Pandora” looks to be a science fiction show that will be here for many seasons to come.
Do I completely understand what’s happening so far on “Pandora”? Not quite yet. But that’s the attraction of this type of sci-fi storytelling…the unknown. Under the guidance of showrunner/producer Mark A. Altman (“The Librarians,” “Castle”), executive producer Steve Kriozere (“NCIS,” “Necessary Roughness”), and producer Thomas P. Vitale, the former Executive Vice President of Programming & Original Movies for Syfy and Chiller, I can already envision future nerd conclaves filled with cosplayers dressed as their favorite characters from this intriguing, crisply written, and slickly produced series.
“Pandora” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW, and previous episodes stream on the CW App.
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