I think we all just want to be rescued.
I mean, I like throwing myself into any story, especially a science-fiction one. If the premise is solid, I can accept it and enjoy it. Then, I can be scared, shocked, grossed out, amazed and entertained and, in the end, rescued. The more we throw ourselves into it, the greater sense of satisfaction – and that’s the rescue I’m talking about. That’s what we get with Another Life, the latest original dramatic sci-fi series currently streaming on Netflix, created by Aaron Martin (Slasher, Being Erica).
The premise: humanity has developed faster-than-light space travel in its efforts to further explore space. The closest stars are now within reach. Earth has attracted the attention of an alien species that has sent a monolithic artifact to Earth. A towering, crystal structure has landed on Earth and presented itself as a silent curiosity tracked from the star system Pi Canis Majoris. After months of frustration, the decision is made to send a space ship and crew to the star system to find out what the aliens’ intentions are.
The show has a strong dramatic foundation. The arrival of an alien object on Earth is a powerful way to start the series and immediately activates an audience’s curiosity. Traditional and well-within the realm of sci-fi stories, it sets the audience up for a traditional, epic-scale adventure that hits the major tropes of first contact, space exploration and other elements that sci-fi fans will want to see. It’s about the mystery of space and asks the questions: what is out there and what does that mean for humanity in the now and in the future?
Martin taps into other themes too. There’s loyalty, family, and sacrifice and immediately we see these embodied in the character of Battlestar Galactica alumna, Katee Sackhoff. Sackhoff plays the mission commander, Niko Breckinridge, a veteran astronaut, wife and mother who has to deal with issues of leaving her family on Earth for six months to explore the artifact’s planet of origin. Breckinridge also has to contend with issues of crew loyalty when she is placed in command of the mission instead of the preferred officer who is placed as her second. Sackhoff is powerful in a role that seems specially crafted for her. She’s a dynamic leader who conveys strength and command immediately. The weight of the show is on her shoulders and she doesn’t fail to disappoint. But to be honest, I’d watch Katee Sackhoff command a rubber duck in a bathtub; the gravity she brings to her roles is impossible to miss and she carries a show well.
That’s also to be said for the addition of Selma Blair in the role of pop culture journalist, Harper Glass. Glass is a deliciously self-serving and soulless personality who is the first person to report on the arrival of the alien object to her 250 million-member audience. Of course, this has always been Blair’s forte: conniving and crafty. Glass manages to insert herself into the lives of Breckinridge’s family on earth in order to get to the inner workings of the story. Blair, in the news recently, because of her MS diagnosis, shows no diminishing of her acting talents and comes across as a figure we need to hate, but who we acknowledge as necessary to further more information about the aliens.
Tyler Hoechlin and Samuel Anderson also stand out in their roles as well. Hoechlin plays Ian Yerxa, the hotheaded and disgruntled first officer who has issues with Breckinridge’s command style. Samuel Anderson is the ship’s A.I., William, who figures prominently in a number of episodes. Actually, I have a personal love for stories that feature artificial intelligence as characters. Not only do they present an acting challenge to the performers but they also represent a great deal of story potential for a series. Anderson does a phenomenal job of interpreting and presenting William.
The visual elements are definitely high-quality. The USIC Salvare is a well-designed and wonderfully-rendered ship that I’d definitely love to have a model of on my office shelf. With cool set features like the cryo-tubes, the ship’s crow’s nest, and the alien artifact effects, there are some great visuals in this show that put it in good standing with other shows in the same genre. For instance, when the crew encounters an unknown alien virus towards the middle of the first season, there is a spectacularly gory scene that represents a fine degree of special effects work that will make a viewer’s skin crawl.
This show is meant to be binged. To get the full appreciation, you have to watch the whole season of this series. While it could be said it is a little slow in the initial episodes, the pace speeds up with as the show focuses more on the mission or what’s out in space instead of on the characters. As this development increases, it’s the last few episodes where we see the show really take off. Like other new shows, it’s hard to set a pace in the beginning, but when more information about the aliens’ intentions surfaces, the audience is swept up in what humanity’s response should be and it becomes a shared motivation that brings the entire cast together, and eventually all of humanity.
That’s something an audience can throw itself into. The more fantastic the story development, the greater the enjoyment of the series as a whole. In the end, the crew discovers the identity of the aliens and their message to humanity. This will be the meat of the story for the next season and holds a great deal of promise. However, in order to have gotten to that point, it’s essential for the audience to have thrown themselves into the story and allow themselves to be carried to the end of the season.
The first season of Another Life is currently streaming on Netflix. Allow the Salvare to rescue you.