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Syfy Brings George R.R. Martin's 'Nightflyers' to Television
December 2, 2018  | By David Hinckley
If Earth were dying and everyone on Earth knew it, you’d think humans might stop quarreling long enough to try saving it.

That isn’t necessarily what seems to be happening in Nightflyers, a 10-part series that launches Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.

It’s 2093, and Earth is spiraling toward its endgame. Like, it’s over. Like, extinction-level event. The only glimmer of hope seems to lie in making contact with aliens who have apparently harnessed power far greater than anything harnessed on Earth – and if Earthlings could tap into that power, perhaps they could halt their plunge into oblivion.

Unfortunately, these aliens have resisted every attempt by Earth to contact them. So Earth has decided to play its last card – a mission by the spaceship Nightflyer to go to the aliens’ home and knock on their door.

It’s at best a trick-or-treat situation since there’s no guarantee this visit will be embraced. But it’s the last, best and apparently only hope.

The leader of the contact forces is Dr. Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken, top). On the ship, however, he’s just a passenger. The captain is Roy Eris (David Ajala), and this isn’t one of those tiny capsule spacecraft. The Nightflyer is more like a neighborhood, with endless swirls of long grey tunnels.  

It takes a large crew to keep this operation going, and it would be logical to think everyone buys into the alien contact plan. And they were, more or less, until they saw one of D’Branin’s key components: a young fellow named Thale (Sam Striker), who has alien blood and a number of supernatural powers.

D’Branin considers him essential because he could be a translator between humans and the aliens if contact is made. Others on the ship consider him dangerous and barely tolerate him only because he’s kept in a locked chamber. Given their druthers, they’d chuck him out the window – literally. We learn quickly that this crew is not averse to violence.  

Among the skeptics is Rowan (Angus Sampson, top), a xenobiologist who is fascinated by alien life and pretty sure that if aliens are anywhere near as smart as we suspect, they will recognize humans as a species so flawed we need to be exterminated.  

On the other side, we have Dr. Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol, top), a psychiatrist who tries to convince the doubters that Thale will not harm anyone he does not perceive to be threatening him.

She’s got a tough sell in this crowd, and it gets tougher when bad things start to happen almost the minute the Nightflyer hurtles off into space.

The point here, not subtle, is that the biggest threat to us is usually us, and Nightflyers does not offer a lot of reassurance that even when our backs are against the wall, we will relent.

Nightflyers is based on a 1980 novella by George R.R. Martin. Martin is only an executive producer here because of his work with Game of Thrones over on HBO, but fans will recognize his touches and style.

They will also likely conclude that while Nightflyers interweaves fantasy and tense action drama in much the same way as Game of Thrones, it doesn’t have the same resonance. It’s harder to follow, perhaps because it is woven from less sturdy thread.

That won’t discourage deep science fiction and space adventure fans who will find plenty to like. It could make wider appeal a challenge, and because it’s such a genre story, the characters don’t tend to pop out.

Syfy does make Nightflyers easy to watch. The first six hour-long episodes will air on consecutive nights, then after a two-night break, it returns with the last four, wrapping up on Dec. 13.

It’s not exactly a binge schedule, but it’s close. So enjoy it now, because hey, who knows what TV will look like in 2093?

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