Intergalactic Season 1

Sky One’s new original sci-fi TV series INTERGALACTIC (showing on the Peacock network in America from 13th May) certainly talked a big pre-game, throwing out references to the usual sci-fi suspects of STAR WARS and STAR TREK and making a big noise about how groundbreaking and innovative it’s going to be to have a female-led sci-fi series. And there’s certainly a lot about it that will seem fresh to science fiction fans whose recollection starts to peter out as you move back past the 1990s but for us old lags who’ve been orbiting the genre for what seems like light-years, the series – the brainchild of producer Matthew Read and writer Julie Gearey – is a direct and almost undiluted descendent of classic British sci-fi BLAKE’S 7.

Intergalactic Review

124 years into the future and what remains of a climate-change ravaged Earth has been reconstituted as the outwardly beneficent Commonworld. Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn), a fearless young law enforcement pilot finds herself caught up in a conspiracy that sees her falsely accused of treason and sentenced to exile on a remote prison planet. Placed aboard the prison ship Hemlock, Ash finds herself caught up in a mutiny as her fellow prisoners seize control of the vessel and threaten to kill her if she doesn’t help pilot the ship to the planet Arcadia – a paradise occupied by the ARC resistance, a group opposed to the Commonworld and determined to expose and bring down the corrupt regime.

INTERGALACTIC’s unique selling point seems to be its decision to fuse the sci-fi shenanigans with the drama dynamic of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK by putting the six female prisoners front and centre from the very beginning. There’s also a significant role for Parminder Nagra as Rebecca Harper, the ambitious Commonworld Head of Galactic Security and Ash’s mother in a season arc which sees her character – and others – gradually gradually reveal their true colours.

There’s really no escaping the parallels between this sci-fi thriller with a feminist twist and its illustrious Terry Nation-created progenitor, not just in the set-up but in the execution as well. Of course, this is 2021 so there are no wobbly sets or desperately disappointing special effects. INTERGALACTIC does have a few wobbly performances, though, as characters and cast struggle to find their feet and avoid hamming it up, and occasionally the pacing and writing are also under par. For all its kinetic bombast, the early episodes are weighed down by an excess of exposition and a lot of slow-moving dialogue scenes, often punctuated by some abrupt action or violence to make sure the audience hasn’t dozed – or worse, switched – off – but in this, it aligns very nicely with the first few episodes of BLAKE’S 7 which, as fans will remember, didn’t even get around to filling out its principle cast until the fourth episode of its first season and feature a lot of sitting around and chatting. The writing here never quite reaches the razor sharpness of that late seventies classic, nor are the characters as instantly iconic but there are plenty of signs that it can get there if it’s given a chance.

Intergalactic Review

INTERGALACTIC improves markedly during the middle of the season where it backs off from force-feeding the audience details to explain its characters and support the overall series arc and starts telling self-contained ‘stories of the week’ which organically develop the characters and further the over-arching narrative. It’s here that the series really starts to show its potential, particularly in the characters of Candy Skov-King (Eleanor Tomlinson), a disgraced drug-addicted alien medic and the enigmatic Dr Emma Grieves (Natasha O’Keeffe), a noted scientist and the Commonworld’s most wanted. Other characters don’t fare as well and some, particularly Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s Tula Quik, the brutal leader of the band of convicts, are just written horribly so that no matter how hard Duncan-Brewster tries, the character never quite gels.

While the sci-fi sisters are doing it for themselves, though, there’s decent roles for the guys too with Thomas Turgoose proving immensely watchable as Drew Bunchanon, a young prison guard who’s initially a prisoner but earns the grudging trust of Tula – until that is he starts getting close to her daughter Genevieve (Diany Samba-Bandza). Rounding out the ragtag band of rebels are Oliver Coopersmith as Echo Nantu-Rose, a space pirate and Imogen Daines as Verona Flores, the resident cyber criminal.

Intergalactic Review

Originally planned to be a ten episode season, the production of INTERGALACTIC was hit by the pandemic shutdown and while it reaches a reasonable end point, it’s not too difficult to see the scars and some of the pacing and storytelling problems may be driven by there only being enough material to combine into eight episodes, giving an uneven and unfinished feeling to the last couple of episodes. There are, perhaps, a few too many betrayals and double-crosses along the way for a mere eight episodes and, while there are times when its commitment to overt diversity drowns out narrative logic, it’s still much stronger than the “Woke’s 7” it’s been dismissed as in some quarters.

First seasons of sci-fi shows are notoriously clunky (looking at you, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) and tend to be axed far too soon all too often. INTERGALACTIC isn’t without its flaws, and it certainly needs some retooling to get near its potential if it gets a second season – for one, the Hemlock just isn’t iconic enough (unless you’re a huge fan of ELO’s “Out Of The Blue”) – but there’s more than enough here to merit another season to let the show really find its space legs and carve out its own unique identity.

Score 6

6/10

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