'Nightflyers' SYFY TV Show Review: Like 'The Shining' in Space
In the first scene of Nightlyers a bearded man who looks a lot like Stanley Kubrick chases a blonde woman through a spaceship while wielding an axe while doing his best impression of Jack Nicholson’s demented smile. It’s a genuinely scary sequence pulled straight from Kubrick’s The Shining,, and that’s by design. At the show’s New York Comic Con premiere, series creator Jeff Buhler revealed that you can expect to see plenty of sci-fi and horror Easter eggs when Nightlfyers premieres this December.
“This show is like a love letter to horror fans,” he said, before rattling off a list of films that influenced Nightflyers in some way: The Shining, Alien, Amityville Horror, Don’t Look Now. (There’s also a scene in the first episode where one character runs centripetal laps around the ship in what feels like a clear reference to another sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Warning: Light spoilers for the first episode of Nightflyers ahead.
Nightflyers may borrow bits and pieces from a variety of movies, but The Shining seems to be a particularly strong influence. The show takes place almost entirely on a spaceship called the Nightflyer as it voyages across the galaxy and into “the void” to make contact with a mysterious alien race. The crew (which seems to number in the dozens if not hundreds) is essentially trapped onboard, which doesn’t sound much better than being stuck in a haunted hotel during a snowstorm.
Further complicating things is Thale (Sam Strike) a powerful and unstable telepath (sound familiar?) who may be the humanity’s best hope for actually communicating with these aliens. But as soon as Thale arrives, the rest of the crew starts hearing voices and seeing visions. Is Thale screwing with their heads, or is there someone (or something) else on the ship too?
As Nightflyers continues you can expect to see these The Shining parallel (and the Easter eggs in general) start to wear out. The closer the ship gets to the aliens the weirder things are going to get, often to the point that Buhler and the other producers had to create their own imagery instead. It’s tough to say exactly what that will be, but you can definitely expect the show to get a lot trippier as the plot moves forward.
Reading the original novella won’t help you either. Buhler notes that while the show does follow the same general plot, it’s not a perfect match.
“In the book everybody dies,” he said. “So we took some liberties.”
Nightflyers premieres December 2 on SYFY.