By Liz Shannon Miller
We ranked it:
For many dramatic web series, building an audience and keeping them engaged is tough without the thrust of a major network behind it, even for original science fiction. One series’s solution: Don’t be a series.
Instead, Forge Apollo, part of the Fullscreen network, pitches itself as a collection of short films “found in a capsule from another universe.” Each Forge short is just that — an individual experiment in genre storytelling, with some impressive wit and imagination.
In the first four shorts released, Forge Apollo showcases an impressive range of style, from found footage to action thriller. My favorite of the bunch, The Historian, is probably leans the closest to pure science fiction — a little girl finds a mysterious device, and a chilling future is laid out. It’s extremely compelling thanks to a clever script well-supported by visual effects, and also serves as set-up for the Forge Apollo shorts, creating the conceit of an alternate universe where these shorts are taking place.
Forge Apollo, on the whole, is more successful when it takes a more psychological approach — the occasional scene of full-out action might be better-staged, and episodes sometimes struggle for perfect execution.
In The Outliners, for example, the premise is interesting: A found camera reveals a terrifying truth to a photographer. But the visual effects do more to sell the premise than fthe performances, which are a bit unconvincing. However, the ending is genuinely creepy, thanks to some effective sound design.
In general, the pacing of Apollo is great — episodes never feel overlong — and it’s exciting to see original sci-fi like this presented online. In addition, one intriguing facet of the series is the fact that it’s driven by audience suggestion — no matter how strange: A fact revealed at the end of certain episodes, when said suggestion is flashed up on screen.
Hikers, which at less than two minutes is one of the shorter Forge Apollo adventures, is a bit silly in terms of premise, but it cannot be denied that the team is literally giving its audience what it wants. (It’s also one of the funnier shorts of the series, which always goes a long way with primarily dramatic premises.)
The latest episode of Forge Apollo, L.A. Under Water, will be the last for a little while, as the channel is going on hiatus to work on a new series as well as other other content.
However, the shorts will be back: “The shorts… are going to be a cool way to interact with our audience and chances for us to tell stories that don’t need a full 5 to 10 pieces to tell,” Gabe Michael, writer/director/producer of Apollo, said via email. Which is great to hear, because the bottom line is that the web can always use more original sci-fi — especially sci-fi that includes its audience in a unique way.