“I think the volcryn’s trying to communicate with me.”
Eight months after the incident aboard the Eagle-16, the crew of the Nightflyer are closing in on their objective. Now within spitting distance of the volcryn (celestially speaking), Karl ramps up his attempts to communicate with the aliens while Thale and Agatha are uniquely affected by the proximity to the mysterious volcryn and the crew of the Nightflyer demonstrates that, in space, some really funky schiesse can happen.
On an extended journey of any kind, the health and condition of the human psyche is always a concern. Boredom, homesickness, and other, deeper psychological issues could arise. And these are just deployments on Earth; transition the setting to space, where the vastness of your surroundings—the emptiness of it all—is beyond human comprehension, and all sorts of quirks can appear. Add to the mix an extremely powerful telepath and people’s ideas on passing the time can get a bit…unique.
One of the more interesting aspects of “Transmission”, aside from the eight month time jump, is the fact that Thale has been assimilated into the Nightflyer crew. No longer a pariah to be feared, the L-1 is quite popular, using his telepathic abilities to allow those around him a shore leave of sorts. They even select macabre activities such as a game of Russian roulette. The need for different stimuli has worked its way through the entire crew and they use Thale’s ability like one would a drug. It’s a curious concept, one that, had the season’s structure been tweaked, could have used a bit more exploration.
As it is, the main events of “Transmission” revolves around the Nightflyer closing in on the volcryn and Karl’s attempt to make first contact with the alien presence. As the distance narrows, the Nightflyer is given to curious effects of their proximity to the unknown volcryn and, after multiple attempts, Karl is finally able to make contact of sorts. The avatar he meets is none other than Skye, but the question presented is this truly her in some way? Her personality seems real enough though she tells Karl that, despite his memories, she never died. Coupling this with the earlier theory that the volcryn have control of space/time and it sets up for some extremely interesting possibilities.
But all is not wonderful in “Transmission”. As her personality was wont to do, Lommie has all but isolated herself, creating her own fictional world within the Crystal Matrix to lose herself in. This isolation has not only affected her interactions with the team but also appears to have created a distraction for her, one that could have dire consequences as the somewhat altruistic aspect of Cynthia has escaped from the firewall-bound Greywing and transitioned into more psychotic tendencies. Couple that with the mysterious transformation of Rowan and Tessia’s stillborn baby into a black cloud of spore-like gas and the uncontrollable effects both Thale and Agatha are experiencing and things are falling apart around the ears of everyone on board the Nightflyer.
“Transmission” isn’t bad, per se. After all, the situations introduced offer some of the more unique perspectives on the psychological impacts of a journey of this magnitude and a deeper glimpse into Karl and his team. Yet “Transmission” stumbles, not just as an isolated episode—there are some jagged pieces where content seemed to be cut for time or just plain skipped over—but as a greater part of the whole. That’s not its fault the two preceding episodes (“The Sacred Gift” especially) ground Nightflyers’ momentum to a halt, but having “Transmissions” try to pick up the pace was a mistake. It would have been better served as the mid-point in place of “Greywing” and “The Sacred Gift”, maybe even presented as a two-parter. Without the expansion, it so desperately needs, “Transmissions” reignites some of the intrigue built by earlier episodes but isn’t strong enough on its only to totally right the ship.
Into the Void
- With only three episodes remaining, the Nightflyers narrative will be further honed for time as we approach the true catalyst for the first spectacularly crafted five minutes of the series. This time-crunch may limit how much time they’re able to explore some of the more powerful story beats. Yet there is plenty of time to further unpack the concept of the volcryn’s ability to affect space/time. Karl’s interaction with the Skye avatar presents so many questions; is she the volcryn’s attempt to humanize themselves? Is this Skye’s spirit from the great beyond, living a newer life? Is it Karl’s own fantasies made real thanks to the teke field generated by the volcryn? There are so many possibilities and I’m not sure which direction Nightflyers will take.
- Given that eight months have passed, the presentation of the newer relationships on the Nightflyer fell short due to the lack of proper exploration. Though he seemed happy, Rowan’s relationship with Tessia didn’t feel quite real. Until the tragedy with Tessia giving birth, their scenes lacked true emotion. The absence of an emotional pull (to a lesser degree) impacted both the Karl/Agatha and Mel/Roy Eris moments as well. Both pairs are missing some of the chemistry they shared during past interactions. The one positive is that, other than Mel’s rather skimpy narrative material, Karl, Agatha, and Roy have their own interesting character moments. Roy’s insistence that Melantha doesn’t truly know him coupled with the painful flash Agatha receives of the Nightflyer captain during their session hints that there is another layer to Roy Eris we’ve yet to see.