The science fiction series from Netflix Another life, which will premiere on July 25, opens with a promising starting point, but it is not a particularly original: it brings together plot points from Denis Villeneuve Arrival and Syfy & # 39; s Nightflyers, which was canceled after a single season. Another life opens with an ouroboros-like alien spaceship that sails above the earth and then bumps into a soybean field and turns into a crystalline communication tower. When earthly attempts to analyze it reveal little information that goes beyond sending it to Pi Canis Majoris, which is 96.5 light-years away from the Earth, the US sends its most advanced spaceship, the Salvare, to the first contact to make.
Unfortunately, that story is largely pushed to the background after the first episode of the show in favor of a series of even more derivative Star Trek-style episodic conflicts. It is set in the relatively near future, where humanity has developed space ships that can travel faster than light, and technology that puts people in stasis for long journeys. (Katee Sackhoff), an experienced astronaut who was involved in a disastrous mission to Saturn nine years earlier, killing half of the crew. She takes over control of the Salvare from her own protégé Ian Yerxa (Tyler Hoechlin of Teen Wolf and Super girl), which, according to the US Army, are too hot-headed for such a sensitive mission, but are still on the ship to question all of Niko's decisions.
There is something inherently funny about having Sackhoff, who played the infamous non-conformist Starbuck Battlestar Galactica, serving as the voice of caution and reason on board the Salvare. But the first conflicts in the series are so absurd that they mitigate the impact of her role reversal. In the first episode, ardent communication expects Michelle Vargas (The flashJessica Camacho) rages about how someone over 27 is a coward and admires the 27 club. (Camacho is actually 36.) This leads to a weak explanation why most crew members are hot over 20: they are healthy and able to make daring decisions. It seems that it would be important for the members of a colony ship, but not necessarily the best crew for what characters are constantly saying is the most important space mission in human history.
Beyond the obvious conflict of leaving Ian on board to ensure that the crew has shared loyalty, the Salvare also includes inexplicably seated congressman Sasha Harrison (Jake Abel), who has never left Earth or even met his fellow astronauts before they all emerge from stasis into the deep space. He spends most of his time trying to convince everyone that he is not useless or so old. (He is one of the youngest members of Congress ever!) One of the stories about his ignorance about space travel is that he wonders why no one is in uniform; instead, they walk around dressed as Abercrombie models or wear only sports bras and shorts. Again, no real reason is given, although the engineers occasionally wear uniforms so that they can create sexual tension by stripping them while working in warm parts of the ship.
When the Salvare crew does not fight or flirt with each other, they are faced with cliché crises such as a deadly space virus or a disruption that forces them to land on a dangerous, unexplored planet. The Salvare has a full backup team in stasis, which uses it in a way that is reminiscent of Star Trek"S redshirts. They can be removed to provide some form of expertise, then dramatically die or replace other minor characters who must die to prove that a particular situation is serious.
The dynamic of casual person swapping largely emphasizes how hollow most characters of the show feel. Sackhoff does her best to deliver emotional performances and to bring gravitas to the clumsy scripts. In particular, she does an excellent job in episode 4, & # 39; Guilt Trip & # 39 ;, where she is stuck in a series of nightmares that confront her feelings about the Saturn mission and let her eight-year-old daughter go into space. It's a letdown get started and the seed Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Tapestry" but it is still an effective character formation.
Maker Aaron Martin has borrowed many delivery ideas from Star Trek, but his show lacks any driving philosophy. Niko offers a solution for some relevant conflicts about how women are experienced with authority and the fault of working mothers. It is nice to see a future in which the fact that the ship's medic, Zayn Petrossian (JayR Tinaco), is non-binary, is not worth commenting. The sensitive AI William (Samuel Anderson), made like the assistants of Her to be a perfect interface for Niko, offers some opportunity for the study of human nature, although very few of them have not been done with Star Trek: The Next GenerationData.
There has been much talk about how climate change has caused major cities to be flooded and made clean water expensive, although it is hard to see on Earth's scenes, which are full of beautiful Vancouver landscapes and perfect suburbs. If this were a weightless, episodic science fiction series, it could be refreshing, but dealing with more serious issues and avoiding humor or self-awareness Another life can't fill that niche either.
While most of the action takes place at the Salvare, the show periodically returns to Earth, where Niko & # 39; s husband, Erik Wallace (Justin Chatwin), tries to communicate with the aliens in a way that directly Close encounters of the third kind. He does a fine job of playing a scientist who alternates between long periods of failure and temporary triumphant success, but he has little to do except delivering techno-chat and worrying about Niko. Too often his plot crosses with the unbearable Harper Glass (HellboySelma Blair), who reports on the alien artifact to the 250 million followers of her website, making her the most popular journalist in the world.
Another life also lacks a lot of visual identity. It is relatively light for CGI, with the exception of some blue lightning effects used to detect ship failures, and a grotesque sequence in virus delivery. The Salvare has a sort of near-future functionality that is reminiscent of the nicer ships on The Expanse. None of the other visuals of stars and planets really stands out as impressive or new, which adds to the Star Trek knock-off atmosphere.
Towards the end of the fourth episode of the 10 episodes season, the Salvare crew is ready to finally do something that is related to the alien artifact. That could help Another life on the right track, but the fact that the writers have wasted so much of their opening act re-visiting such well-known science fiction clichés with so little personal taste or variety makes a strong, surprising turnaround unlikely. Despite its potential, Another life just feels like a generic, humorless space adventure that is likely to crash and burn long before it unravels its big mysteries.