The much hyped series has finally arrived, but Another Life is dead on the water
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
It didn’t seem all that long ago that Another Life was being hyped up with great anticipation. “Arrival meets Star Trek” was the comparison, and you would be forgiven for thinking that might mean a thought-provoking take on first contact like Arrival. Or perhaps an exploration of the human condition through the medium of intergalactic travel, like Star Trek.
You would be wrong. So very, very wrong .
Starting on a High Note: The Story
The series starts relatively well – we’re in the near future when a strange alien vessel (later known as the Artefact) lands on Earth and transmits a signal towards the Canis Majoris constellation, 96 Light Years away. We then meet Niko Breckenbridge, played by Katie Sackoff, who must leave her family behind to captain The Salvare to the source of the transmissions and initiate First Contact. The mission doesn’t come without its dramas however, when it’s revealed that her second-in-command, Ian Yerxa, was the previous captain of The Salvare. Tensions quickly arise between the two, when the power shift inevitably leads to clashes in matters of command.
As intriguing as it begins, the show quickly devolves from there, and becomes what is easily the most infuriating series in recent years for a number of reasons…
There’s Far Too Much Going On
To put it bluntly: the writing is bad. For one thing, there are far too many story lines packed into one season, and none of them are explored in any real depth. The effects are great, and the visual style would be impressive were it not for the fact that the erratic shift in tone each episode makes it difficult to pin down exactly what kind of story Another Life wants to be.
In Episode One we deal with Mutinies and the responsibilities of leadership, and by Episode Three we’re contending with a parasitic alien that can make your nervous system jump out of a hole in your back. Episode Four backtracks to contend with Niko’s haunted past, and we see her doubting her abilities as leader, (despite this not having been an issue at all up until this point). You could argue that killing Yerxa over his threatening the mission has destabilised her, but it’s established in episode two that she owns the decision and proves herself to the crew. So why dig up an already resolved issue? Cheap drama for the sake of it? Retrospective character development? Or perhaps the show has already run out of ideas? The likely answer is All of the Above.
And this is just the beginning: Body-Snatching brain implants, random Strange Matter drives threatening to blow up the ship (because of course they do) then never being mentioned again (because of course they aren’t). For a ten episode season, there’s just far too much going on and nothing meaningful to be taken from it.
Simply put, there was far too much going on. A simpler storyline with more depth and build up would have been far more engaging, rather than the mess of rehashed Sci-Fi tropes we were left with.
(And to top it off, it takes ten whole episodes to see some damn aliens).
There’s little to no Character Engagement
For narratives that don’t focus on the finer details of the plot, character development is essential. Who are these people? What is their purpose? And why should we as the audience care for them?
To begin with, it isn’t even clear how many people are aboard the ship until several episodes in, and we were convinced that two different characters were playing the same one for a significant amount of time.
Niko is easily the most fleshed out character, but her constantly shifting state of mind makes it difficult to determine what her character arc is supposed to be. Is she struggling with the conflict between her responsibilities as a leader and as a mother & wife? Or is she tormented by her past and her ability to make the right choice for the mission? The answer is all of these things, and none of them. One moment, she is portrayed as a decisive leader who does what needs to be done, and a vulnerable doubt-filled woman the next.
That’s not to say this dichotomy can’t be done – it has been done before, and done well – but in Another Life it feels as though the psychological shift occurs so Niko can be whatever the script needs her to be at that moment.
The tension between Niko and Former Captain Yerxa could have been an interesting character development, marred by the mutiny that Yerxa instigates after one disagreement (and his attempt to kill her after the second). Don’t worry, she kills him first, in an asinine “why the hell is there a random electricity field and why does no one seem to care?” way.
The rest of the crew are hardly fleshed out at all, but it’s difficult to imagine a future where humanity’s best representatives for First Contact with an alien species are essentially ‘Millennials in Space (no offence to our fellow millenials, but let’s face it – we wouldn’t be our first pick!). Between the constant bickering and lack of impulse control, there isn’t a moment of professionalism between them. Special mention goes to Michelle: the human equivalent of a tweet written in all-caps, and spends the first episode staring at a tablet while loudly complaining about Niko being too old to be a good leader (which only highlights how age-inappropriate most of the crew are).
There are some sweet moments (especially between Zayn and Bernie) and the AI William steals a few scenes, but ultimately they’re a forgettable group of people, and the deaths that occur hold no impact. More development and better introductions would have gone a long way, especially if the writers wanted us to build a lasting relationship with them.
The Verdict: 2/10
Another Life tries too hard to be so many things at once that it fails to engage on any level. Everything it sets out to do has been done before, and with far greater impact.
It’s not even clear who the target audience is. Beyond the setting and random reference to something futuristic, there isn’t enough Science Fiction in the show to keep Sci-Fi fans engaged. For casual Drama fans, there just isn’t enough character development to suck you in. And for Action Fans, well… there are three fight scenes, and they’re so overly choreographed that they’re laughable. The writers tried to cater to everyone, and therefore no one.
Between the lazy writing, poor acting, and a contrived plot, Another Life just feels like a colossal waste of time. With the wealth of Sci-Fi at our disposal these days, the writer’s need to ditch the cliches and come up with something more engaging.
What did you think of ‘Another Life’? Tweet us here and we’ll look into adding to our rant above.