Nightflyers on Netflix review: George RR Martin’s “well-acted, formulaic” sci-fi

A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin may have delivered us the greatest fantasy television series of all time in Game of Thrones , but will his literary works translate as well when it’s the genre of science-fiction?

Based on a short story of the same name, Nightflyers is a Netflix television series that follows eight scientists on the spaceship Nightflyer in the year 2093.

The mission of these scientists is to make the first contact with alien life forms, but this voyage is interrupted by increasingly dangerous events on board, mostly precipitated by the abilities of a troubled telepath on board.

The series begins with a shockingly violent opening scene before taking us back and explaining how we got there, but this feels like nothing new.

Executing a sleek and sophisticated set design and cinematography, the show looks expensive but is mostly skin-deep.

The plot and execution are entirely formulaic and unremarkable, and the script is so plot-driven that it is hard to get too attached to the characters.

Feeling like a blend of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Discovery and Alien, it’s so evident where the series’ inspirations come from but unlike these sources, Nightflyers lacks a sense of originality in its premise.

Nightflyers on Netflix review: George RR Martin's "well-acted, formulaic" sci-fi

Netflix’s Nightflyers stars Gretchen Mol

The chief strength, however, is in the series’ cast, which ensures it is a satisfying and reliable watch.

Eoin Macken is a charismatic leader for the ship as Karl D’Branin, who is also an astrophysicist. Fans of the BBC’s Merlin will remember him as Sir Gwaine, but thankfully, he gets much more material here to prove himself as a leading man.

The real standouts lie in the cast elsewhere, however.

Former EastEnders star Sam Strike continues to choose grittier and dark roles, having already appeared in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface and Netflix’s series Mindhunter, here cast as an unstable and furious telepath named Thale, being suitably unnerving but also laced with a likability.

The star of the show has to be American actress Grethen Mol , who makes another triumphant return to television after her haunting turn in HBO series Boardwalk Empire, now playing psychiatrist Dr. Agatha Matheson, who shares some unnerving scenes with Thale, and who Mol instills with resilience and vulernability.

There is almost a Silence of the Lambs vibe to the pair’s confrontations, and inevitably chaos ensues from here that also affects the whole crew.

Nightflyers keeps a moderate degree of tension and epic stakes, but as the series falls through large amounts of plot, it would be nice if like series such as Battlestar Galactica, if it just sat with its crew mates a bit longer to make us care a bit more.

Stay for the top-form cast, however, and if the series moves on from the one season, it would be great to explore some more character-driven episodes.

The potential is here for something much more interesting.

Verdict

If you are a sci-fi fan this will satisfy despite being nothing original, but the cast makes sure it’s worth sticking with through to the dramatic finale in the well acted, formulaic Nightflyers.

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Nightflyers is released on Netflix in the UK on February 1 at 8am GMT.