Monday, January 14, 2019

Nightflyers Review: Into the Abyss

I just finished watching the first several episodes of a new Netflix series called Nightflyers. I was really excited about this new offering--pretty much set up by the SYFY channel as the the next coming of The Expanse with heavy-hitting commercials during the final season episodes of that revered series.

And holy space aliens, it looked like it had everything going for it. For starters...

>> From the mind of George R.R. Martin, comes the psychological thriller, Nightflyers << 

Whoa! Okay, SyFy, you have my attention! I mean George R. R. Martin wrote the 1980s novella the series was based on and he described it as (paraphrasing) "a haunted house on a starship." Hey, I'm there!

The year: 2093

The setting: The starship Nightflyer, the most advanced ship ever built

The premise: Deep space expedition to the first contact with an alien species.

The stakes: Save humanity from its dying planet.

What could possibly go wrong? Right?

Well...sadly...just about everything.

As sci-fi fans go, I'm pretty easy to please. Give me a decent, imaginative, well-executed sci-fi story and I'm usually all in. This one should have been an easy home run. But my first clue that something--many somethings--might have gone seriously amiss started with the first trailer.

The opening, which is pretty darned Interstellar in tone, soon gives way to a bunch of mishmash oddness that left me scratching my head. What was that all about? (Which is pretty much how the actual episodes left me.)

My summary of the issues, keeping this as un-spoilery and generic as possible:

Flat characters that I was supposed to care about and couldn't. Weirdness even beyond this SFR writer's levels of tolerance for weirdness. Derivative "hey, I've been here before" scenes ala The Shining, 2001,  Contact and Alien. Things that made no sense. Things that were supposed to be revelations, and came across more like "What the ef?"

And a crew that was just too, TOO over the top. 

  • A captain who is a projection...except when he isn't 
  • A genetically altered superhuman 
  • A malevolent AI
  • A secret robot
  • A psychotic psychic man-boy mind stalker who has to be in isolation to stop him from mentally torturing his crew mates, and who, naturally, keeps escaping or being set free to run amok and blow up people's minds 
  • A brooding, deeply troubled science guy type who is heading the expedition 
  • A female navigator who has a connection to the ship--and I do mean connection--as in "plugs in with a cable" 
  • And the Bee Queen 

To mention just a few. And some of the characters are more than one of these things.

And then there's the gore. Lots of gore. Real gore. Imagined gore. Torched flesh and floating entrails galore gore.

In a word...ick!

I should have had a clue where it was headed when the Episode 1 opening scene was actually something from the end of the mission--a blood-spattered female crewmember tries to escape an axe-wielding male madman. So she commits jugular harikari with the future equivalent of a handheld buzzsaw to escape a more horrendous fate. Yes, you read that right. That was the first scene. Talk about a story going nowhere. And dying a slow, horrible death while getting there.

Was there anything to like about it? episode titles?

"All That We Left Behind"
"Torches and Pitchforks"
"The Abyss Stares Back"
"White Rabbit" <<< here's where I stopped
"The Sacred Gift"
"All That We Have Found"

So, as mentioned, I only stomached watched the first few episodes. Upon doing some checking, I learned that most reviewers felt those were the BEST episodes of the series. It only gets worse, according to those sources.

I recorded the entire season, but my delete button will be put to good use.

As you probably guessed, Nightflyers scores a NO GO/DNF in giant glowy neon letters. Save yourselves and run far, far away from this hot mess in space.


  1. Thanks for the heads up. I'm always trying to find good SF to watch and end up rewatching old episodes of Star Trek, etc, instead.

  2. This one's definitely a wave-off. And I know what you mean about finding good sci-fi, Pauline. I can't recommend The Expanse or Defying Gravity enough, but it would probably be tough to find back episodes of either of those being offered. I have them on DVD.

  3. Yeah, Laurie, I'm with you on this one. I started watching on SyFy--then gave up after about two-and-a-half episodes for all the reasons you mention. I should have predicted some of the problems, actually,since George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones is well known for killing off people (especially the good guys) in epic bloodbaths. But this was just a lot of gobbledygook dressed up to look like SF. The good news is that Netflix bought The Expanse and new episodes will eventually be coming. In the meantime, you may want to try Travelers on Netflix, starring Eric McCormack. So far I'm liking it, though I can't say it's ground-breaking.

    1. Awesome Donna, thanks for the rec. I'll check out Travelers. I'm actually a huge fan of Game of Thrones though I do watch some of the scenes through my fingers. In GoT the violence makes sense and is often underscored by years and sometimes generations of conflict so it plays into the plot, where I can't really say the same about Nightflyers. Extremely gory violence just for violence's sake is a big turn off for me.

  4. Well, that's seriously off the 'watch' list. I don't think I would have watched the whole of that first scene. There is an 'off' button for a reason. Back to a re-run of 'Rogue One'.

    1. Well, I kept thinking it was going to get better...not worse. *sigh*

      You reminded me I need to do another rewatch of Rogue One soon.

  5. I agree Laurie. They ran this on SYFY one weekend and I recorded it. I made it through 1 and 1/2 episodes. I would be more likely to classify this as horror, not SciFi.

    On the other hand, I am about halfway through season 1 of Star Trek Discovery. It is out on DVD now. The library ordered it. Imagine that. This is not your typical goody goody Federation Starship crew. I am really liking this series. Too bad CBS isn't putting it on network TV.

    1. Yes, you're right, it's definitely horror, though not the quality SF Horror that Alien and Aliens was. Heck even the other installments in the Aliens franchise were more watchable (even Prometheus, which I was thoroughly disgusted with). It makes me sad, because I'd had such high hopes for this series.

      I may have to give Discovery a try, sight unseen. We can't stream here with our ridiculously slow internet, but if it's out on DVD it's worth the investment based on a trusted recommendation. :)

      I have to wait for the next season of The Expanse to hit DVD too, because it went to streaming as Donna mentioned in her comment, but hey, at least there will BE a Season Four. Color me happy.


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