TV Review: Netflix’s ‘Another Life’ is a Lively, But Vacuous Space Saga

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Ten years after the finale of “Battlestar Gallactica,” actress Katee Sackoff is heading back into space. From 2004 until 2009, Sackoff portrayed pilot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the critically acclaimed, but under-watched Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) series. On the new Netflix program, “Another Life,” Sackoff slips back into a very familiar sphere. This time, however, she plays an astronaut tasked with commanding a vessel on a discovery mission through space.

Katee Sackoff in “Another Life”

“Another Life” opens years in the future when a mysterious UFO lands on Earth creating an impenetrable artifact. This alien object seems to have no purpose, which baffles the world. When an expedition is commissioned to travel to the genesis of the artifact, Niko Breckinridge (Sackoff) is brought on board to lead the search for another life.

The Salvare space ship, which Niko must command, already has a commander of its own, Ian Yerxa (Tyler Hoechlin). Hotshot Yerxa and his crew are not happy with this change in leadership. In a hostile environment, Niko must gain the trust and respect of the entire crew, while completing the mission at hand. Back on Earth, social media wizard, Haper Glass (Selma Blair– in a thankless role), looks to lead the scoop on the world’s most talked-about story. And Niko’s scientist husband, Erik (Justin Chatwin), researches the artifact and cares for the couple’s young daughter.

Lina Renna and Justin Chatwin in “Another Life”

To write that the Salvare ship has bad luck would be an understatement. “Another Life” does not make space travel look like a pleasant experience. The series features the classic horror beats found throughout the genre. The crew explores planets without full gear. Characters wander off alone, while the infected are brought onboard. And the crew approaches unknown life forms with intrigue as opposed to caution. But then again, if everyone followed protocol and always stayed together, there would be no series. And therefore, no thrills.

“Another Life” has taken the winning plot points from films like “Arrival,” “Interstellar,” “Annihilation,” “Star Trek” and “Alien” and combined them into a sometimes exciting, but more often vapid science fiction tale. Although there is an overarching story, this ten-episode series moves so briskly through plot lines, that each episode feels like a stand-alone movie. The plot on Earth takes a backseat to the more action-filled space portion of the series. But both find moments of playful intrigue in their parallel explorations for answers.

At the show’s start, there are ten core actors that play the crew members of the Salvare. It’s mentioned several times that there are others still in “soma.” This plot point is put to use early and readily introduces new blood as needed. “Another Life” has managed to gather a group of actors ripe with talent, but also distractingly attractive.

Elizabeth Ludlow in “Another Life”

The majority of the cast, who are portraying engineers, microbiologists, and computer experts, look like models from a Givenchy spread. Most are under forty and for continually being at death’s door, spend too much time on their hair, makeup and wardrobe – some of which seem questionable for space. The cast is capable and does grow on the audience as the series progresses. But “Another Life” could have been elevated by keeping the appearance of the characters in line with the visual tenor one would expect from a series looking to tell a gritty saga of the stress and uncertainty of space travel.

Katee Sackoff in “Another Life”

If there is one actor that feels ever in line with the mood of “Another Life,” it is Sackoff. Her wide, sunken eyes, chiseled cheeks and biceps, and her greasy blonde bobbed hair feel just in this setting. Sachoff is beautiful, but her face is worn in such a way that every “imperfection” gives the character true life and experience. She holds herself with such assurance and demonstrates a fighting spirit. Her Niko is reminiscent of the hardened, kick-ass Ellen Ripley from “Alien” and its sequels. But unlike Ripley in the first “Alien,” Niko is not the reluctant hero. She does not rise to the challenge, she has already risen. From the opening moments, there is no doubt that this is Sackoff’s show.

“Another Life” is more than primed for a second season if it can find an audience. With a strong performance from Sackoff, decent special effects and over-the-top storylines, the series may be able to pull an audience into its orbit. Created by Aaron Martin, “Another Life” is not without its faults, but those looking for mindless entertainment may meet their match in this science fiction tale.

All ten episodes of “Another Life” drop on Netflix on July 25, 2019.

GRADE: (★)

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