Battered by what is believed to be a celestial event, the radiation blast of a nova, a pulsar or such, the deep space vessel Orka is not equipped to withstand such; am aging cobbled together freighter crewed by an all-female complement of ex-convicts, most of them are in hypersleep, fortunately oblivious to the danger.
One who is kept awake by his nightmares is their passenger Jonah, a man of whom they know little other than that he could pay his way, but his presence is causing anxiety among the command crew, some of whom feel that by allowing a man passage aboard their vessel they have brought the storm upon them.
Summoning Jonah, he is challenged by Blake, Cassa and Kyle to reveal what me may know; indeed, it is he who ascertains that it is not a natural event such as a pulsar but a weapon which has been unleashed against them and it is his former masters who are targeting the Orka, punishing him for refusing to undertake his assigned task as a Peacemaker.
An award-winning short film now streaming on Dust directed by Aurora Fearnley from a script co-written with Neville Pierce, Pulsar may only have a brief runtime and a small core cast but it full of thought, from the functional design of the Orka, little more than fuel cells, crew quarters, a hydroponic bay and their ore cargo, and the hints of the wider universe beyond the thin metal of its hull.
Drawing on a variety of sources, the inspiration is the Biblical story of Jonah, cast overboard in a storm, while the exterior of the Orka and its holographic command interface echo The Expanse, and with the hints of the supernatural it recalls the occasional mysticism of Blake’s 7, particularly in the escape-pod crashdown at Nineveh which resembles a quarry populated by potentially hostile costumed extras.
David Gyasi of Cloud Atlas and Interstellar is Jonah, fearful yet steadfast, convinced his mission is a fool’s errand and refusing to participate in the rituals of the crew, but regardless, their sacred relic makes its own blood judgement on him.
Equally fearful but prepared to take action where he will not, his reluctant hosts whose grudging charity has led them to disaster are Cassa (Beast‘s Jessie Buckley, most recently seen in Wild Rose), Blake (Anna Koval, currently filming the television adaptation of The Feed) and Kile (Waterloo Road‘s Tahirah Sharif).
Created for a small budget carefully applied where it will be most effective, Fearnley manages to hint of huge technologies and tiered and warring societies offscreen, and while Pulsar is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger story, crucially, when the credits roll all too soon, the viewer wants to know more about the characters and the worlds they live between.