top of page


February 21, 2024 / AppleTV

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Jonathan Banks, James D'Arcy

Created By: Peter Harness

“Constellation” stars Noomi Rapace as Jo — an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space — only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman's desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost.

Written By Kurt Morrison

Rating 2 out of 5

There is a saying in hockey that goes “All Swedish. No Finish”.

It tends to be used when talking about a player handling a puck masterfully up the ice and as they are about to score, they completely botch the opportunity and miss the net. This is, in sports terms, the easiest way I can sum up Season 1 of Apple’s new science fiction show Constellation.

Constellation stars Noomi Rapace as Jo Ericsson, an astronaut who survives a deadly collision at the International Space Station — only to experience disturbing visions back on Earth. She begins to mentally unravel in front of her family and coworkers, to a point where she begins to question if the reality she is living is real.

Constellation has all the workings to become a great piece of Science Fiction television. All the pieces in play here are firing on all cylinders -  the acting, the direction, the scenery of both Finland and Germany that is beautifully shot. But sadly none of that can save the sloppiness of its writing and its inability to construct feasible answers to its own complicated narrative. A series that sets up itself up with a phenomenally exciting first two episodes, only to then putter out as it drags itself across another six episodes that feel slow, forced and contrived.

The first two episodes are directed by Michelle McLaren, who masterfully crafted some of the best episodes of TV’s Breaking Bad. It set the series up to be a science fiction thriller, following an accident aboard the International Space Station, leaving Rapace’s Jo stranded aboard and fighting to get a rescue capsule repaired so that she can make it back home to earth to see her husband and daughter. Displaying some serious villain-like acting chops also within the first two episodes is actor Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul). We see Bank’s Commander Henry ‘Bud’ Caldera interrupting the rescue/escape mission aboard the ISS, demanding that Jo bring back a top secret piece of equipment that is on board.

McLaren understands how to pace the intensity of the situation on the International Space Station with the misalignment that is happening amongst those on the ground at the European Space Agency. It never allows you to take a breath, thanks in part to Banks’ clear displeasure with the fact that his project may be abandoned on the ISS while the clear objective is to get Rapace’s Ericsson back to earth.

I can genuinely say that these two episodes are excellent; packed with a lot of action, anxiety and emotion as we witness Jo racing against time and a lack of oxygen while coming to terms with the potential that she may never see her family again. There are tender moments when she is recording voice clips for her husband and daughter; final somber goodbyes just in case she does not make it, which brought me to tears as Rapace is displaying a lesson on how to perfectly convey dread, fear and unconditional love. She is the standout here and this provides a great reminder that she is a wonderful leading lady.

As the season continues though, it becomes more and more apparent that the data or equipment that Banks' Caldera is obsessed with seems more like a McGuffin than anything of real importance, which is why I think this show falls flat on its face. Banks’ Commander Caldera is GROSSLY underused and all questions and motives regarding this piece of equipment get tossed to the side. Why does Commander Caldera care so much about this? Why should we care about what is in this device? How does this have any relevancy to Jo’s mission onboard, and now while she is back on Earth?

Nothing gets answered as the season slowly carries on. It's all a side plot that gets lost in space.

Listen folks. Physics and Quantum Mechanics are never easy to dissect or make palatable for any movie or television going audience. But if done correctly, they can both engage and educate in very entertaining ways. I went looking into Creator/Writer Peter Harness’ background and to no surprise, I saw that he was a writer for several seasons of Doctor Who, a show that heavily leans into quantum mechanics and parallel universe building.

I think the grave mistake here in Constellation is Harness’ writing takes the intensity, impetus and gravity (pun intended) that the first three episodes pack and then chooses to inject laxity, similar to a show like Doctor Who, into the writing. It opts for variability and confusing universe building - solely impart by its non-linear way of storytelling - along with the fact that it changes gears from being a science-fiction show to a psychological thriller about Jo’s deteriorating mental state. The increasing paranoia and anxiousness that Jo faces do provide an interesting plot turn, but as mentioned they sadly leave Commander Caldera and the importance of the experiment aboard in its dust.

Constellation feels like a distant cousin of Doctor Who, Netflix’s German hit Dark, mixed with some remnants of Tarkovsky’s Solaris and last year’s Best Picture winner Everything, Everywhere All At Once. It likes bits and pieces of all those and tries to mish-mash them into something that never quite meets its full potential because narratively it sucks all the momentum out of what made the story exciting and then meanders - both literally and figuratively. (SO MUCH LAKE WALKING!!)

I kept watching simply due to curiosity and thinking that maybe the conclusion might satisfy this growing gap for science-fiction glory the first two episodes packed. The payoff never fully justifies the means with Constellation, because well…… The payoff never really comes. Maybe there is room for growth in season two, but sadly this doesn’t hold a flame to the other great sci-fi staples in the Apple TV+ catalogue like For All Mankind or Foundation.

bottom of page