Katee Sackhoff is the queen of this kind of material, but while the show has its moments, it’s ultimately too messy, cliché-ridden and unfocused to stand out in the genre.
Lots of actors worry about being typecast – pigeonholed into the same kind of role in the same kind of project, forever the hot-stuff love-interest or the tough-guy brute or the lovable sidekick. Often, it’s because an actor can’t do anything else. But sometimes it’s because they do one thing so well that it’d be wasteful if they didn’t. Katee Sackhoff is one of those actors; the queen of sci-fi claptrap, and the absolute best choice for a leading lady in a frantic, haphazard series like Netflix’s new space adventure Another Life.
Admittedly, she has little competition in this ten-part mish-mash of Arrival and Nightflyers and countless other genre properties; her captain character Niko Breckenridge and her husband Erik (Justin Chatwin) are the most developed personalities in a cast that is otherwise exclusively stocked with underwritten archetypes reliant on played-out traits. The show’s structure, too, is annoying, bifurcated into both interstellar and earthbound strands that often struggle to coalesce, and alternating between the development of the overarching narrative and almost standalone mystery-of-the-week diversions.
That main plot concerns an alien species’ potential first contact with humanity; Niko is tasked with piloting her ship the Salvare to the distant planet from which their enigmatic artifact originated and ascertain their intentions. On Earth, meanwhile, Erik attempts to figure out how to communicate with that artifact, but these two plots are eventually separated to such an extent that one scarcely informs the other. Without Sackhoff in the frame, Another Life suffers, overburdened as it is by forced melodramatics, slapdash writing, and an uncompromising pace.
Admittedly, that breakneck energy sometimes works to the benefit of Another Life; the show’s never boring, nor does it feel like it’s stretching too few ideas over too broad a canvas. On the contrary, it has altogether too many plates to spin, and nowhere near the storytelling skill necessary to balance them. Bizarre character decisions, absurd contrivances, and B-quality cheese all work to undermine the show’s better attempts at gratuitous detours and sci-fi silliness, even if some of its wackier misadventures are well-worth witnessing.
Amid all this is Katee Sackhoff, who is just so good at elevating genre material that you often don’t notice – or care – about all the show’s shortcomings. Nevertheless, in such a crowded space, Another Life feels like just Another Show and one that isn’t anywhere near as good as many of its competitors.