Nightflyers: Season One (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 4-Mar-2020

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 444:01
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Eoin Macken
David Ajala
Jodie Turner-Smith
Angus Sampson
Angus Sampson
Sam Strike
Gretchen Mol
Brian F. O’Byrne
Miranda Raison
Josette Simon
Case ?
RPI ? Music Will Bates


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.00:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.00:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It is 2093 and the population of Earth is dying from a rampant virus, the remnants facing lock-downs, quarantine zones, roadblocks and virus temperature testing (sound familiar?). Professor Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) has detected evidence of an advanced alien life form in deep space, the Volcryn, who may, he believes, possess the technology to save the Earth. However his attempts to contact the aliens have come to nothing. Then Roy Eris (David Ajala), captain and owner of the Nightflyer, the most advanced spaceship on Earth, offers to take D’Branin and a team of scientists into the void to intercept the aliens and hopefully communicate with them.

     D’Branin assembles his team on the Nightflyer; Melantha (Jodie Turner-Smith), a woman biologically enhanced for space travel, biologist Rowan (Angus Sampson), Lommie (Maya Eshet), a woman who like R2D2 can connect with a ship’s computer and guidance systems, and Thale (Sam Strike), an L1. What L’s are is not explained but Thale is a dangerous being, a psychopath with telepathic abilities to read, control and destroy people’s minds. Thale is on board the Nightflyer because D’Branin believes that with his mental abilities Thale will be able to communicate with the aliens. Thale can only be controlled / sedated by the final last member of the team, Dr Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol), a psychiatrist and previous lover of D’Branin. Other important crew members of the Nightflyer’s crew include Second-in-Command Auggie (Brian F. O’Byrne) and bee-keeper Tessia (Miranda Raison).

     Right from the start of the mission one of the thrusters malfunctions, and there are other accidents, possibly acts of sabotage; the crew blame Thale and seek to kill him. In addition, D’Branin starts seeing visions of, and talking to, his young daughter Skye who had died from the virus on Earth before his departure. Strange events also proliferate: a probe sent towards the aliens mysteriously reappears on the Nightflyer with organic material inside it that is 1,000 years old while Eris reveals the source of a number of the malfunctions aboard the ship. His mother, Cynthia (Josette Simon), a geneticist who had been mistreated by her brutal father, had built the Nightflyer and although she may have died her spirit resides within the Nightflyer’s crystal drive unit and she is intent on stopping the Nightflyer getting to the Volcryns. As the series progresses Lommie goes inside the virtual reality of the Nightflyer’s programs to try to limit or trap Cynthia, with mixed results, the Nightflyer comes across another Earth ship that had been missing for 14 years and was apparently drifting in space, D’Branin increasingly becomes absorbed with visions of Skye, both Eris and Agatha hide their true selves, Auggie reveals a secret, Lommie creates another world in alternative reality and Rowan and Tessia enter a relationship that threatens the team’s mission.

     Months pass and the Nightflyer comes within range of the Volcryn it becomes clearer that many people on board the Nightflyer have secret agendas. The question becomes this. What is more deadly and malevolent; the L1, the Volcryn, Cynthia and the Nightflyer itself the pain created by the tangled interpersonal relationships and agendas of those on board?

     Nightflyers is a SyFy channel original based on a novella by George R.R. Martin that was published in 1980; the novella had already been made into a forgettable feature film directed by Robert Collector that was released in 1987. Although there is some action, Nightflyers is not really an action series but a horror series, indeed it is almost a haunted house horror series with lots and lots of things that go bump in the night. And, indeed, the day, as there is no actual day or night in space. The sound design is the most impressive part of the series. There is the roar of the thrusters, the crash of the destruction of the ship’s biology dome and the intense rumble and roar of the climax, but elsewhere the surrounds are always active with opening and closing doors, the creaking of equipment in the hull and engineering spaces, distorted voices, the wings of birds in the alternate reality, the rumble of the ship’s engines and the noise in the memory sphere, all creating an intense aural experience. On the other hand, the visuals have a sameness about them with the gunmetal grey of the ship and the black of space dominating; I suppose there is not a lot of colour in space but there are no bright costumes here either, the crew wearing a lighter grey.

     For being based on a novella Nightflyer has a lot of competing story strands and characters and seems to reset itself a couple of times. There is a lot going on in and around the main storyline; there are parts to do with memory, obsession, loss and grief, relationships between parents and children, families (dysfunctional or otherwise), love, denial, fear and the herd mentality, genetic engineering, pain and madness so that often the series seems to lose focus. Some sections can be exciting and quite scary, but then the series shifts to something else.

     At the start of the first episode of Nightflyers we see Agatha Matheson being stalked by a man with an axe; she records a message, a warning, that no attempt should be made to bring the Nightflyer back to Earth or to board the ship before committing suicide so we know from the beginning that something is going to go horribly wrong. When we get to episode 9, the second last one, these scenes are repeated with more information but then episode 10 ends on a rather more positive note, reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), leaving some things open for another series. Indeed, this Blu-ray has the title Nightflyers: Season One; however, SyFy cancelled the show after this one series, so this is all we have.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Nightflyers is presented in the 2.00:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p utilising the MPEG 4 AVC code.

     This is a very dark looking series, set mostly inside a monochrome, gun-metal grey spacecraft in deep space. There are some flashes of colour, such as red or yellow lights or the wrapped gold fabric of the bodies jettisoned into space, but even in the green of the trees in the biology dome on the Nightflyer or the outdoors of the alternative reality the colours of the sky and trees are dull and muted. Inside the virtual reality house the rooms are even darker than those of the rooms or engineering spaces of the ship. There is no colour in the crew costumes, or in the private rooms of the quarters. The climax with the Volcryn thus becomes very distinctive with iridescent purples, reds and blues. Blacks are rock solid, but so black are some scenes it is difficult to see what is happening. Close-ups are firm, skin tones fine, brightness and contrast is consistent.

     I noticed no marks or artefacts except for occasional aliasing against vertical lines.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio choice is English DTS HD-MA 5.1.

     As noted in the review this is a horror series and the audio is everything such a series should be. Dialogue, especially from Thale (Sam Strike), is sometimes hard to hear but this is the only criticism of this very intense and active audio track. Some sequences are loud and rattle the walls, such as roar of the thrusters, the crash of the destruction of the ship’s biology dome, the atonal electronic waves of the memory sphere, the interconnection of the two L’s on the ship, the intense rumble and roar of the Volcryn climax sequence or where the electronic music of Will Bates swells to enhance the effects. Elsewhere, the rears and surrounds are always active with the opening and closing of doors, the creak of equipment in the hull and engineering spaces, distorted voices, the flap of bird’s wings in the alternate reality, groans and noise in the memory sphere, the hum of machinery or the ship’s engines. There are also plenty of panning effects; the feet of the metallic “spider” around the walls and overhead panels, voices, waves of atonal sound. The sub-woofer added rumble and depth in all the appropriate places.

     I did not notice any lip synchronization issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are no extras. The menus allow individual episodes to be selected or there is a Play All option.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Blu-ray of Nightflyers is identical to our release.

Summary

     Nightflyers is a mixed bag and without the name of George R.R. Martin (the only name on the front cover of the Blu-ray, and the only one on the back cover too) one wonders if the series would have been made. Nightflyers is ambitious, with lots of themes, but few of them are developed satisfactorily while some character arcs, and some characters, feel perfunctory. The ending, like that of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), is one that will test your acceptance given what has gone before. There are, however, some tense and scary moments and the audio track is stunning.

     The video is dark. Nil extras.

     Nightflyers was supplied for review by ViaVision Entertainment. Check out their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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