Nightflyers was a show that truly got me hooked from the minute I caught a clips of the first scene. If anyone knows me, then they know that I don’t really do horror. It just doesn’t work for me, and most times I’m fine with being poked for it. However, I made an exception for Nightflyers. This was a show that was equal parts sci-fi brilliance, while blending in the theme of horror perfectly. It takes everything about the wonders of discovery and throws it right out of the window. Sounds familiar right? The kind of writing that is right up the alley of George R. R. Martin.
When I saw that first clip from the first episode, I was hooked because I honestly wanted to know what on Earth could happen to this crew that would lead to someone fighting for her life, and to ultimately take her own life by the end of the scene. For those who don’t know, the premise is; In 2093, a team of scientists embarks 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 begins to question each other and to realize there is something on-board the Nightflyer with them. A genius way of describing this story when there is so much more to this story than that. So much more that these scientists had to fear inside and outside of this ship.
What’s so captivating about this cast is the diversity. I don’t just mean how they gave us strong representation in the casting, I mean the way that they also gave each and every one of these characters a reason for taking on this mission. Some wanted to see the Volcryn, some needed an escape from tragedy back on Earth, some simply have a sense of duty, sense of wonder, or other motivations that made it worth taking this long journey into the unknown. They all go through some things to get to where they do by the end of the series, but it is the drive from each of their motivations that drives this story. Especially those like our main character, Karl D’Branin. He stood out consistently because there was so much at stake for this guy to succeed in this mission. The chance to meet the Volcryn, the possibility that they could give him back his daughter, not to mention there’s a reputation to keep in mind as someone who most thought was crazy for thinking he could achieve first contact with alien life. The same could be said for the likes of Roy Eris who commands this ship, put his faith in the chance that he could get these people to first contact, and has a legacy to uphold by achieving the impossible.
Characters like Thale Lasamer and Agatha Matheson were big points of interest for me because the existence of telepaths worked as the unique anchor for this series. Whenever you have a sci-fi show, you need something that takes us from ordinary space odyssey, to out of the ordinary. They pushed us to that point and worked the role excellently because of what they offered to the mission, and the way they stood out from everyone else. There was a sense of confidence and freedom that came with these powers, but there was also the fear from the way that everyone else sees them as threats. How do you feel safe when someone can invade your mind? When there are those out there who have done unspeakable things with these powers? Even Melantha Jhirl stood out as someone genetically enhanced and created. How do you keep things under control when everyone else suffers from being too human? Her perspective was vital considering it takes someone sane in order to follow this descent into madness. In turn you also experience the terror of watching the world burn around you when everyone else is falling apart.
How they tackled the horrors onboard this ship was the best thing about Nightflyers. Honestly I was expecting the usual plot that is an alien invading the ship and causing all of these problems. I mean that first scene they gave us as a teaser got some wheels turning. What would drive someone to try to kill another member on the ship? Why would the person he was trying to kill decide to kill herself when she clearly had the guy beat in that moment? Something wasn’t clicking, but when it did I felt all in with the direction that they were taking the troubles that this crew would face. It was simple, yet there was so much to work with through the human condition. The things that make you break, the things that make you put one life over another, the things that haunt you enough to cross a line. Every single one of these people carried some sort of baggage with them that simply needed to be exploited at the right time. The execution mattered more than anything else and I would say that the writers and showrunners nailed it. The ship having a hand in that haunting too? That was a cool development on their part. The reason for the ship lashing out the way it did against the crew made sense, and it did not hold back with how personal each attack was. More than a couple times I found myself caught off guard by the lines crossed into someone’s personal trauma to break some of them. It goes without saying that the cast did an amazing job because it takes effort on their part to get a reaction from us each time they respond to this madness.
The end to Nightflyers is what truly made this a worthwhile experience for me. This wasn’t one of those stories where the aim was to simply kill everyone off in the most horrific of ways. It wasn’t even to try to hold our attention through the way that they could catch us off guard with shock value. Everything that you knew could go wrong was from what you got to know about these characters. Their actions made them easy to read, but everything after that came down to execution. Some rose to the occasion, some fell to their baser instincts, other fit right where they needed to be when it mattered most. Nothing was ever certain by the end of this story, and that left all of us with room to stew on what possibly came next. As a matter of fact, we were all left with enough room to even question if that mattered. Do we really need to care if who was left survived or died? Personally, I felt as though the journey was more important than where we ended.
I have to say that the budget for this show was well spent. I never once felt like they were trying to cheat this series out of the very things they could do to give it a distinct atmosphere. The lighting made a difference, the vast setting of the ship’s interior, the way that things functioned on this ship to give us the impression that it is alive. Not to mention so many digital effects that made everything from the subconscious of the ship, to the display of power from the L-1s, to the rendering of the Volcryn believable. Gorgeous colors, cold colors, and so much more as well which gave us cosmic wonder, and feelings of terror.
Nightflyers is a great show because it does not try to be more than it is. It embraces the thrill and horrors of the unknown, while giving us horror that relies more on human nature rather than cheap tricks. Honestly this is a show that you will only enjoy if you aren’t looking for groundbreaking. Just because this is adapted from the works of George R.R. Martin does not mean that this is Game of Thrones. It’s not, and should not be held to the same standard. This is Nightflyers and succeeds in giving us something that no one else is right now in the sci-fi genre