Ending Another Life

another2Euueew, what’s that smell? Could it possibly be this stinking turd of a series? I think it might. Quick, dig a deep hole and chuck this in, bury it.

The last three episodes of this show. Unbelievable. It may possibly be THE WORST SCI-FI SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN. I was actually shouting at the television in my dismay/horror/frustration.

I have often written about bad writing, bad scripts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as badly written, badly constructed, or nonsensical, as this. I thought Nightflyers was bad. I’ve written about how poor so much of Star Trek: Discovery was, particularly in the second half of its second season. But neither were anywhere near as bad as this.

I could write about why. I could write a list of my WTF moments during the season. I could highlight the horrible lapses in logic, the stupid character moments/arcs. The soap opera inanity of it. I could write a list of all the better tv shows and movies that this thing kept on ripping off.  I think I’d be wasting my time though. It was a horrible, horrible mess, and it wasn’t even bad-funny that would make watching it passable, it was bad-unfunny and watching it was almost unbearable. I’d love to see the Netflix stats of how many people started episode one and got all the way through to episode ten. Not many of, I guess. We Unhappy Few.

another3According to the credits, Aaron Martin seems to be the lead showrunner/writer/producer of this show. I have marked his name for posterity and shall watch out for his future endeavours with trepidation. Checking on IMDB, he’s the creator of Slasher, a horror anthology series about serial killers whose beautiful something victims try to stay alive, The Best Years, a teen drama about the lives of beautiful somethings at college, and has previously worked on several seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation, a romantic drama about beautiful somethings at Degrassi Community School dealing with the serious issues that plague beautiful something teenagers. Lots of clues there about how Another Life and its crew of beautiful something non-entities racing off into space turned out (clue: there’s romance and jealousy and stupid mistakes, sex with one guy, sex with two guys, sex with a hologram, rich daddies back on Earth, annoying little kids back on Earth, gay husbands back on Earth- basically all the trendy social concerns ticked). I’m sure Aaron is likely a very nice guy, and is clearly quite successful as a television writer and producer, but equally clearly, he’s not a science fiction writer, and was hopelessly unprepared and/or ill-advised on this show. Did nobody read the scripts, question the stupidity?

Another Life needed a science fiction writer. It needed someone who understood its conventions, its history, the required internal logic. Instead, well, this is mostly likely the most idiotic, absurd and asinine science fiction project I have ever had the misfortune to suffer through. I only hope that, like Nightflyers, it gets very quickly cancelled and put to rest, and that Aaron Martin departs this genre he has so rashly blighted, and goes back to the silly teenage angst dramas about the plights of beautiful somethings that he is so successful at.

And allowed nowhere near any genre show ever again, thank you very much.

Last Week: Tears in Rain

Last week I picked up my old hardback of Frank Herbert’s Dune for a reread. Continued reading the frankly miraculous and perfect Vol.4 Amazing Spider Man Omnibus (it’s like I’m ten all over again), watched quite a bit of new stuff on tv and was saddened to read the news of Rutger Hauer’s death at the age of 75. We’re all getting older and 1982 seems such a long time ago, even more so with Rutger’s passing.

rutgerAs anyone familiar with this blog over the years will know, Blade Runner is my favourite movie- it remains the most intense cinematic experience of my life. Its a dark irony that we are now living in 2019, the year in which the film is set, which back in 1982 was still a lifetime away. To paraphrase Rutger, all those years lost in time like tears in rain. I have watched that film so many times, over 200 most likely (I used to keep count but gave up at around 100) and I have always been fascinated by Rutger’s performance as Roy Batty. Mercurial, bewitching, childlike, feral… one of the biggest achievements of the film was transforming a one-note and frankly incidental character from the book into possibly the true star of the film. Watching Blade Runner, there is always the sense that Rutger knew he was playing the part of a lifetime and seized every opportunity to maximise the performance and every magical cinematic moment. So many things came right for the film- the perfect director, the perfect composer, the perfect cinematographer, visual effects artists, editor, production designers and futurist… and Rutger was the perfect actor to play Roy Batty. He seems to know that in every single scene he is in.

