Amazon's 'Oasis' boasts a stunning pilot

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Sunday, March 26, 2017 - 4:27pm

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“Oasis”

Pilot

Amazon

There’s no better feeling than watching a well-executed pilot. It’s invigorating knowing that there’s a new show with endless possibilities — like there’s a vast world just waiting to be explored. I came away with this feeling after watching the premiere episode for Amazon’s latest science-fiction project, “Oasis.” The pilot dazzles with its distinct, compelling storyline and an accompanying soundtrack that perfectly matches the dark tone of the series.

Examining the intersection of religion and space travel, “Oasis” follows a devoted chaplain, Peter Leigh (Richard Madden, “Game of Thrones”), as he accepts an invitation to join a conglomerate colonizing a new planet. Serving as the company’s religious resource for its employees, Leigh begins to discover the truth about the corporation and the planet itself. It’s a premise that is as new as it is exciting and provocative. The show’s unique setup prompts thought-provoking questions about the future of space exploration and the role that private companies have in this developing industry. Drawing inspiration from famed works like “28 Days Later” and “1984,” the series’s dystopian undertones are especially intriguing and entertaining to watch. The corporation is often portrayed as a sort of Big Brother, with one of the planet’s scientists claiming about the company: “They monitor the planet, and they monitor us.”

Complementing “Oasis” ’s powerful narrative is a gorgeous original score. Composed by Martin Phipps (“Peaky Blinders”), the soundtrack uses primarily sweeping organ sounds mixed with low guitar notes to create an ominous atmosphere of mystique and intrigue. The score bears resemblance to that of another similar space drama, “Interstellar,” in its reliance on the organ. The organ sounds used in “Oasis” seem especially fitting for a show addressing the idea of religion on a newly colonized planet. The entire series benefits from the incredible original score, with its thundering crescendos synching up perfectly with powerful scenes in the show.

Along with its beautiful soundtrack, one of the biggest strengths of “Oasis” is its cinematography, which features stunning wide shots of the series’s desert planet. Displaying the planet’s mountainous sand dunes and arid conditions, “Oasis” decides to leave most of these breathtaking shots for the second half of the pilot, ostensibly to build excitement among viewers. The delay is ultimately worth it, as audiences are rewarded with outstanding vistas and vibrant night skies. These scenes highlight the extent of the planet’s emptiness and reveal that much of its area remains unexplored, adding to the overall sense of mystery attached to the show. In an strong example of this type of shot, “Oasis” includes a scene in which the camera follows one of the company’s drones as it patrols the nearby areas from the sky. Such a shot allows the show to slowly introduce viewers to the planet, while also hinting at the corporation’s ulterior motives and advancing the storyline.

Led by Madden, the cast of “Oasis” delivers strong, emotionally complex performances. Madden more than lives up to his lead billing and is instantly likeable due to his staunch commitment to his values and perpetual optimism. Alongside Madden is fellow Game of Thrones veteran Mark Addy (“Still Standing”), whose reflective, pensive character leaves a lasting impression on audiences. While his screen time is limited, Michael James Shaw (“Limitless”) similarly excels, giving his lines powerfully and adding further emotional weight to the series. Playing the show’s antagonist, Anil Kapoor (“Slumdog Millionaire”) does well to create a complex character with emotional depth that nearly wins over viewers despite his prominent role in the shady conglomerate. Kapoor’s character highlights one of the most unique features of “Oasis” ’s cast — each performer is instantly likable almost regardless of their role.

It may only be a pilot, but “Oasis” makes an outstanding first impression with its distinct plotline and excellent production values, and the show appears primed to be Amazon’s next television success.