Nightflyers' marvelous portrayal of being haunted by the past, is vividly seen in its characters' subplots
What is brilliant about the current plot is its character-based subplots, which also beautifully portray the role influences from the past can play in an individual's storyline
Creating an on-screen adaptation of a story that has already been told before is a tough job to do, especially considering all the expectations the latest version has to live up to. But SyFy's new show 'Nightflyers' owns that area, like a boss.
We have already certified the new series adaptation of George R. R. Martin's famous novella of the same name to be a vastly improved version compared to its 1987 film adaptation; however, that is not the only underlying context of being-influenced-by-the-past that's working in the new show's plotline.
With several differences in terms of both setting and character representations, between the series, and the original book, or even the film for that matter, at its core, the story is still the same. And what's even more brilliant about the current plot is its character-based subplots, which also beautifully portray the role that influences from the past can play in an individual's storyline.
Let's take for example the character of Melantha Jhirl - a supersoldier aboard the titular spaceship seeking alien life for the future of Earth. One of the biggest disasters both the book and the film had committed was whitewashing the character.
Martin's description of Melantha portrayed her as a strong black woman, easily taller than most men around her. But in the book's cover art itself, the publishers had presented her as a white woman just for 'sales' purposes, allegedly. The same thing had happened in the 1987 film of the same name; they had portrayed the character to be white and received some duly called for flack because of that.
But when it comes to the show, Melantha is appropriately being played by a woman of color, actress Jodie Turner-Smith. As Jeff Buhler, the creator of the new series shared, influenced by the mistakes of the past adaptations, one of their main priorities was portraying Melantha the right way. And, while that influence has been working brilliantly for the show so far, sadly, Melantha's character as an individual is haunted by the influences of her past.
Turner-Smith herself shared in an interview that Melantha “has spent her whole life on a path that was set out for her by other people.” She was turned into a genetically engineered super soldier and then sent out on a possibly fatal mission in outer space, neither of which were "necessarily her choices." To top that, she's now “being thrown out into the sea with a bunch of people who have been exploring the galaxy for years.”
Relating that to her own experiences of growing up in a family of Jamaican immigrants in Britain, she shared: “You’ve got this idea of the expectation of your community or the expectations of the institutions you’re a part of…and how that pressure affects you.”
And, she is not the only one haunted by the influences of her past in outer space. The character of the ship's captain, Roy Davis, is troubled by the horrors of his relationship with his mother, Cynthia. Speaking about how influenced Roy still is by the relationship, David Ajala, who plays the role, shared in an interview that it's pretty much “an internal horror” seeded by “almost a psychological bondage.”
It is also triggered by the fact that she 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. 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?” And most of his instincts stem from influences of the horror of his dead mother still having authority over him.