Over the years I would be a bit of a Rutger fanboy, fascinated to see him in other roles (although somehow I never saw him in The Hitcher, must rectify that), from Flesh & Blood to Dark Knight and of course those Guinness ads. Nothing really approached the greatness of Roy Batty, and in particular the Tears in Rain speech that became one of the most famous and quoted scenes in film history. Nothing could ever equal it, I guess, and I marvel that Rutger evidently handled this fact well over the years. I imagine it might have haunted some actors to be in the shadow of something like that forever: thank goodness his biography wasn’t titled ‘I Am Not Roy!’

another1Katee Sackhoff  of course has a famous genre character of her own, as Battlestar Galactica‘s reimagined Starbuck. She’s continued a very successful career since and seems at peace with Starbuck being her defining role, but goodness me she’s backed a turkey with Another Life, the new sci-fi show on Netflix. Since my post the other day I’ve watched a few more episodes and Good Lord it’s just gotten worse. Its abominable, frankly, and I’ve not been cheered up by discovering that what I mistakenly thought was an eight-part show is in fact ten episodes. Its really becoming hard work to get through. The last episode was what I like to call the ‘Space:1999 episode’ which means it was so bad it’s like the last forty years of sci-fi television never happened. Shows are rarely that bad, although Nightflyers pulled it off too. Two episodes after the crew was nearly all killed by an alien infection from a rogue moon, they now land on an Earth-like planet and sample the native fruit etc by, er, just going ahead and eating it, breath the local air and don’t even wear gloves. One character gets a scratch off a thorn and nearly loses his leg in mere seconds from a deadly infection, and another two walk into a colourful forest glade from the Annihilation set and get intoxicated  by hallucinogenic drugs given off by the flora. In another episode, an alien hunts and kills the crew on the spaceship one by one until it turns out it’s all a hypersleep dream. In the last episode I watched, an alien bug brought onboard from that Earth-like planet fraks up some wiring which nearly wipes out the ship, everyone only saved by the obnoxious always-bitching communications woman who has continuously failed to get communications up and running, who sacrifices herself and ends the show as a bloody puddle. So I guess they’ll never get communications up. Maybe the show will amaze me with an amazing finale twist, but I doubt it.

The next season of The Expanse, not arriving until December, seems so long away.

While I dedicate far too much time here writing about Another Life, and also Star Trek: Discovery prior to that, I just feel I need to point out really bad scripts and creative choices. Another Life is truly abominable and should never have gotten filmed in the state its in. Sackhoff is actually a producer on the show so probably sees it as a career progression, but that only reinforces her guilt for the whole thing being so bad, it’s not as if she’s just an actor trying to make the best of the scripts she’s given. It is very true that some parts of the creative business in Hollywood and beyond are taking the streaming giants of Netflix and Amazon for a ride. There is no quality control, it seems, when the main objective is just to get access to that streaming pot of gold. I’ve ranted about this before and I’m certain I will do so again. Of course the streaming giants are party to the guilt themselves because they just seem to be throwing money at everything in the hope something sticks, but genre shows really are taking steps backwards of late and it’s a worrying development. I’m certainly no professional and have no story in print anywhere, but I could write a better show than Another Life – there should, surely, be a quality distinction between what passes for professional script writing and what is often dismissively termed ‘fan fiction’ but of late I have to wonder. Maybe us amateurs deserve a shot, doubt we could do any worse.

Except maybe that’s the point. Maybe, as I have noted before, the geeks finally have inherited the Earth (or Hollywood, certainly) and all this mess is simply because too many geeks/amateurs think they can write scripts or be showrunners. It does seem curious that Another Life seems to be ripping off a different tv show/movie every episode, and that Star Trek: Discovery was riddled with nods to Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Inception etc.  so much so that it seldom seemed like Star Trek at all.




Starting Another Life

anotherKatee 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?



Nightflyers Season One (2018)

nite1.jpgI’m scared, really quite terrified. The possibility that someone, somewhere, might do the unthinkable and actually unleash a second season of this batshit crazy abomination has me shaking. Usually I’d be content that common sense will prevail, and that in a world in which Firefly and so many others got canceled, there is no way something as diabolical as this rubbish might get renewed for a second season: Nightflyers (‘from the mind of George R.R. Martin’ we are told, as if that’s different from his pen or typewriter)  is a truly terrible, awful show.

