Netflix's Another Life Season 1 Review
Sunshine-lite meets Arrival-lite... this is Netflix after all
Battlestar Galactica's own Starbuck, Katee Sackhoff gets her own lead TV series in this blend of Sunshine and Arrival, but the only thing stunning here is Netflix's Dolby Vision and Atmos.The Netflix curse strikes again! With so many shows on its roster, and a recent pledge to be more wary of their investments - to maybe veer back towards quality over the quantity it's been thus far churning out - Another Life must have slipped through the cracks. It's a veritably derivative and utterly inane 'mature' space-based thriller which is a little like a fusion of their ill-fated Nightflyers sci-fi horror (decent enough premise from Game of Thrones' George R. R. Martin; ultimately abortive realisation) and the lighter teen thrills of their big budget Lost in Space reboot.
On paper - and with Starbuck in the lead - this might have seemed like a good pitch, but a whole slew of horrendous supporting casting choices as well as some really odd direction, will likely kill the show for many long before the crew get anywhere near their final destination.
A whole slew of horrendous supporting casting choices as well as some really odd direction, will likely kill the show for many long before the crew get anywhere near their final destination
The story has an alien vessel enter the Earth's atmosphere (Arrival-style), and then immediately form a giant crystalline mountain structure. After scientists are unable to communicate with it, Sackhoff's commander is drafted in to cross the universe and find the planet it came from, make contact, and find out if the scout vessel is friendly or a threat to all mankind. Of course, the journey doesn't go according to plan, and the crew are brought out of hypersleep to find themselves way off course, facing all manner of threats from nearby stars and failing systems, and soon losing contact with the Earth - where Sackhoff's husband, a scientist, may be getting closer to finally communicating with the creatures.
Sackhoff was great in Battlestar, but she was part of a far greater ensemble, and has hardly found fame in the subsequent years, relying heavily on a stronger lead in Longmire, and going for a super-odd accent in her guest appearances on The Flash, whilst her movie highlights include co-starring in Vin Diesel's last Riddick outing, where she had the curious pleasure of playing a lesbian merc who Riddick 'turns' presumably through a display of devastatingly raw masculinity, or just because the script was written by an idiot.
Despite a rocky start here (her opening dialogue with her daughter is abysmal - and badly acted by her, as opposed to the daughter), Sackhoff tries her best to settle into the part, which requires a little more from her than just abs and attitude. Her biggest problems in the show, however, are not a mutinous crew, a damaged ship, hostile planets, erupting stars, or a deadly mission that she might never come back from, but actually going into space with a young and glamorous group of idiots who appear to be rejects from a spin-off of The Kardashians. And no, sorry, a boat-load of swearing neither qualifies these amateurs as actors nor qualifies the show as being 'mature'.
Her biggest problems are going into space with a group of rejects from a spin-off of The Kardashians
Ever since Ridley Scott revisited his classic Alien, the concept of Promethian stupidity has been adopted not least in plenty of reviews here, but the crew of Another Life appear to want to make Scott's scientific decision-making look positively advanced. Half of them have what appears to be no training (other than clearly in the makeup and fashion department), can't fix anything, can't pilot anything, and throw tantrums over any and everything (which makes a potential murder absolutely comedy - as that's actually something worth getting upset about, but since angsty is their resting state, it barely registers above the norm). And let's just flip our visor lids on a foreign planet shall we? Because that's not going to lead to a very badly acted reenactment of the seminal scene from Alien at all.
And despite the budget put into this thing (the CG on the alien ship at the beginning is a bit iffy, but space-side, everything has that Netflix Dolby Vision sheen, utterly prettified to the max, and looking gorgeous, particularly as they are riding past stars up-close) the direction is awful. Brit TV director Omar Madha appears to have watched a couple of episodes of Battlestar and decided he likes freewheeling zoom (which Battlestar perfected to give the space combat scenes a real edge) only he also likes using it indoors. To zoom in on faces. In the middle of petty squabbles (sorry, *tense confrontations*). Between that and the amateur-hour acting (honestly, how would this group of 'kids' be possibly qualified for a mission of this importance?!) it's almost impossible to take the show seriously without your eyes rolling so far into the back of your head you'll wonder whether the show comes complete with an interactive oxygen depletion mode in your living room.
Perhaps it'll get better, but a few episodes in and it feels like the only way that could happen is if they all killed each other slowly and the AI hologram continued the mission. Or the aliens just killed everybody everywhere. And maybe infected Sackhoff's commander and gave her a decent character to inhabit. With a likely immediate drop off in viewers after sitting through half of the first episode, it'll be shocking if this ever gets renewed, leaving Another Life (and who came up with that title) just another series to file under "shows Netflix will hopefully not make the mistake of green-lighting again".
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