By Dave B.
In Nightflyers (2018, Syfy), the Earth is dying and a maverick scientist assembles a misfit team to intercept an alien vessel passing through the solar system in the hope that the extraterrestrials will be willing and able to provide technologies to save the planet. The captain of the Nightflyer, an intrasolar colony ship, agrees to put his vessel and crew at the team’s disposal for humanity’s first contact with an intelligent alien species. But from the beginning the voyage is plagued with mishaps, conspiracies, dangers paranoia, and tragedies. Will the Nightflyer be able to make it to the fringe of known space in enough time to meet the aliens and save the planet? And if it does, will anyone aboard her be alive and sane enough to initiate first contact?
If you look at Nightflyers from a distance, it has some of the ingredients of a great show. It’s visually crisp, many of the characters are mysterious to the point of being interesting enigmas, and all ten episodes are tense psychological thrillers from start to finish. The stakes of a successful outcome to the mission couldn’t be higher, which adds drama to every obstacle the ship encounters. And the show as a whole is fairly easy to binge watch (if you don’t think too much about what your brain is actually absorbing), with each episode being just interesting enough (and just short enough) that you can watch half of the season without fully realizing it.
However, upon closer examination, Nightflyers is mostly trash. Every character, despite their mysteriousness, is unlikeable and all for the same reason: a more selfish, self-centered, small-minded group of people has never been assembled for any task in the history of humanity. Even the most seemingly altruistic of actions are laced with self-serving short-sightedness. That’s even more unfortunate because the performances are good across the board. Nightflyers also suffers from its relentlessly dark tone and cinematography. In the history of fictional spaceships, I can’t think of one I would rather spend less time on, even if everything goes right, than the Nightflyer. I can totally understand a spaceship being utilitarian. Relentlessly dark, spartan, and grim just feels unnecessary though. Worst of all Nightflyers commits two of the most heinous of all horror entertainment sins: First, it fails to provide a compelling reason for the antagonist’s behavior except for the loose explanation of “insanity”. Second, the culminating events of the season are picked out of the same garbage heap of selfishness that permeates every facet of the show.
Look, for all I know, humans being disgusting trash bags is supposed to be the theme of the show, but if so, it isn’t a very appealing one. And if that’s not the intentional theme of the show, Nightflyers is even more of an abomination than I already believe it to be. Not only do I not recommend the show, but I also think that George R.R. Martin (executive producer of Nightflyers and writer of the source material) needs to quit screwing around and just write the final Song of Ice and Fire book, because the time that he spent on the television version of Nightflyers was definitely wasted.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.