Review: TV: George R. R. Martin’s Nightflyers



by JM Prater

Science fiction is a notoriously difficult genre to get right. It would be a fair assessment to say that a larger portion of films, books, and media fail to successfully realize a believable world and believable characters. No more is this apparent than in SyFy’s TV series adaptation of George R R. Martin’s novella, Nightflyers. 

Nightflyers is based on a short story written in 1980 and later expanded in 1981. While doing press interviews for the show, Martin talked about the gauntlet that had been laid down in terms of horror and science fiction being mutually exclusive, or so he was told. Nightflyers is Martin’s answer to that challenge. 

The setup for Nighflyers finds several human characters onboard a ship headed towards a craft of extraterrestrial origin. The first episode opens with what appears to be the ending. *Spoiler Warning* A woman is desperate to send a message while being hunted, by a fellow crewman with an axe, bent on her demise. Moments before she takes her own life she successfully (but just barely) sends out a warning to all who might come looking to stay away from the Nightflyer. 

Nightflyers is described as a haunted house in space, with a lot of Event Horizon, ALIEN (1979) and a little X-Men thrown in. The production values are top notch. Everything else falls short, way short. From a convoluted plot, to characterless characters, SyFy has managed to create a show that’s barely passable, and not memorable. Nightflyer’s biggest flaws fall on the tropes and devices on display ad nauseum with a pace that doesn’t allow anything or anyone to breathe. The cast is good-looking, but the acting is B level. There are points when you can see the actors visibly struggling to find their character.

When Nightflyers was being promoted I had high hopes, especially with the attachment of master world-builder George R R. Martin as the creator. The final product is big on ideas, and that’s it. Nightflyers had a good promotion and some spellbinding trailers. Unfortunately, the promotion was the best thing going for it.