A George RR Martin show set in space? This isn’t going to end well for the Nightflyers crew…
It’s George RR Martin… in space! The mortality rate hasn’t changed…
The outer space setting of George RR Martin’s Nightflyers may be very different to Westeros, but one constant remains. “There’s a lot of death,” laughs executive producer Gene Klein.
“We knew that there’d be fans of Game Of Thrones who were going to expect that,” adds fellow EP David Bartis, “and we felt like there was an obligation to deliver on that.”
Based on Martin’s 1980 novella, itself part of the author’s wider “Thousand Worlds” universe, the show sees a bunch of astronauts and scientists aboard their ship, the Nightflyer, leaving a future Earth in the throes of environmental catastrophe to make first contact with an alien species known as the Volcryn. It’s no spoiler to say that things don’t quite go according to plan – especially seeing as the series’ bloody opening scene finds the lone Dr Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol) battling off a psychotic fellow crew member, before the show flashes back to reveal how they got there.
“There’s [elements of ] Hitchcock’s Psycho, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining…” admits showrunner Jeff Buhler. “Those were the big [influences] that we pulled from. We wanted to create a show that was really fun for horror fans. And if you’re not a total horror fan geek, you’re going to watch it and go, ‘Oh my God, this is an incredible mission. Who are these people?’ and get sucked into the world. It has to work on both levels.
“Also, in a horror, traditionally you don’t deal with really big ideas, but we deal with some really big ideas here,” he adds, “like what is the course of the human race? What does the future of our Earth look like? How are we going to use technology to address these issues? And should we use technology to address these issues? Have we earned the right to expand beyond our planet or not? Those are very science fiction themes that don’t necessarily fit neatly into a horror bucket.”
For Jodie Turner-Smith, who plays genetically engineered superbeing Melantha Jhirl – “It’s not as much about the ways she’s perfect as the ways in which she’s not perfect” – the human race might be just as much of a threat as whatever’s killing people on the Nightflyer.
“They set off to save humanity, but who would save us from ourselves?” she says. “I think that’s kind of always the conversation with humanity: what’s really more harmful to us as humans? Is it really what’s outside of us, or is it really us?”
“The question is kind of what you’re willing to sacrifice,” adds Eoin Macken, who plays astrophysicist and mission leader Karl D’Branin. “Everybody’s version of what
they’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good – or for themselves – is very subjective and very different. So what you may think is the right thing to do impinges on somebody else. Karl D’Branin is obsessed about this idea of finding these aliens and hoping that they can help save the world, but there’s also a very personal reason for that. When your own personal goal encroaches on other people who have the potential to die, the question is, ‘What’s it going to cost them?’” Going by George RR Martin’s past form, we’re going to guess a lot…
Nightflyers streams on Netflix from 1 February.
It was always good to take opportunities to lie down. She was convinced he always got the slightly shinier suit.