Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SteveReviews: Alien Worlds

Anyone who is a fan of Dougal Dixon’s After Man must have been as excited a child on Christmas morning when Netflix dropped the trailer for Alien Worlds. I know I was! To my mind, it is the first speculative biology series to air on a major streaming platform (and hopefully it won’t be the last). Alien Worlds is an enjoyable series despite the fact that it only has four episodes. The premise of this science fiction series is to demonstrate what alien life might be like on other planets given what we know about life and evolution on Earth. Sounds promising eh? Unfortunately I feel like things could have been handled better especially to deal with some obvious budget constraints.

One thing I do applaud is in-depth background research demonstrated here on Earth that is used to explain how some of the speculative animals may indeed look or behave. This involves a number of scientists talking about their respective fields of research whilst being immersed in those fields. It’s always great to show people that being a scientist isn’t always about sitting in a lab, you can make discoveries whilst being outside. This is especially true when collecting samples and using some of the more up-to-date technology that allows you to take your lab with you. Thankfully some of this is featured in the series.

When tie comes to the alien segments, the one this that really annoyed me was the fact that alien segments were cut apart. This not only makes them disjunct but also makes the whole thing seem like it’s been produced for traditional TV instead of a streaming service. There are short clips replayed between each act which feels just like the recap after a advertisement break. Why does a series shown exclusively on Netflix need this? Surely it would be much better to keep all of the alien segments together instead of cutting them? I can only assume that this was due to budget constraints which is a shame. Hopefully with the second season (if there is one), these issues can be teased out.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that tuned in purely for the speculative biology aspect of things. I’m also certain that I’m not the only one that has said that the alien segments should be longer. If there were issues with budget, why not condense the number of episodes down? This idea has also been voiced by Joschua Knüppe (@JoschuaKnuppe) and it makes perfect sense. Alien Worlds to me was a trial to see whether or not the general populous would enjoy and speculative biology series. For those of us that work in conservation, biology, palaeoart etc. – we’ve all been creating our own animals since we were first handed a pencil. I’m more than aware that our view is going to be biased and you can’t please everyone.

I also feel that given the creature design (which is awesome by the way), doesn’t match up with the segments on actual animals. The ‘predators’ from Eden look just like tarsiers but there is no segment on tarsiers or their biology. Given the general audience that this series is aimed at, why wasn’t this included? There are lots of other modern animals which could help to fill these gaps as well, not just in terms of behaviour but also anatomy, physiology and ecology. I can only assume that the COVID-19 pandemic had it’s hand in everything too.

Overall, I think the series is quite creative whilst also being grounded in what we know about life here on Earth. The format is not what I was expecting but it is still very enjoyable given the concerns I have explored above. If you’re someone that knows nothing about ecology or speculative biology, then I’m sure you’d love Alien Worlds and much as someone that does. Have you seen the series? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

Also as Christmas is coming up, if you’d like to buy me a book to review you can find my Amazon wish list here.

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