New York Comic Con: "Nightflyers" Cast & Crew Preview New Series (Pilot Review)

"Nightflyers" is an intriguing new Syfy series based on the novella and series of short stories by George R. R. Martin. The show screened it's pilot episode at New York Comic Con and afterwards help a panel and Q&A with cast and crew from the show. The episode opens with Dr. Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol) in a horror sequence reminiscent of "The Shining" where she is stalked by a deranged male killer. It's unclear whether or not she survives the encounter as she's trapped on a spaceship so escape options are highly limited. But there's little time to ponder the matter when the episode flashes back to the events that will lead up to this terrifying face-off.

Executive producer Jeff Buhler is very fond of the horror genre and shares about his approach to incorporating the genre into a sci-fi series. "This show is a love-letter to horror fans. Obviously 'The Shining' is in there front and centre. 'Alien' is in there. 'The Exorcist' is in there. There's more evidence of 'The Shining' later on. We took all the great horror movies that we love, even when she's screaming 'Get out!' That's 'Amityville Horror'. There's little things that resonate from the horror universe but we tried to weave it into the Nightflyer ship which is sort of this crazy-making place anyways. There's all these broken memories and all this weird hologram stuff so we found that you could create different stylistic impressions, different approaches to horror in different parts of the show. It takes a sort of weaving, winding path through all of our favourite horror references. If you're a horror fan you won't be let down by the end of the season."

Despite the morbid opening, Buhler had described the opening scene in his first pitch as well as plans for a potential season two and three if the show is successful. The original story written by author Martin had all of the characters meeting their demise so it will come as little surprise that a live-action adaptation would deviate from this plot so as to be able to have an ongoing story to captivate the audience.

Eoin Macken portrays Karl D'Branin, one of the crew members on the ship. Karl is a character dealing with his own baggage, having lost his wife and daughter to a catastrophic event that pre-dates his space journey.

"Karl starts off and he's pretty stable, kind of seems like he has it together," begins Macken. "He's trying to organise this whole mission. Then as you see, he's not really stable at all. It gets worse from there on in. I didn't even know until we started shooting the first episode where these characters were gonna go. Jeff pushed him to some very dark places."

"I was gonna say, no one stays that stable on this show," says executive producer Jeff Buhler.

Karl is shown throughout the pilot to be having visions of his daughter. As part of the mystery and world-building, it's unclear whether this is an artistic manifestation of his grief, the result of mental illness, or a hallucination caused by some mysterious alien threat. The possibilities are endless and make the show all the more intriguing when there are so many mysteries manifesting in the pilot episode.

Macken shares about how organic and practical the approach was to creating these encounters he has on the ship with his daughter. "She's there all the time. It's fascinating watching the show and seeing the effects and sounds which are all incredible. When we did it, everything is very practical. Even the stuff in the forest where the kind of flashback happens with the memory suite, they built an entire sphere, it's a perfect circle. When you're sitting in the middle, your voice sounds totally different. It's a real thing so when you put everything in the forest, everything was very real. It feels very textured because we didn't do a huge amount of green screen. I think that's really important especially with this because everything is very heightened. You've got a hologram, making best friends with a telepath, it's gotta be something that you connect to."

Actor David Ajala portrays Roy Eris, a character that only appears as a hologram for the time being. "Just in terms of on a very practical level, being a hologram, it wasn't difficult with the acting part. The only thing that was difficult for me was just as an actor having certain impulses to connect physically. That was taken away and that was a bit disconcerting. But once I got past that it was easy to just kind of embrace being elusive. It's super cool how I can beep in and beep out; I wish I could do that in real life! Throughout the season we will see the layers unravel, Roy Eris' secrets which hardly anyone knows about, even the crew, they will start to be unearthed and discovered. He is a little bit shy. He hasn't really had much interaction with humans so everything is new from him. He sees a little chocolate queen, Elantha, and says 'Oh I'll have a bit of that!' That's gonna be fun. I think she becomes the catalyst which starts the unearthing of Roy Eris."

The premiere episode of "Nightflyers" is an exciting addition to Syfy's increasingly quality roster of original series. The more practical approach to world-building in regards to sets and filmmaking sequences adds a more tangible feeling both from a visual perspective but in how it seems to effect the performances of the lead actors for the better. The horror influences are not so heavy-handed as to put off audiences that don't have a taste for the genre, as many of these references are such that enhance the psychological probing into the lead characters. Another important strength of the show is that there are diverse characters in regards to ethnic background and sexual orientation, so an even wider audience can tune in and feel represented by an engaging work of fiction. We'll eagerly be tuning in for this season to see how all these mysteries that have been introduced continue to unfold and escalate!

"Nightflyers" will premiere on Syfy on December 2.

Watch the full "Nightflyers" New York Comic Con panel here:


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