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Series / Nightflyers

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Nightflyers is a miniseries that aired on Syfy in 2018, adapted from the novella of the same name by George R. R. Martin.

In the late 21st century, Earth is on its last legs, its resources almost completely depleted. In a last-ditch effort to save mankind, the Nightflyer embarks on a mission to make contact with the Volcryn, a mysterious race with access to advanced technology.

This being a George R.R. Martin story, naturally, things go wrong.

Should not be confused with The Night Flier, a 1997 horror film adapted from a Stephen King short story. Or with Fly by Night Series, a children book series by Frances Hardinge.

This series contains examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: It's George R. R. Martin. Expect a sizable body count.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original novella, Karoly is The Millstone, a useless intellectual with his head so far up his own ass that he dooms the rest of the crew because he refuses to recognize that his expedition has been sabotaged. In the series, Karl is one of the protagonists, and is far more competent.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Thale in the show is an emotionally maladjusted piece of work who is unpleasant to anyone around him and doesn't hesitate to inflict Mind Rape or worse. Thale in the novella is the Team Prima Donna and a Nervous Wreck but never antagonistic, and is also the first character to die.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The reveal that Eris's sociopathic mother has lived on as the Nightflyer's AI is revealed much earlier on the show than in the book. Also, the initial setting of the show shifts to Earth in 2093, rather than the fictional planet of Avalon from Martin's "Thousand Worlds" short stories.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The show adds the subplot of D'Branin's dead daughter, the Eagle 16 storyline, and the visual hallucinations, none of which are in the original novella.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the novella, all the characters have "futuristic" names like Royd or Rojan or Karoly, as the novella takes place in a distant future where humans have long since left Earth behind. In the series, where humans are still confined to the solar system, the characters' names have all been changed to more "normal" equivalents, so that Royd became Roy, Rojan became Rowan, and Karoly became Karl.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the original novella, Lommie and Melantha's relationship is just one of Mel's casual hookups as she works her way through the crew with the eventual intention of bedding Royd. In the series, Melantha genuinely cares for Lommie and only beds Roy after he saves her from a near-death experience.
  • Artificial Cannibalism: The Nightflyer comes across a rundown old ship whose crew have survived by cloning human meat as a food source.
  • Ax-Crazy: To say that Rowan doesn't take the death of his lover and unborn child well would be an understatement. He grabs an ax and goes on a rampage, killing Roy Eris and trying to murder Agatha.
  • Brain Uploading: Eris' mother uploaded her consciousness into the Nightflyer in order to survive the death of her body.
  • Broken Pedestal: In "The Sacred Gift", the crew finds an old ship that still has people on it, and Mel meets Dr. Constance Brighthead, the woman who created the processes that created Mel. She's clearly in awe of Dr. Brighthead... until she discovers that Brighthead is insane.
  • Bubble Boy: Roy Eris, the captain of the Nightflyer, was born in space and has spent his whole life there. He stays sequestered to his private cabin, only communicating with others on the ship via holograms because he's actually a mutant floating in a tank. The Roy Eris we see physically walking around the ship as of episode 3 is a Remote Body.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Rowan, the ship's resident xenobiologist, is deeply skeptical of the merits of the mission, and suspects that the Volcryn are probably not interested in meeting humans, given that they've ignored all previous efforts at communication.
  • Creepily Long Arms: Holo!Skye does this when Cynthia hacks Karl's memory reading.
  • Creepy Child: The hologram of Karl's deceased daughter, Skye.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Lommie grew up in a Luddite cult that severely punished anyone who used technology. When she was a teenager, she was compelled to shatter her own father's hands after he broke the cult's rules.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Rowan and Tessia were planning to name their unborn child "Skye", after Karl's deceased daughter, because Karl made their relationship possible by recruiting Rowan.
  • Death of a Child: Skye, and then with the spore baby, who was also going to be named Skye.
  • Driven to Suicide: Agatha kills herself in order to reduce the psychic feedback between her and Thale, which threatened to kill Thale.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Volcryn turns out to be a single massive, space-based organism. Proximity to it can cause insanity, and it appears to provide access to alternate realities.
  • Grand Theft Me: Cynthia lures Lommie into her virtual world and locks her inside it, before downloading herself into Lommie's now-empty body.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Trapped in Containment with a pathogen that is rapidly eating its way out, Tessia insists that the decontamination protocol be activated.
    • Agatha's suicide saves Thale's life. A psychic feedback loop between them was threatening both their lives.
  • How We Got Here: The episode opens with the Nightflyer heavily damaged and a deranged Rowan chasing Matheson, who sends out a message warning people to stay away from the ship before killing herself. After this, the show cuts back to some time earlier, with the rest of the series being an explanation for how this came about.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The crew of the Eagle have survived by creating deliberately-flawed clones, which they then carve up for meat.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Realizing that he's going to lose Joy, Karl sends her a message offering his blessing for her to remove her memories of him.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: D'Branin's ex-wife, Joy, is undergoing a form of grief therapy that involves having all her painful memories removed.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Constance Brighthead was once one of the most brilliant minds in the field of genetic engineering. Now she's the leader of a cannibal cult in deep space.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Thale tries to read Lommie's mind and gets his head flooded with violent, disturbing imagery.
  • Mind Rape: This is one of Thale's abilities.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Auggie turns on Cynthia when he realizes she was going to abandon him on the doomed Nightflyer.
  • My Beloved Smother: Roy Eris' mother Cynthia took her smothering to an entirely new level, uploading her consciousness into the Nightflyer itself so that she could continue to control her son's life long after her death. Now she's sabotaging the ship in order to discourage Roy from his efforts to make contact with the Volcryn.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rowan is horrified when he discovers that he was responsible for Dr. Matheson's death.
  • Neck Snap: How the deranged Hartley Suczek meets his end.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: Roy Eris is a male clone of Cynthia Eris.
  • Pet the Dog: As nasty as Thale is towards other people, he is incredibly gentle with Ralphy the bunny.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Thale has spent most of his life in captivity, and has very little idea of how to interact with people. As a consequence, he has a tendency to lash out at anyone who presents the slightest threat to him.
  • Race Lift: Eris is described as being very white with long white hair in the original novella (think Elric in a spacesuit), while he's played by an black British actor on the show.
  • Remote Body: The version of Roy Eris that is seen walking on the ship is actually an android; the real Roy Eris is floating in a tank in a hidden chamber.
  • Rescue Romance: Mel becomes smitten with Roy after he saves her from a near-death experience.
  • Robotic Reveal: Roy survives an organic decontamination, and his eyes are destroyed to reveal cybernetic sensors underneath. It later turns out that his whole body is a robot remotely operated by the real Roy.
  • Sapient Ship: Cynthia Eris uploaded herself into the ship. She's still very aware and in control of what's going on.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Lommie and Thale both survive to the end of the season, whereas they were two of the first to die in the novella.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The series starts with Dr. Matheson dispatching a warning before killing herself.
  • Surprise Incest: Designer Baby Melantha always thought that her parents were also her base genetic contributors. Turns out she's actually a clone of Cynthia Eris, which makes Roy her brother. She only learns this after they've consummated their relationship.
  • Technopath: Lommie has an implant in her arm that allows her to communicate with the ship.
  • Time Skip: "Transmission" takes place eight months after the previous episode.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Melantha Jhirl is black and in a relationship with Lommie.