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'Pandora,' Debuting on the CW, is Cheesy…But in a Good Way
July 16, 2019  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front. 

The CW’s new summer series Pandora, which premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, is filmed in Bulgaria and features spacecraft that look like those old 1950s props where you could almost see the wires. 

That is to say, Pandora is working on a slightly lower budget than, say, Spielberg or The Avengers.  

Which doesn’t necessarily make it bad television. 

Pandora comes off as a complicated drama that requires a galaxy of hyphens, maybe starting with futuristic-sci-fi-action-mystery-thriller.

It’s also a family drama, in the sense that it opens with our lead character, Jax (Priscilla Quintana, top), watching her parents get blown up. For Jax as for, say, the future Batman, this trauma becomes both a life-defining trauma and the impetus for an obsessive mission to find out what really happened and why. 

With Jax, as with Bruce Wayne, the answer turns out to lie in a tangled maze of shadowy and dangerous manipulations that trickle out one disturbing factoid at a time. 

Pandora is not Batman, however, if only because it’s set in 2199, on an Earth more threatened by calculating and empowered aliens than by twisted humans like the Penguin or the Joker.  

Between clones and seemingly human characters with embedded AI parts, not to mention the aliens and the prevalence of seemingly random superpowers, just figuring out the lineup in Pandora might take the average viewer much of the first season. 

Happily, the show provides a clearer center – call it a plot oasis – when Jax enrolls in Earth’s Space Training Academy. To oversimplify slightly, this is the military school of the future, with students learning how to counter deadly threats from around the galaxy. 

She was fast-tracked for admission because her uncle, Professor Donovan Osborn (Noah Huntley), is the alpha professor at the Academy. He’s a weird dude, cordial and detached, feared and revered, and we feel zero surprise to learn he harbors important secrets. 

Soon after realizing her uncle is strange, Jax picks up your standard TV-issue diverse and quirky posse. This one includes the purple-haired Atria Nine (Raechelle Banno, below), a clone who liberated herself by killing her master; Greg Li (John Harlan Kim), a brilliant medical student with an eye for Jax; Thomas James Ross (Martin Bobb-Semple), who’s both brainy and gifted with telepathy; and Ralen (Ben Radcliffe), son of the Zatarian ambassador. That’s significant because the Zatarians have apparently conquered a bunch of the galaxy and their relationship with Earth is not marked by mutual trust. 

Jax also finds herself working regularly with Xander Duvall (Oliver Dench, top), her uncle’s teaching assistant. Xander, who is brilliant and slightly elusive himself, realizes Jax is hunting for the truth about her parents’ deaths, and clearly knows things she would like to know. Whether he’s going to share, well, that part isn’t so clear.  

As often happens in these setups, it turns out that almost everyone knows more than Jax, an inconvenience magnified when she gradually learns that even some of what she assumed she knew about her life is wrong. 

Pandora gives viewers a lot to sort out, and sci-fi geeks will probably figure things out faster than civilians. At the same time, we’re warned that the answers to many of Jax’s questions could visit terrible consequences on Earth and the rest of the civilized galaxy. 

Consistent with its multiple genres, Pandora features dialogue that’s fast and snappy. It also drops regular splashes of humor into its somber plotline, Ralen being a prime dispenser of droll one-liners. 

Like most sci-fi, Pandora presents fictional situations with easy extrapolation to modern-day real life. It also suggests that 180 years from now, we’re no closer to peaceful harmony. 

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Cary king
Pandora is terrible My 5 y/o niece could write a more coherent script. Do us a favor yank this disaster and replace it with anything.
Aug 3, 2019   |  Reply
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