There is something uniquely grating about bad sci-fi. At best, the genre can pose fascinating questions, depict extraordinary worlds, and have a lasting impact on public consciousness. At worst, it’s six actors talking gibberish in a spaceship.
Intergalactic, Sky’s new dystopian drama about a group of female inmates who commandeer a prison vessel travelling through space, is certainly better than the worst examples of sci-fi. But not by a great deal. The show takes place in a future where, for reasons that remain relatively unclear, Earth is ravaged and ruined. A promising police rookie called Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn) is framed for stealing something called “new orum” and looks set to be killed on board prison spacecraft GCC Hemlock, partly because the woman she has just arrested has been detained with her. It is chaos when Harper arrives. The inmates use this chaos to their advantage and overthrow the guards, who are genuinely awful at their job.
Along for the ride are a bunch of angry oddballs, one of whom can lift people up with her hair, and another of whom has a slithering forked tongue. After drifting around the galaxy they believe that travelling to a place called Arcadia will save them. Thomas Turgoose has the thankless task of playing a guard whose only function is to escape murder and, at one point, dig a mass grave. Almost without exception the characters’ lines are woefully badly written: “I’ll kill anyone who stands in the way of my escape” and “Who says they don’t teach you anything in fascist school?” are good examples.
Steyn is solid, if not one of the best things about the show, and it is a good advert for both her talents and those of Natasha O’Keefe, who plays a magical, silver-haired scientist called Emma Grieves. And, as the series progresses, Intergalactic does some interesting things with morality. For the most part, the goodies are good and the baddies are cartoonishly bad. But there is a shift at one stage, at which point the rug is pulled from under you and you realise that the world may be more ambiguous than you thought.
But it may be too late for some viewers, who have struggled to wade through the 45-minute episodes with not a great deal to show for it. Like almost every series on telly at the moment, each episode is about 16 minutes too long. It uses swear words not in a way that sounds authentic but in a misguided attempt to make characters seem more edgy. And, like a lot of sci-fi, the disparity between the quality of the visuals and the quality of the dialogue is vast. Intergalactic looks pretty good; and, though the majority of the show takes place on board the spacecraft, the audience is taken to some budget-stretching locations. But the art team are let down by the script department, who give the actors lines that sound better suited to a kids’ programme.
So. There is a very good chance that you won’t enjoy Intergalactic. As the series progresses it may blossom into a beautiful swan but, on the basis of the first three episodes that NME was provided, it feels like a bit of an ugly duckling.
‘Intergalactic’ is on Sky One and Now from April 30