Katee Sackhoff has had an interesting career over the last decade and change, endearing herself to sci-fi fans as the tough, combative Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica, then to all of those fans’ grandparents as Deputy Vic Morretti in Longmire. But we’ve always liked her in outer space, so we were happy to hear that she was on a new sci-fi series. Read on to find out more about Another Life…
ANOTHER LIFE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A wealthy woman named Harper Glass (Selma Blair) gets ready for a video shoot at her posh home in Westchester County, sometime in the near future (the 2030s, maybe?). Then a rumbling happens, and everyone in the New York area sees a gigantic alien ship shaped like Mobius strip land and grow a massive crystal antenna.
The Gist: A few months after the alien vessel planted itself on Earth, both Niko Breckinridge (Katee Sackhoff) and her husband Erik Wallace (Justin Chatwin) are involved in figuring out what the vessel wants, but in very different ways. Erik has been studying the crystal and trying to figure out what it’s trying to communicate to its home planet. Niko, on the other hand, has just been tapped by General Blair Dubois (Barbara Williams) to fly to the planet that the crystal is communicating with to make first contact with the beings there.
The two of them are at odds about this because the trip will take six months, and it seemed that, now that they have their daughter Jana (Lina Renna), Niko was done with long space missions. Niko insists that this mission is to critical to leave to her hotheaded protege Ian Yerxa (Tyler Hoechlin), and she needs to go.
A month into the journey, Niko is woken up from “soma” (a type of stasis) by the ship’s computer, William (Samuel Anderson). It turns out the planet they were flying to is much further away than originally hoped, which will add another seven months to the mission. Another added factor is that they’d have to go through a cloud of dark matter, where they don’t know what they’ll run into. Niko has William wake up one of the crew teams, which includes Ian, the former commander. The rest of the crew is fairly young, and loyal to Ian.
Faced with options to figure out what to do, the awkwardness of having the former commander take second position quickly becomes tense, as Ian suggests the ship slingshot around the nearby star to go around the dark matter cloud and stay on the original timeline. Niko aborts the first attempt because she doesn’t want to risk the ship, and Ian is so flummoxed that Niko is so cautious, he eventually mutinies and tries it himself, which doesn’t go well. Niko comes back to a command where no one trusts her and she has no trust in her number two.
Meanwhile, Erik keeps trying to communicate with the crystal, first via pigeon calls then some classical music that was on a satellite sent to the region some time ago. General Dubois is about to fire him after some unsuccessful attempts, and then the music does the trick.
Our Take: We love Katee Sackhoff kicking ass and taking names. We also love seeing Katee Sackhoff in space. But we absolutely don’t love Another Life, despite the fact that it has Sackhoff kicking ass and taking names in space. We dislike it for a very simple reason: It feels like everyone on the show is a raging a-hole.
Niko and Erik are supposed to be a loving couple that miss each other, but their argument about Niko going back into space makes them look like they’re on the verge of divorce. Erik parents Jana like a distracted single dad. Everyone on the faceless crew on Niko’s ship acts like a jerk and pushes back on every order. It feels like the ship runs on insubordination. And, in general, it just becomes hard to care about what’s going on on Earth and if Niko and her crew will figure out just what this alien race wants.
We’re just not sure where the show is going. Is it designed to show Sackhoff being her usual ass-kicking self? Is it about her relationship with Erik? Is it about the young crew learning to figure things out with this woman they distrust as their commander? The last one feels like it could be where it’s going, given the pedigree of creator Aaron Martin (Being Erica), but who knows. The show is so all over the place tonally it’s hard to pin it down.
No matter what, though, we have no desire to see a show where everybody yells at each other instead of at least trying to work together, no matter how many f-bombs Sackhoff lets fly.
Sex and Skin: Besides the revealing gym clothes that have replaced uniforms on Niko’s ship — Niko wakes from soma sleep in a designer sports bra and boy shorts — there’s nothing.
Parting Shot: A fight with Ian in the engine room ends poorly, and Niko contemplates just how to deal with it.
Sleeper Star: We’re not sure what Blair’s role is, because she disappears from the first episode after the first scene, but we’re always happy to see her vampy presence on our screens. We also liked Anderson as William, who seemed to be the only being on the ship that had any kind of personality or self-control, which is ironic considering he’s a computer.
Most Pilot-y Line: The casualness of the crew and disregard for the chain of command was a little off-putting. Yes, it’s fun to not have every ship operate like the Starship Enterprise, but like we said, everyone was just obnoxious with each other. Ian yelling to William, who didn’t want to take orders from Ian after the mutiny, is a perfect example: “You what? What? You are a computer! You are a tool! You are made to do what I say! So shut up and do it!”
Our Call: SKIP IT. It’s hard to call a sci-fi show ridiculous, but Another Life is just that.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company’s Co.Create and elsewhere.