Do you like science fiction stories that put human characters, story and emotion before action, special effects and visual bedazzlement? Quiet, contemplative, episodically interwoven narratives that use SciFi as a means to illuminate hidden truths, internal revelations and complex interpersonal relationships? Lovingly detailed, retro-futuristic artistic creation lifted right off the pages of an iconic novel? Amazon Prime’s Tales From The Loop has all this and more and is one of the most gentle, low key yet deeply staggering pieces of work I’ve ever experienced in the genre. The story focuses on a small town somewhere that is built above ‘The Loop,’ a mysterious underground research facility home to a subtly sentient A.I. engine used to create and power countless inventions. Each episode shows a story centred around a few families and individuals from this town and how this mysterious power source from The Loop affects their lives in surprising, tragic, metaphysical ways. There’s a teenage couple who find an object that pauses time except for their perception, after which they’re left to their own devices and we see what that can do to a relationship. Elsewhere a lonely man wanders into a parallel dimension and literally (and figuratively too) finds himself. The elderly founder and engineer of The Loop (Jonathan Pryce, fantastic) struggles with his mortality while his daughter (Rebecca Hall) and son in law (Paul Schneider) have their own personal experiences with the forces around them, and so do many others whose lives are woven together organically to create a tranquil, reflective and hypnotic piece unlike any other. The SciFi aspects really only act as background scenery and catalysts for unconventional human experience; we never learn what The Loop really is and most of the robots, structures and tech it creates hover in the background like fish in an aquarium while the human being characters abide in wonderment, learning complex, challenging lessons around love, compassion, self identity, overcoming fear, reconciling one’s own life cycle, coming to terms with death, facing past choices/mistakes and all of that overwhelming stuff that makes us who we are. It’s all set to soul-stirring, mesmerizing and unique original music from maestros Phillip Glass and Paul Leonard Morgan and breathtaking, vintage inspired visual design that brings to life robots, domelike architecture, otherworldly technical ambience and all manner of stylistic splendour that always serves as atmosphere and allows story, characters and themes take centre stage overall. Brilliant piece of work, and the kind of life affirming, empathetic art we need right now.