By Sorenya Miller
Another Life starts off with an unidentified flying object (UFO) shaped like an infinity symbol floating in the earth’s atmosphere. The presence of this object sends the world into a frenzy and on the hunt to make first contact. The Netflix sci-fi series follows a group of young scientists, astronauts, and professionals, led by Commander Niko Breckinridge, as they head into space on a quest to acquire alien intelligence to learn more about the imminent threat to Earth.
First and foremost, this review will be mostly centered around the character of Niko, because she is the only protagonist the show focuses on. The series spends an extensive amount of time developing her character, even though it really wasn’t necessary. In Episode 1, we learn that she left her husband and daughter on Earth to lead the intergalactic mission. Niko’s husband Erik is also a scientist, and while his wife is in space, he’s on Earth trying to communicate with the aliens in the spacecraft through music. Now that’s a real power couple. Additionally, the music concept was a bit new to me, and I was surprised the military did not start with an “attack first, ask questions later” tactic.
Moreover, in the following episodes we see Niko temporarily blind, Niko trapped in a mindscape, Niko reminiscing on meeting one of her crew members for the first time, and Niko thinking about her husband. In almost every episode there is a flashback about Niko, and I got tired of seeing them. It’s almost like the writers were intentionally neglecting the development of the other characters. Hence, I came to the conclusion that the series should have been called The Niko Show because I saw more of her than “another life”. Not only that, but the flashbacks also didn’t add anything extra to the plot. They weren’t linked to the show’s premise at all—for instance, consider the mindscape episode. In that episode, Niko is trapped into a dream while replaying different scenarios. I was honestly thinking, how does this apply to finding alien intelligence? However, as a captain she did keep the crew together, although many were questioning her intellect and leadership capabilities. In tough situations she was able to use her smarts to protect the lives of most of her crew.
One of the only interesting things about the show is William, an AI that helps to navigate the ship. Making the AI into a human hologram was a really smart idea, and it turns him into a real tangible character. The show then messes with the AI by having Niko corrupt it. Also, the show had a star-studded cast with actors like Tyler Hoechlin, who now plays Superman on the CW series Superman and Lois, Katee Sackhoff who starred in Battlestar Galactica, and Selma Blair who has had several roles in television and film. Unfortunately, the writers failed to utilize these talented actors effectively, with the exception of Sackhoff (who plays Niko).
On the other hand, the show was somewhat saved by the intelligence of the aliens invading Earth, called the Achaia. The Achaias are a very interesting species, and they are obviously smarter than humans. They are very good manipulators and use small insect implants to take over the brains of their hosts. Eventually, they manage to take over the brain of one of the crew members, Sasha. To demonstrate how the Achaia can control a person such as Sasha, the series turns him into a dual character. Basically, they show the same person on screen twice, one being the normal Sasha and the other is the Achaia’s controlled version of Sasha. That part was actually worth watching, because the actor who played Sasha embodied each role skillfully.
Furthermore, the show switches between Earth and space to depict what is happening in both locations. It was rather interesting that on Earth, no one is really panicking, they are just carrying on with their daily lives. Plus, the main focus on Earth is Erik trying to establish contact with the aliens, taking care of his daughter and dodging a nosy reporter. The show does not place much emphasis on developing the script when it comes to Earth, and you can tell that most of their budget was spent on bringing outer space to life. In mention of outer space, the crew landed on a new variety of planets and not the traditional eight planets we are aware of. I found it weird that humans were just now finding out about these new planets, since they are heavy on space exploration. It also did not take the crew very long to find them either.
All in all, the show was not strong enough for Niko to carry it on her back. Too much time was spent on her storyline, and not much on the other crew or aliens. Although the crew did change quite a bit due to some members dying and others being woken up, it would have still been good to see some character development. Although the show did somewhat redeem itself toward the end, it wasn’t enough for me to feel motivated enough to watch Season 2.