Imagine my surprise when Netflix throws a trailer at me for another new science fiction original. Historically, these have been hit and miss for me, mostly in the miss category, but this one has Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame heading it up. I decided to give this one a try, and only a few minutes into it, regret sank in.
The plot is fairly basic science fiction fare. An alien device lands on Earth, and nobody knows what it’s up to. A mission is sent out to investigate its origins, and the original commander is demoted and replaced by the show’s lead character, Niko Breckenridge, for reasons which aren’t really made clear. Niko’s husband is left on Earth to investigate the device, because everything apparently centers around her and the people she knows in her life.
The main storyline is the mission in space, and it’s not executed well at all. The ship itself is crewed almost entirely by people in their early twenties, a bizarre decision when you consider the mission is perilous and a possible first contact scenario. Experience counts, and I’m not entirely sure a 21 year old engineer is going to cut it, and it feels so out of place. Almost every crew member has some massive character flaw which puts them immediately at odds with one or more of the other crew members. Nothing could be more dangerous on a deep space mission than crew conflict; even today, space programs take great pains to make sure astronaut crews will work effectively together for long periods of time.
The very first command decision Niko makes is met by mutiny at the hands of the replaced commander, for little reason other than he’s a massive asshole, and it’s all downhill from there.
The writing of Another Life is so utterly basic it’s almost insulting to the viewer. Four minutes into the show we’re treated by Niko’s apparent husband walking in to the house, blurting happily, “Where’s my daughter? There she is.” Such natural dialogue. The show seems to rely heavily on blunt exposition rather than being subtle or artful in any way. The conversation continues for a few minutes with Niko and her husband dumping details with nouns and events that the two of them obviously already know, but only used for our benefit.
The entire show is carried 100% by Katee Sackoff, who does a great job with what she’s been given. There’s a couple of legitimately badass moments where she elevates the script well, but the problem is nothing else works. The ship, normally a character itself in any science fiction, is boring. Nothing about the crew works, nor do you feel anything about any of them so when the dying starts you won’t give a shit. The plot in space doesn’t go anywhere interesting with one exception, which turns out to be a very tropey “it’s just a dream” episode. The plot on Earth is just so badly executed it came off as a total waste of time that the rest of the show could have used more effectively.
Even the designs don’t work; if the side effects of hypersleep is extreme disorientation and lack of coordination, maybe make it so your hypersleep beds aren’t wide open on the sides, allowing people to fall out and hurt themselves on the edges and corners which all look sharp as fuck. Maybe quality shows like The Expanse have totally wrecked other shows for me which don’t have sensible ship designs in them. Those unsecured items will be 100% deadly in the event of a high-G maneuver, after all.
I actually sat through all ten episodes of this, and the worst feeling is not that I suffered through it, but that Netflix will take that as a +1 that the show should continue on to another season.
As a science fiction fan it’s sad that Netflix can’t knock this genre out of the park.