TV Review: Nightflyers

SYNOPSIS:  In 2093, a diverse team of scientists embark on a journey into space aboard an advanced ship called the Nightflyer to make first contact with alien life-forms. However, when terrifying and violent events occur, the team begin to question each other and to realise there is something on-board the Nightflyer with them

REVIEW: Everyone is looking for the next Game of Thrones. With HBO's acclaimed fantasy coming to a close in 2019, we still have a long wait before the developing prequel series hit screens. In the meantime, Martin himself has been working to bring a very different story to life. Filmed once before as a feature film starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Nightflyers is based on Martin's novella and short stories of the same name. But, unlike the sprawling epic length of the novels and reference histories of A Song of Ice and Fire, Nightflyers amounts to a fraction of the source material. Keeping that in mind, this series already feels like it is taking a really good concept for a movie and padding it out to fill a season's worth of episodes. Some of it works, but a lot of it does not.

In the near future, Earth is on the brink of environmental collapse, just like in virtually every science fiction film these days. The colony ship Nightflyer is tasked with venturing into deep space to meet with an alien race whose technology may be the answer to Earth's plight. The crew is populated with a large assortment of generic faces who work well as fodder for the copious gore and body horror elements of the series and a lead cast that is a very mixed bag. Gretchen Mol is marketed as the lead in the series but her character of Dr. Agatha Matheson is just part of the ensemble. The true lead is Eoin Macken as Dr. Karl D'Branin who may be the worst male star of any series this year. His stiff and bland performance should have been carried by a much more talented actor as his decisions impact the plot of the series.

Luckily, the supporting cast has some really good turns, especially Maya Eshet as Lonnie, the gender fluid cyberneticist who serves as the human connection to the ship itself. INSIDIOUS actor Angus Sampson also appears in a key role as Rowan whose fate is explored in the opening minutes of the premiere episode (which you can watch in the embed above). In fact, the first five minutes pretty much tell you where the show is going to end up and we spend the rest of the season trying to figure out why things ended up that way. For those first ten minutes, I was almost convinced this show was going to live up to the promise that it would be a cross between THE SHINING, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and EVENT HORIZON. In the end, it plays like a derivative and incredibly unsatisfying mash-up of too many genres.

On a horror level, Nightflyers works really well. The gore and scares are plentiful but they don't do anything you have not seen before. But, there was potential for this to really capitalize on the core story by treating the ship as the haunted house it is supposed to be. Instead, the showrunners are trying far too hard to replicate the formula of Game of Thrones by giving us a large cast whom we are expected to invest in. The problem is so many of the characters make stupid decisions or deliver cliche dialogue that you just don't care if they live or die. In fact, by the midway point of the season, a major twist is revealed that is likely going to turn off a large contingent of viewers who will groan at just how dumb it is.

Nightflyers suffers also from trying to replicate far superior scifi series like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. If they had chosen to keep this as a straight horror story, it would have been perfectly engaging. Instead, there are tons and tons of speeches and conversations about the fate of humanity and the importance of science that you just feel like any momentum the show could have had is lost. Visually, Nightflyers doesn't look much different than anything else we have seen before and the intentional homages to far superior horror and science fiction films end up feeling more like rip-offs. It is a damn shame because there is clearly a lot of high quality production design and special effects work on display that feels wasted.

George R.R. Martin's source material for Nightflyers treads the same territory as this series but it was quick and vicious whereas this series just feels watered down. Each episode feels like it could have been condensed with characters intentionally revealing vital information just for the sake of keeping the narrative moving forward. The stakes could have been much higher for the crew of the Nightflyer and the opening scene itself is worth watching. Unfortunately what comes next doesn't live up to the promise that brutal opening sets up. Nightflyers is built for the viewer to pay attention to each scene but there is just not enough there to make you want to watch. This is definitely an experiment gone wrong.

Nightflyers premieres December 2nd on SYFY.

Source: JoBlo.com



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