Nightflyers' convoluted journey from gripping space horror to characters riddled with mommy issues

While the crew members struggle to overcome their pasts that come back periodically to haunt them, one of the particular spheres the show seems to be several different mommy issues

Nightflyers' convoluted journey from gripping space horror to characters riddled with mommy issues

The latest adaptation of George R R Martin's novella, 'Nightflyers', as a SyFy series by the same name has been almost a roller coaster ride to witness. It sky rocketed with its pilot's cold open, warning viewers of the gore and slasher horror the plot culminates into, but then dipped into an all-time low with other sub plots failing to live up to the masterpiece that the first five minutes were.

And, part of the reason behind that are the blatant mommy issues the show's characters seem to thrive upon. Basically, 'Nightflyers' is a story about the titular spaceship, set in Earth's near future - 2093, to be precise - where crew members are on board to seek out alien life to help humanity survive back on our planet.

Being a space adventure, the horrors of the unlimited universe and all things extraterrestrial bring ample risk these people are fronted with, but that isn't all. There are also psychological elements of horror - the all-powerful artificial intelligence aboard the ship, and an axe murdering maniac.

And, while the crew members are also struggling to overcome their pasts that come back periodically to haunt them, one of the particular spheres the show created by Jeff Buhler seems to concentrate on is several different kinds of mommy issues.

David Ajala (L) as Roy Eris, and Jodie Turner-Smith (R) as Melantha Jhirl in Nightflyers. Source: SyFy
David Ajala (L) as Roy Eris, and Jodie Turner-Smith (R) as Melantha Jhirl in Nightflyers. Source: SyFy

Let's start with the spaceship's captain, Roy Eris (David Ajala) himself. Eris is troubled by the horrors of his relationship with his mother, Cynthia. Speaking about how influenced Roy still is by the relationship, Ajala said in an interview it's “an internal horror” seeded by “almost a psychological bondage.”

It is also triggered by the fact that Cynthia founded the Eris Corporation, the company that owns the spaceship, and most of the galaxy set in 2093, as per the timeline of the show. And since the events of the show are happening at a significantly long period of time after Cynthia's death, as Ajala beautifully pointed out, the big question Roy is fronted with is that? “My mother has so much control over me; what would happen if I choose to go my own way?” So, it's pretty obvious that most of his instincts stem from the influence, the horror of his dead mother still has over him. 

Moving on, one of the astrophysicists on the ship, Karl D'Branin (Eoin Macken), who is also the leader of the scientific team onboard, has lost his young daughter, Skye, to a fatal disease afflicting Earth. And as the show reveals, while he travels in space looking for a cure for humanity's future, the ship's AI with not-so-holy intentions of its own, uses his dead child's image to haunt his mind. 

Now, his is not exactly a mommy issue, until the show also reveals that his wife back home is - get this - undergoing therapy, to erase all memories of their child completely off her mind. Combine D'Branin and his wife's issues, and superficially it might seem like it's just guilt and pain, but its projection brings out underlying parental issues with the parents being haunted by the memories of their dead child.

And right when you think that is all the heavy, dark stuff the crewmembers are facing, here's another spoiler: Skye isn't the only one who keeps haunting her parents and driving them to hysteria. Dr. Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol), a psychiatrist - who is also the only one who can interact with the telepaths on board the ship - once carried D’Branin’s child, as Three If By Space revealed.

David Ajala (L) and Eoin Macken (R) in a scene from Nightflyers. Source: SyFy
David Ajala (L) and Eoin Macken (R) in a scene from Nightflyers. Source: SyFy

It becomes clear that the two shared a significant relationship sometime in the past, and the revelation of their unborn baby could lead to a possible rekindling of romance. While that could be because of guilt, or despair over the loss, the revelation also shed light on why Matheson decided to become a handler, taking care of telepaths who live in isolation on a mountain back home on planet Earth.

It is quite likely Matheson's feelings of being deprived of a child was so strong, she felt the need to take care of these people who are perceived as dangerous, and whom she likes to call her 'wards.' She even takes one of them onboard the spaceship, and her relationship with said telepath, Thale (Sam Strike), is just as complicated as the rest of the character's dealing with the influences of dead mothers and dead children in their plotlines.

Gretchen Mol (L) as Agatha Matheson and Sam Strike (R) as Thale in Nightflyers. Source: SyFy
Gretchen Mol (L) as Agatha Matheson and Sam Strike (R) as Thale in Nightflyers. Source: SyFy

Even though Matheson is sort of a mother-figure to these telepaths, Thale's feelings for her are not quite what a ward's feelings towards a parental figure should be. The telepath becomes jealous of the ship's captain, when he finds Matheson's attention shifting away from him toward the other guy.

"There’s Agatha, who I’ve known my whole life, and then D’Branin, who Thale thinks is a bit of a boy scout," Strike shared with Collider. "He’s a bit of a do-gooder, and he’s stealing the attention of Agatha from Thale. So I think he’s a bit “ugh” about that guy." So, you see, the deeper 'Nightflyers' delves into the minds of the characters, and their individual plotlines, the show's tracks sort of turn and deviate from a science-fiction space horror to a subtly melodramatic mommy-issue infused psychological thriller.

Granted, it's a much better production among its contemporaries such as YouTube Originals' gooey-alien space adventure 'Origin,' and an upgraded adaptation of the 1987 cheesy film based on the same plot. We're just saying the priority of the plot could be better concentrated on other aspects, rather than exploring and infusing mommy issues everywhere and anywhere.

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