It seems impossible, but Intergalactic genuinely might not be able to do anything worthwhile in remaking Con Air, but in space. A terrible shame.
This recap of Intergalactic season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
Con Air, but in space seems about as good of an elevator pitch as one could possibly come up with, so it’s a shame that Sky One’s new sci-fi drama Intergalactic doesn’t seem to know what to do with the premise. All eight episodes are out now as a box set for those interested, but it’ll be airing weekly for those who’re indifferent, and I have to say that I count myself among their number after a chaotic but rather aimless premiere.
That setup, though! Our lead is Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn), a high-flying – literally and figuratively – space cop in 2143, eyeing a big career move to Shanghai after the exciting, if a little cheap-looking, bust that opens Intergalactic episode 1. She seems well-liked by her colleagues and almost beloved by her superior, Wendell (Neil Maskell), who nonetheless frames her for the theft of “Aurum”, a totally unexplained something-or-other, illegal acquisition of which is a big no-no on the Commonworld. Harper’s mother, Rebecca (Parminda Nagra), is a high-ranking official in galactic security, which seems fortuitous, but she’s unable to get Ash off of the GCC Hemlock, an all-female prison ship where she’s quickly embroiled in a mutiny staged by the diverse, trigger-happy inmates.
You know that bit in Con Air where all of the various cons are introduced with a brief explanation of their crimes and personalities? Well, Intergalactic episode 1 doesn’t have anything like that, so it’s impossible to care about the various wrong-‘uns on-board, even when they start showing off completely unmentioned and unexplained superpowers and mutations, from a long forked lizard tongue to multipurpose tentacles emerging from the back of someone’s head. Ash, having apparently never seen any kind of prison drama, quickly makes her presence felt as a copper by snitching on the inmates to the guards, which only gets her tasered. Nobody likes a snitch, after all.
Despite Ash’s tale-telling, though, the inmates are able to escape and kill virtually everyone except Drew (Thomas Turgoose, playing himself as ever), a dopey guard who they believe can fly the Hemlock instead of the pilot they killed. No such luck. Instead, Ash fits the bill, so she’s kept alive to help out, which includes a morally puzzling last-minute decision that almost immediately repositions Ash as a self-serving antihero.
The effects in Intergalactic season 1, episode 1 look cheap enough to be distracting, but the show could work around them if the script wasn’t so terrible. Nobody expects a premiere to reveal every detail, obviously, but this one barely even manages some context. Why are all the prisoners female? What is Aurum? What are all the tongues and tentacles about? There’s another prisoner, Emma (Natasha O’Keeffe), who gets a Garland Greene-style ominous introduction, but she isn’t given any explanation either, and how she even got aboard the ship seems a bit of a mystery. Many shows present plenty of questions in their early going, but Intergalactic forget to provide any reason to care about the answers.