With Black Mirror and Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, the scifi anthology is back, and streaming is its new habitat. So it’s no surprise that Netflix rolls the dice on an animated anthology series, Love Death + Robots. Each episode not only is a different story and set of characters, told in 7-15 minute installments, the animation is different. One episode is classic animation like many of us grew up on until the end of the 90s. Some is deliberately cheesey computer graphics, while other episodes use video gaming engines to generate their visuals. And in one episode, a live-action couple witnesses the CGI birth and death of a civilization all in the confines of an antique fridge in their apartment.
The three the struck me most were “3 Robots,” “Beyond the Aquila Rift,” and “Helping Hand.” “3 Robots” is one of three episodes adapted from John Scalzi shorts. Scalzi, whose tongue is generally planted in his cheek, usually amps up the humor in his short work. (There are some Old Man’s War short stories that are exceptions.) In this tale, three very different robots – one of whom sounds suspiciously like Siri – tour a post-apocalyptic Earth. This extinct species, human, baffles them as none of what they did makes any sense, particularly eating. Or keeping cats. Did I mention there’s cats in this? Oh, yes, and they make this go horribly sideways.
“Beyond the Aquila Rift” in live action would not have been out of place as a live-action movie on Cinemax back when Fridays and Saturdays meant a scantily-clad Deborah Shelton or Shannon Tweed starring in some erotic thriller. But this is the tale of a ship stranded hundreds of light-years from home. Its pilot meets a familiar face who wants to rekindle a romance. But she’s not real. Think of this as Star Trek‘s “The Menagerie” without the happy ending.
“Helping Hand,” however, has more in common with Gravity as a satellite technician is knocked off her perch during an EVA and has to use a harrowing solution to get herself back to her ship before her oxygen runs out. She is, quite possibly, tougher than Ellen Ripley for it, despite there being no aliens.
The 18-episode season contains no filler and few misfires. The stories, only one of which is original to the series, would make an excellent book anthology. A couple of times, it strays into fantasy (“Soul Sucker”, “The Shapeshifters”) and drags one supernatural tale into steampunk territory (“Good Hunting.”) Netflix has renewed the show for a second season. I definitely will be watching. The short episodes make this series extremely binge-worthy.