Review – Another Life Season 1 (Spoilers)
Another Life is a TV show starring Katee Sackhoff.
Wow, this is a terrible show.
An Alien artefact lands on Earth. The signal from the artefact is discovered to be directed at a nearby solar system, so a crew is assembled to investigate, led by Niko Breckinridge; played by Katee Sackhoff. Her husband, Erik Wallace, played by Justin Chatwin, is the lead scientist on investigating the artefact and remains on Earth with their daughter.
I really struggle to like shows that have not done basic research. This show has characters that act very strangely, institutions that work directly counter to how they act now, and is also not helped with some production errors that were incredibly unfortunate. The structure of the show made for a string of plot conveniences that were pretty hard to swallow.
I did like some parts of the show. The storyline with Erik Wallace, who is a scientist trying to discover the secrets of the artefact while trying to look after his young daughter was pretty engaging (even if the science was pretty wonky, I was happy to give it a pass). The actual storyline of Niko Breckinridge is ok, but it is buried under a bunch of padding and wasted screen time.
I had some big problems with this show.
Every episode there is a monster of the week, for a Netflix show where all of the episodes came out at once. Even if you try to give them a pass for making essentially a week to week episodical show, the season arc does conform to a binge style show where the events of previous episodes are important. This Frankenstein mash-up leads to a show that doesn’t know what it is and never settles. The genre shifts multiple times and makes for a very jarring series.
During the show, there was a couple of writing issues that annoyed me. The characters are not able to work together, backstabbing each other, sometimes even straight up killing each other, on the only ship humans sent to make first contact. A crew handpicked for this purpose would be vetted not only in skill but also in personality. NASA has run 6 HI-SEAS missions, which have a group of astronaut analogues enclosed in a small habitat for 8 months. The purpose of this mission is primarily to discover what crew psychology issues a long term mission would face and develop solutions and process which deal with or eliminate them. Crazy crew members who put their own personality quirks before humanity’s first First Contact mission would not be selected.
Another writing annoyance was that some of the crew who die have incredibly long death monologues. It pulled me right out of the show, in fact I literally laughed at how stupid it was.
Some writing/research problems I had is not understanding how microgravity works. In one occasion a crew member uses a fire extinguisher in zero-g and her whole body is thrown backwards. She should spin around her centre of gravity, rather than be thrown against the wall. She also hits the wall with considerable force, I couldn’t be bothered to look it up and do the maths, but I’ve used fire extinguishers before they don’t have a lot of push back when you use them. I find it hard to believe that in zero-g it would do more than spin you slowly. Also, why was the crew member, who is supposed to be trained in space operations, so untrained in fire safety on a spaceship? She’s the second in command of the ship.
In the same vein, Niko is outside at one point in a spacesuit and she slips. She breaks 3 carabiner type anchor (Why is a slip able to do this) then the line pulls taut and she is held away from the ship. She should reach the taut point and then be pulled back toward the ship, because of Old Mate Newton’s 3rd Law, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, she is held aloft form the ship as though she has some force pushing her away from it. This is clearly just a set up for an episode-long dream sequence that didn’t add much to the overall story arc really at all.
Also, why the hell was she doing an EVA alone? EVA’s are always done as at least a pair, so that if one person gets into trouble they can be assisted without the time it takes to suit up and decompress the airlock.
Reviewing it as a science fiction story I have to say that I didn’t feel that they in any way hired a consultant to check the science. Now it’s fine to have a fiction story where some element is added that makes no sense. For instance, you don’t see me arguing the story wasn’t good because it has Faster Than Light drive on the ship and that’s unrealistic. It’s jarring and unrealistic when story elements are not consistent. Physics and common space practises can be pretty jarring when they have no reliability.
I’m not going to tell you not to watch Another Life, but if you do turn your suspended disbelief to maximum and make have 6-10 beers, it will smooth out some of the rough spots so you can enjoy the storyline in some places.