The debut season of this Netflix original sci-fi TV series suffers with a narrative that favours individual encounters instead of reaching its destination, in spite of some good set pieces and decent character moments.
*This review contains spoilers linking to the plot*
The opening moments of the first episode set the scene up so well. Harper Glass, one of the biggest influencers in the world, is recording a vlog when she is interrupted by the arrival of a figure-eight shaped spaceship, which floats over mainland America before landing and growing a giant crystalline tower – classified by humans as “the Artifact”. This tower is projecting a signal that is traced to a distant planet, so a team of astronauts are sent there to find out if the alien species are friend or foe. There is nothing wrong at all with this premise; the first episode is probably the strongest of the whole season.
Where it falls down somewhat is the writer’s choice to have the crew face a series of deadly encounters on their journey to this planet. This would have been fine if these lasted throughout the first half of the season, so the space epidemic and the descent into madness of politician Sasha could have been nicely wrapped up, leaving the second half of the season for the crew to explore the unknown planet and discover more about the intentions of the species who dropped “the Artifact”. Partly, this could have been down to the writers wanting to give all of the large cast onboard the Salvare their individual moments to shine, so an encounter would act as a way to use some of the characters as cannon fodder. The pacing is also affected by the constant switch to the events on Earth and the main character’s husband, who is trying to communicate with “the Artifact”. I would have preferred to see individual episodes, maybe two in total, spent with him and his daughter on Earth as he tries to understand what the Achaia want.
The characterisation ranges from decent to cliched, even within individuals. The need for the writers to develop every single main character who is alive by the finale means that certain storylines come across as under developed and painfully unoriginal. A female crew member has had sex with two of her colleagues and is now pregnant, but who is the father? is just one of the more unnecessary inclusions. Other than that, there are solid plot points including the second-in-command fighting with her superior over the death of her soulmate, the personification of the ship’s computer having actual feelings for the captain and the desperation of the protagonist’s husband to find a way to save their daughter after she was blasted by radiation. These were all good ideas but it is just a shame that there were just as many bum notes with other narratives, that left them feeling crammed in amongst the action.
There has been no word yet as to whether Another Life will be renewed for a second season, after being hit pretty hard by critics, only having an average score of 4.54/10 on Rotten Tomatoes. The reaction from the public was also mixed on the series as a whole, only receiving 4.8/10 on iMDB. I think that it would be a shame if the second season was cancelled, in spite of the criticisms I mentioned above, because the first was left on such a cliffhanger. Harper Glass, under the control of the Achaia, speaks out to the world’s population that the alien species are looking for friendship, whilst the crew on board the Salvare witness the Achaia’s destruction of another planet and need to avoid the debris that is hurtling towards them. But in this age, where so many TV shows are decommissioned in favour of the next big hope, I’m not sure whether this one would make the cut.
Despite a great first episode and a series cliffhanger where so many questions are left hanging, the slow journey to the narrative’s destination and a series of questionable individual narratives overshadow the positives, leaving me unsure as to whether we will see a sequel.
Star Rating: 2.5/5