Shitty Science Fiction: Another Life

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.

Spoilers ahead.

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.

Shitty Science Fiction: Salvation

I watch a lot of science fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres and if you’re reading this it’s likely that it’s one of your favorites too. The problem is there’s a lot of shitty science fiction out there. So why not start a running blog bit about it, and see if even shitty sci-fi can be a thing worth watching? Lets find out… together.

Salvation is a TV show that sounded interesting when I first heard about it, and for some stupid reason I keep watching it, hoping that at some point it will make good on its premise. I honestly don’t know why I do this to myself, but it’s not the first show that I’ve done this with. I went through two seasons of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow before I managed to shake watching that thing. I just had to see if somehow it would hit a stride and redeem its terrible beginnings.

It did not.

Here’s Salvation’s concept: a massive asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, threatening absolute destruction of all life on the surface. The clock is ticking, since the asteroid is only six months away and there doesn’t appear to be any quick solution to the problem. I was looking forward to some sort of serialized version of Deep Impact, with a core cast wracking their brains trying to find a way to save humanity while the citizens of Earth come to terms with an impending demise.

Somehow the show has made it into season two without being cancelled, all the while doing everything it can to avoid focusing down on the problem of all humans dying. Here’s a short list of some of the things that eat up several precious episode of each season:

  • Shadow government trying to take over the presidency
  • Assassination attempts on the press secretary
  • A cop investigating the mysterious shooting death of his sister
  • A hacker group threatening the world with nuclear attack
  • Assassination attempts on the President
  • Miscellaneous American political drama akin to The West Wing
  • The President is missing!


No, seriously. There’s an asteroid coming and it’s going to kill everything and that’s treated like a minor subplot to the rest of this schlock.

A scene from Salvation, with less than six months to go before everything on Earth DIES (Image from IMDB)

There’s something at the core of this that could have been interesting. There’s an Elon Musk knockoff working on an initiative to colonize Mars (because of course he is), and he’s working up solutions to try to divert the asteroid. The show might have been like a global version of Apollo 13, with some compelling science being applied to avert catastrophe. Even the hacking group plots might be interesting if it wasn’t so illogical: their goal is to save the world, but in a manner that is violently competitive with government-backed initiatives.

And hilariously the show can be almost self-aware of this at times, with characters basically uttering phrases like “I can’t believe we’re dealing with this when there’s an asteroid coming to kill us all.” I agree; taking over the presidency is stupid when everyone is about to become a smear of carbon in a less than a year’s time.

Please give this one a pass. However if, for some reason, you’ve been watching this and have found something interesting that’s kept you coming back, I’m curious what that is. Feel free to chime in below.