When the Sky platform announced the arrival of this new SF series, to be released starting from May 31st, I was very intrigued by the details revealed in the promotional trailers, particularly by the protagonists, a group of women convicts who steal a ship and make a run for the planet Arcadia, possibly the last place in the known universe where Earth’s oppressive regime does not reach. The echoes of Farscape and Firefly in the plot represented the main attraction for me, and I was eager to see where this new SF adventure would take my imagination.
In the year 2143 Earth has undergone some devastating changes of an unspecified nature, although it would be easy to imagine something related to climate: political power now resides with the Commonworld, whose goal to preserve what’s left of our planet is pursued with an iron fist and a totalitarian bent that add a dystopic layer to the overall background. The first sequences of the pilot episode show us a new and futuristic city of London built on the crumbling ruins of the old one, where the destitute and the criminals still eke out a life of sorts. Ash Harper, a young and on-the-rise pilot/police officer and the daughter of a powerful woman, just concluded the chase of an elusive thief and is celebrating her future prospects when she is suddenly arrested on the charge of having stolen some precious substance: summarily tried, she is placed on a transport ship, the Hemlock, together with other convicts destined to off-world deportation – including the one she caught just a few hours prior. Once Ash’s mother manages to discover that the evidence against her was forged, it’s too late: the Hemlock is underway and the prisoners have staged a rebellion that left them in control of the ship and of a very useful hostage…
What follows is a madcap chase through the galaxy, with stopovers on various alien planets, as the group searches for the coordinates to Arcadia, where they will be free: for Ash, who finds herself in a very dangerous situation given her company, the adventure will also turn into an eye-opening journey where she will learn about the Commonworld’s dark side and will get to know her traveling companions, some of whom are not truly criminals but rather victims of the government’s ruthless strategies.
With such intriguing premises I frankly expected something more, but was somewhat disappointed: this first season is mildly enjoyable and each episode holds enough twists and character reveals to prove engaging, but I could not shake the feeling that both creators and cast did not give their best here. More than once, moving from one episode to the next, I wondered if I had not missed some other narrative segment, because the story felt uneven, missing some vital connection that would make the current situation more clear: while I don’t enjoy long, drawn-out info dumps – in any medium – much of what was presented on screen seemed to suggest a kind of background knowledge that was never offered to the viewers, which gave the narrative flow an uneven quality that inflicted a serious handicap to the show’s overall quality.
Characterization suffers its own troubles as well: what could have been a refreshing, all-female crew (there are also two men on board, but they mostly remain on the margins of the story), squandered its potential by turning these women into merely aggressive stereotypes, once again reinforcing the notion that strength in a woman has to express itself into belligerence and outright hostility. This less than original choice was compounded in some instances by over-the-top acting that felt far too excessive to be credible, and by several lines of dialogue that went from unsubtle to cringe-worthy. Feeling a connection with these characters proved quite difficult, if not impossible, and even when some revelations about their individual pasts hinted at the possibility of seeing the real person behind the mask, their return to the previous, wildly hostile behavior obliterated any chance for real character growth.
Still, there is some potential in this story, whose short run of only 8 episodes probably penalized its possibilities for a more organic development: from the middle of the season, several elements seem to point out toward a wider narrative scope, and for this reason I will give the next season of this series a chance, to see if it possesses the “courage” to evolve beyond the stereotypes it leans on and to find a better-defined identity. First seasons tend to suffer from growing pains, and I’m curious to see if Intergalactic can go beyond these pains and turn into a story worth following.