SYFY’s Nightflyers is a small-screen retelling of George R.R. Martin’s 1980 novella, which was previously adapted for the big screen in 1987. By the looks of things, SYFY has pulled out all the stops to really bring this space horror story to life.
Stars Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire), Eoin Macken (The Night Shift), Jodie Turner-Smith (The Last Ship), Angus Sampson (Fargo), David Ajala (Falling Water), show creator Jeff Buhler (Pet Sematary), and showrunner Gene Klein (Suits) took the stage to preview the network’s next big genre project. Martin may not have been in attendance, but his presence was felt throughout the Indigo Ballroom.
Big Sci-Fi, Not a Game of Thrones Clone
The series, which follows a space crew in the not-too-distant future on a mission to save planet Earth, relies heavily on Buhler’s horror sensibilities. “It’s a journey to make contact with the first-known alien race,” the show’s creator explains.
“We were not shy about pulling the themes and even some imagery that’s homage. There’s a lot of 2001 in here, there’s a lot of The Shining in here, there’s a lot of Ridley Scott’s Aliens in there. Those were the choices that we made to it felt like we were watching a film. So it felt like we were watching big science fiction.”
Big science fiction isn’t an understatement, either. After we saw another clip from the series, Angus Sampson, who plays xenobiologist Rowan, raved about the expansive and detailed nature of the production. Not only were they dealing with practical sets that extended through three giant airplane hangars, but Buhler also confirmed that the majority of the special effects used on the show are indeed practical.
Exploring Space and Humanity
The tactile nature of the five-month shoot allowed the actors to connect with their characters on a realistic level and helped present a near-future genre story in a light that feels both relatable and relevant.
“Earth is not doing well,” Buhler explains. “It’s not post-apocalyptic Earth where no one can live. We set it 75 years in the future but the idea was to paint a picture of Earth where life isn’t working anymore. It’s not an apocalypse, but we know it’s not sustainable.”
Jodie Turner-Smith, who plays genetically enhanced human, Melantha Jhirl, took Buhler’s explanation one step further: “Earth is dying. Getting on the Nightflyer is sort of supposed to be the opportunity of a lifetime. We’re out to save humanity but we end up losing our own humanity in the process.”
The concept of characters in solitude being forced to face their own demons and the horrors of humanity as a whole is nothing new in genre entertainment. That theme seems to be the real crux of the series, here. The planet’s hope for survival weighs on a mysterious celestial being, while things are breaking down both externally and internally for the human race.
“It comes down to what you will sacrifice,” says Eon Macken, who plays Karl D’Branin. “The greater good becomes its own subjective idea.”
Nightflyers premieres this fall on SYFY.