Nightflyers is a Netflix original series based on a series of short stories by George RR Martin. This ten part series is an interesting one with a second series on the horizon.
The show suffers from a couple of problems, mainly too many Sci-fi/horror tropes and some overly used plot points. Firstly their is an over reliance on mind games and psychic phenomena and secondly it would be nice if for once the lead character wasn’t suffering from a personal loss like the death of a daughter. Too many films and shows rely on this to help engage the audience with the character, to show their drives and motivations, to make them empathetic as if they cannot stand on their own.
The show as a whole is very reminiscent of work by Alastair Reynolds novels like Pushing Ice or those involving Revelation space. Other influences are obviously Event Horizon, Sunshine and Solaris. The sci fi elements of the show are great, a telepath, a strange ship, mind games, aliens and rogue AIs. All the parts are there but can Nightflyers translate what obviously works as a book to the small screen?
The show has a dark grittiness and some very interesting characters the best of which is Captain Eris. I am not a fan of horror but the story is gripping enough to carry me through this. I don’t mind horror elements as long as it serves the plot and doesn’t become gratuitous. Nightflyers falls into this latter hole a bit and its unsure whether it will continue.
The last problem with the show is the sketchy explanation of Earths status. Parts are explained in exposition conversation but we do not really ever feel the full implication of what is happening. More information would help ground the story a little and gives us greater focus on why the ship is doing what it is and why the science teams work is so important.
The cast is competent. None have been leads before but they handle the script well and on the whole perform well, helping to keep the atmosphere dark and edgy. The special effects are good, there are few external shots early on in the series but this helps heighten the claustrophobic feel of the show, all these people trapped on a ship that might be heading to their doom.
Nightflyers shows promise but it feels like it runs its plot along the very edge of the knife. At any moment it could slip either into genius or idiocy who knows where it will land. The season finale helps draw the plot threads together but creates problem for a second series. They have set themselves a high bar, fleshing out such an unusual alien species as the Volcryn will take some doing.