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'Extant' review: The final frontier of been there, done that

It's no shock that Steven Spielberg latched on to "Extant" (8 p.m. Wednesday, CBS; 2.5 stars out of 4), a sci-fi drama plucked from a screenwriting contest that also harnesses the star power of Halle Berry.

The story ticks off a checklist of Spielberg's favorite themes: "A.I."-like humanichs, a close encounter (of the frisky kind), a likable family and heroes fighting the good fight against shadowy organizations bent on … something.

The pilot, also written by now first-time series creator Mickey Fisher, is heavy on hints of that something, but not much else except a kid being creepy and Berry's slack-jawed confusion and/or terror at everything she witnesses.

If you, too, want to experience these incidents in real time, you should stop reading now.

Berry plays astronaut Molly Watts, who on her return to Earth after a 13-month solo mission discovers she is pregnant. Apparently in space, no one can hear you fornicate—not even the talking onboard computer system named Ben. ("Extant" borrows from many a past sci-fi productions.)

As Molly and her doctor (Camryn Manheim) try to figure out how this miracle happened, Molly works to reconnect with her scientist husband, John (Goran Visnjic), and humanich son, Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), whom John created when the couple discovered they are—were?—infertile.

Molly's mission and John's humanichs project are of great interest to her space agency boss' boss, Yasumoto Corp. chief executive Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada, nearly repeating his character from Syfy's "Helix").

The short, 41-minute opener (I'd DVR it and fast-forward through the commercials) is slickly filmed, generally well acted and ends with an intriguing revelation. But so little feels new and fresh that I half expect an alien baby to explode from Molly's belly before the limited series' 13-week gestation ends.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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