In episode six, I think I’m watching a season one episode of Space:1999 and that all the years since 1975 never happened, and it is one of the most confusing and disorientating viewing experiences- I swear it could be an actual unfilmed ‘lost’ episode from that old Gerry Anderson show repurposed for Nightflyers. Its also the most miserable attempt at what the tv execs call ‘a bottle episode’ I have had the misfortune to see in years. Imagine for a moment going back to all the hoary old cliches of that dated old show, and how daft tv sci-fi was back then, the nonsensical ‘science’, the twists and revelations that you could see a mile off, the hammy acting… dressing it up in 2018 clothing and CGI and… It could be the worst 40+ minutes I have endured for years this side of the new Dr Who. 

The whole miserable season of ten episodes felt like that, to be honest, and if I had the time to write all the things wrong with it I would be here all night and it would be a terrible slog of a post. Oh ok, I have the time I guess. Lets get on with all the horror (remember, I watched this so you don’t have to):

The show starts with a scene of dramatic chaos. That’s dramatic as in lots of flashing lights and moving shafts of light from unfathomable sources (because, hey, this is THE FUTURE and this is still 1982?).  A blonde woman (Gretchen Mol, so utterly wasted) is chased down spaceship corridors by a bearded guy with an axe doing a maniacal impression of Jack Nicholson’s worst The Shining excess. There’s a struggle, she flushes a warning message out the wastedump and she kills herself.

nite2.jpgSo we then go back in time, and we won’t see this scene proper until episode 9, I think. But it was so gripping of course we’re going to stick at it for the next 8 episodes to see how we get there and why the hell all the bad shit happened to the good ship Nightflyer. Except, when we do get there it still doesn’t make any sense or explain why it happened. That bearded guy goes crazy and tries to kill two people (arguably succeeds) and in the following episode all is forgiven. I mean, wtf? This show does that shit ALL THE TIME.

In the last episode, the ship is about to blow up, the flashing lights are REALLY flashing like crazy, there’s steam and explosions and people dying and wounded being carried around in circles, and at the same time in the cabin where the woman killed herself, cleaners are mopping up the blood and tidying the room. I mean, wtf? There’s a gigantic alien motherfucking spaceship out the window and the ship is going to explode and someone’s on clean-up duty? Nothing. Makes. Sense.

Wait. Breath. Relax. This is a dream. Its not real. Nightflyers cannot be real. I’m in an episode of Black Mirror, surely?

Here’s a list of some of the daftest cliches in NIGHTFLYER-

1. He’s a goddamn robot. I won’t tell you who, but I could have forgiven them casting Yaphet Kotto in this if it meant him reprising his line from Alien, it’s all it was missing. Although of course the audience likely figured it out before the stupid characters.

2. He’s a goddamn Hologram.

3. The ship is possessed by its dead owner. She’s dead, she’s black, and she’s pissed. And she lives in a virtual Irish mansion. She’s a virtual/AI/ghost haunting the ship from a virtual ghostly castle, of course she is, carry on.

4. Oh, and her bully dad is prowling the castle because she’s been a naughty girl. No, seriously this is a virtual/AI/ghost with daddy issues on a spaceship racing into the void.

5. Turns out the bald guy on the bridge had a thing for the dead bitch who’s haunting the ship. I smell trouble in the name of love.

6. Shafts of light, piercing almost every scene, blinking/flashing lights on walls everywhere else. Because yes this is The Future and there is steam. Of course there is steam. Every spaceship has steam filling corridors, especially when things are tense.

7. There’s cameras all over the ship. The captain is watching everyone. Lets have sex. Let’s leave the light on. Lets ignore that red lens gawping at us. Lets get upset about feeling betrayed when I remember the captain is watching everyone. Wait. Is that a camera in the shower cubicle?

8. She’s not a girl. She’s a goddamn bio-engineered spacewoman who cries on demand and falls for the captain only -gosh he’s a hologram, no he’s a robot no he’s her goddamn brother! Actually, no, he was a hologram, he was a robot, and yes, he is her brother! Oh no! The ghost haunting the ship is her mom! I. Kid. You. Not.

nite4.jpg9. He’s a goddamn telepath. These guys are sulky and dangerous, but he’s brought his gorgeous therapist along for the ride. He has the hots for her.

