Katee Sackhoff, hell of an actor. Her turn as Starbuck in the Battlestar Galactica reboot was quite brilliant; searingly well done in fact, the kind of role that has endeared her to genre fans forever. While she’s had a fairly successful career post-BSG, I don’t think she’s been involved in anything as memorable or impressive (although one might well argue her turn in 24 was certainly a more high-profile turn in the wider public consciousness). She’s a strong and physically capable actor and how she’s never gotten a big role in a Marvel movie is beyond me, with her fanbase and genre credentials you’d think it would be a sure thing and she’d become some kind of superstar.
So anyway, a few weeks ago when I learned that Netflix were shortly dropping a new sci-fi series starring Sackhoff, well, it was at the top of my watchlist: Another Life, a ten-part thriller about First Contact and a spaceship sent to another star system to investigate the origin of a strange alien artifact recently arrived on Earth- literally Arrival meets 2001 and… Nightflyers.
Oh dear. I have a bad feeling about this.
Well, three episodes in and it’s pretty dire. To be brutally honest, it doesn’t work. Its car-crash television and its painful to see someone like Sackhoff wasted in it. Sure there’s seven more episodes to watch and like a masochist I’m sure I’ll be watching all of it (hell, I’m a veteran of that Nightflyers junk, afterall), and will have a review proper when it’s all done. But really, it doesn’t look good.
Possibly its a lack of budget, but the sets are limited (characters walking/running up and down the same corridor etc, and engine room that looks like a Chinese laundry) and the CGI functional at best, but really, the real handicap is the script, a regular refrain here on this blog. The script is awful, and the creative choices frankly appalling. At the moment I have no idea if its the script making the actors look bad, or just bad actors being bad, but it’s so dire its a struggle. Did the showrunners or any of the writers ever work on a sci-fi show before? I have to wonder. It really looks like the writers room had a DVD collection of sci-fi shows/movies from the last few decades and they assembled Another Life from what they thought were the best bits.
Alien artifact arrives/crashlands/sprouts mysterious crystalline structure. It has conveniently landed near the home of Niko Breckenridge (Sackhoff), a space commander, and her husband Erik (Justin Chatwin) who is a scientist tasked with looking handsome while communicating with the artifact. I mean, literally, it lands near their house. He is given the job of communicating with it (and in the tradition of CE3K, he finds music works) and she is given the job to travel to the artifacts original star system to find out why it was sent (not sure of the logic, it figures you’d be best figuring that out by communicating with the artifact). So you’ve got this husband and wife team (sci-fi’s answer to Hart to Hart or McMillan and Wife?) in charge of saving humanity. Oh, and they have an annoying daughter.
Niko’s job is made worse by being put in charge of the craziest, most dysfunctional crew of any spaceship I have ever seen. I mean, they are absolutely bloody nuts. And they dress in civvies because no-one wears uniforms on spaceships anymore. Its as if they picked a bunch of civilians at random and put them on Love Island in Space or I’m (Not A Celebrity) Lost in Space Get Me Out of Here. Its utterly bizarre. They are a bunch of utter nutters that make the crew of Star Trek: Discovery look competent. They don’t work for NASA, there is no Government or Mission Control that I can tell- they are let loose on a FTL spaceship and get lost in the first episode after nearly plunging into a star. Niko replaced the ships original Captain, Ian, when she is put in command and he promptly tries to kill her. Twice. So she fries him in an electrical field, which pisses off the crew and… yeah, we’re still in the first episode. By the second episode they are wandering around on a rogue moon looking for caves of oxygen crystals (?) because they’ve lost all the oxygen from their ship and one of the crewmembers goes wandering off and does something even stupider than those alien-goo obsessed scientists in Prometheus. Its absolutely bloody nuts.
Oh Katee. The heights of Battlestar must seem so far, far away. You deserve better. Viewers deserve better. How come no-one can write decent sci-fi shows anymore?