Another Life (Netflix) – Review by a Science Fiction Author

Netflix have just released a sci-fi show called
Another Life. I was looking forward to this one, so here’s
my first reaction after the first two episodes. Another life is a 10-episode science fiction
series. It’s set on a near-future earth, that apart
from a few futuristic technologies, isn’t much different from our own world. A mysterious alien artefact appears in the
sky and lands. Katee Sackoff, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica,
plays Niko a very skilled spaceship commander who is sent on a mission to find the aliens
that sent the object, and uncover what they want. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the first two
episodes. The tone of the show is largely down to earth
and serious, but with, perhaps, some overly heightened conflict, but I’ll talk more
about that later. It feels similar to shows like Battlestar
Galactica and Stargate Universe. The casting of Katee Sackoff was clearly no
accident. They’re appealing to that gritty realistic
science fiction. And yet, the show doesn’t quite feel like
either of those other shows. It has its own feeling. The show seems to switch between three different
modes: white knuckle suspense, mystery and wonder, and character introspection. Those are all ingredients I enjoy. The beginning of the first episode felt a
little bit rushed. I would have liked if the show hD sat in that
moment of mystery and wonder a little longer. I actually got more of a sense of wonder from
the trailer, which included voiceovers from news broadcasts, talking about how an alien
object had appeared in the sky. Then we jump ahead 6 months. Niko has a husband and a daughter. Her husband is a scientist with the job of
studying the artefact. Niko has a very hard choice to make. Does she stay home with her family, or go
on the 6 month mission, leaving them behind? Well, we know what she chooses, because otherwise,
there’d be no story. This show does a good job of portraying the
sacrifice that people make when they have to leave their families for long periods of
time to perform acts of services, such as serving in the military. But it’s not just their sacrifice. The family they leave behind are also making
a huge sacrifice. This is dramitised very effectively. This is another moment where I felt the beginning
was a little rushed. One minute the thing is landing, and then
we’re in space on the mission. I wanted more context. I wanted them to study the artefact a bit
more first. Apparently we’re heading to the planet where
we think the object was created? How did we determine where it came from? What do we know about the object, and the
potential threat it represents? I was feeling a little lost without this context. Now I understand, in the real world, the mere
existence of an alien object like this would be considered a threat, simply because it
is not understood. But in a story, you really need to cement
the stakes. Even just a line about how they’ve determined
a massive power source inside the object, or something like that. The characters all act as if the entire human
race is at risk, and I’m willing to buy that, I’d just have liked a little more
clarification of the situation to help me invest in the importance of this mission. Let’s talk cast. The show is kinda drip-feeding the characters
to us. We get to know them a few at a time. They’ll all get their turn in the spotlight. Niko is a no nonsense commander. She carries a lot of weight, which she takes
seriously, but she doesn’t waste time being all angsty about it. She misses her family like crazy, but it doesn’t
interfere with her work. Her first officer, Yerxa, used to be the captain
of this ship, but both Niko and the generals agree that he may not be up to a mission of
this magnitude. Niko calls him a hothead. This leads to some awkwardness amongst the
crew. Niko calls this out and acknowledges how uncomfortable
it feels, but encourages them to accept things and get on with the job. The conflict between them comes to a head
when they find the ship is off course and they have to decide how to deal with it. This ties into the theme. There’s a big theme in the first 2 episodes
of risk. What risks should you take? And what ones should you avoid? Is it better to reach their destination quickly? Or take it slow and steady? There are so many tensions here. They all have loved ones they want to get
back to, but at the same time, if they fail in their mission, the whole human race could
be at risk. Niko and Yerxa clash over these decisions,
and it comes to mutiny. And then after that’s resolved, things get
really serious. This is where realism starts to become a little
bit strained. While the drama is exciting, I can’t help
but think that people in this situation would be more professional than this. But something happens at the end of the first
episode which makes me wonder if perhaps, Yerxa is under some kind of alien influence. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes. I think some of the conflict also comes from
the fact that most of the crew are in their 20s, and Niko is older. One of the characters calls out herself, that
20 somethings are generally more willing to take risks, whereas older people are inclined
to play it safer, especially if they have families. PErsonally, I think many of the crewmembers
still have a little growing and maturing to do. One of my favourite characters so far is William,
a holographic interface for the ship's artificial intelligence. He’s very likable, and fiercely loyal to
his captain. He adds an ironic humanising touch. On the subject of holograms, They use holographic
communication on this show, and I have to say they’ve done it much better than Star
Trek Discovery did. Even with canon issues aside, the holographic
communication technology on Discovery just didn’t make logical sense, but on this show,
they’ve thought it through a little. They’ve thought, there must be a projector,
and a camera somewhere. Parts of the body the camera can’t see are
not rendered. So if the person on the other end is sitting
down behind a table, you see a torso and head floating in front of you. The holograms are lifelike, not translucent. A very occasional glitch makes it clear that
they are holograms. But I think these glitches are not in the
projection technology, no reason for that, but in the communication. They’re having real-time video chat over
interstellar distances. IT makes sense the signal will glitch a little. While all of this is happening out in space,
Niko’s husband is trying to find a way to communicate with the artefact, while raising
his daughter alone and dealing with all the feelings that come from the long-term distance
between him and his wife. One other issue I noticed with the show is
the way the exposition was handled early in episode 1. Exposition is hard to get across in a story. There were a couple of time that a little
like “As you know Bob” conversations. This is not uncommon on TV, but I really noticed
it here. Not a big thing. It probably just stuck out to me because I’m
a writer. Their spaceship, The Salvare, looks pretty
cool. It’s got a bit of a hard-sci-fi look to
it. A big ring around the outside and various
modules in side. They’ve got artificial gravity and a landing
craft. Another life is hitting the right buttons
for me so far. Niko is a protagonist I can relate to, because
she’s a parent, she’d married, and she’s close to my age. I love stories about space exploration, heading
out into the unknown. I’m very eager to learn more about these
aliens. And while the drama seems little heightened
for my believability so far, it leads to some great action. I think this show has the potential to be
as good as Stargate Universe. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m very
much looking forward to watching more. Another Life is available on Netflix. It has an Australian rating of MA for strong
themes, and strong blood and gore, although I haven’t encountered any gore yet. It also has a fair bit of swearing in it. And if you like space-based sci-fi that explores
themes of risk and safety, check out my book Jewel of The Stars, about a cruise ship in
space on the run from an alien armada. My captain, Les Miller, has to deal with similar
questions to Niko. Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe,
and I’ll see you next time. Live long and prosper.

7 thoughts on “Another Life (Netflix) – Review by a Science Fiction Author

  1. This show was shit. It is a piece of dung that has no semblance of science in it and with the most annoying generation z crew that was completely unprofessional and mentally unsound, imo.

    If you want a GOOD scifi show, watch the EXPANSE.

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