10. Oh the irony about how big space is but how it’s such a small world- the chief scientist knows the therapist. There were lovers, years ago. Of all the spaceships in all the world we have to meet on this one, I know one telepath in a crazy spaceship doesn’t mean a hill of beans but this is my spaceship, and this is my telepath, and this is my hill of beans blah blah (I think I may have Space Madness myself at this point). You just know these two cute ex’s  have the hots for each other and will be in bed before episode 7.  It can only end one way. The therapist is a secret telepath. Gazooks!

Wait a minute. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, and I’m not talking about Event Horizon, although of course it is sitting over there in the corner. The central premise is that our chief scientist has detected an object outside our solar system and he has deduced it might be alien spaceship because it moves in a very off and peculiar alien kind of way. He joins the crew of the Nightflyer and brings a telepath with him because he has deduced only a telepath can communicate with the aliens who he has named the Volcryn. He has also deduced that the Volcryn can solve all humanity’s problems because they are alien and smart. All the way through this bloody show I was trying to figure out why the aliens were called the Volcryn and why everyone thought they could save humanity and why a telepath had to be aboard and why the scientist…. He’s a mad scientist, of course, because they all are in these things aren’t they. And he wants to go home to his dead daughter. Who he sees all the time. She’s wearing a red coat and Don’t Look Now but…

11. Have I mentioned the bee-lady in the dome? There’s this blonde hippy scientist in the dome (there’s more than one dome, yes there are forests, no this isn’t Silent Running, because damn they forgot the droids) who is friends/talks with the bees because obviously the bees are the most intelligent creatures on the ship at this point, well bee-lady she gets cosy with the bearded botanist and she gets pregnant and that doesn’t end well, really, space pregnancies seldom do and apparently there’s only one doctor/nurse available and she’s got herself a lung full of alien spore (well, whatya gonna do, shit happens) so with alien spores threatening the ship and no medical professionals to save the day, which is odd, you’d think they would have a medical team on a big spaceship to treat people attacked by bearded botanists with axes…

nite3.jpg12. That bearded botanist with the axe. A security team eventually (I mean eventually, he’s like gone all The Shining for half-hour butchering the crew and dismembering the robot before anybody with a gun turns up) catch him and they confine him to his cabin. To his bloody cabin! Where anyone -including mad scientists- can just open the door and recruit him for First Contact because only a murderous botanist can figure out alien telepathy shit.

13. Now, funnily enough, on a ship big enough to have a crew of hundreds (although we only see roughly seven at any one time?) there is only one escape pod and it’s only big enough for one person. Its like they never learned anything from the Titanic. Or Event Horizon, which was bloody brilliant compared to this rubbish. So with the Volcryn now outside wondering what the frack is going on with this Earth ship that’s turned up and is now about to self-destruct, everyone with any sense, including the Evil Ghost Bitch who has at this point possessed the I.T. expert (no, seriously, its true, if you survive bearded botanists with axes and alien spores you’re just likely to suffer a case of possession instead), yeah she is racing to the escape pod…

and then… well, no, I can’t spoil it for you.

Let’s go back a bit. Death by fire no wait he survives that has a bath and is fine.

nite5So anyway, since I’m feeling brave and my medication is now settling in for the night,  let’s go back to episode six,  which I like to call the Space:1999 episode because it pretends all the growing up that sci-fi did between 1975 and 2018 never happened. Our heroes stumble upon a derelict ship that happens to be drifting on the same course the Nightflyer is taking. So our hapless heroes from the Ghost Ship Nightflyer go over to the mysterious derelict last seen near Jupiter (was this in Event Horizon? Or was it Sunshine? So many homages, it’s hard to keep track) to try salvage its computer brain (one size fits all spaceships) and after fourteen years there are still survivors on board – but all the survivors are old ladies with Space Madness who are on a women-only crusade to live in peace on another planet and drain men of their, er, vital essences in order to grow clones for meat, as they sure as hell are not vegans, no sir not on this spaceship. Calling Captain Kirk- sorry wrong franchise…

Remember. I watched this so you don’t have to. Netflix really should be ashamed.