[Warning: General spoilers for Season 1 ahead.]
If you’re looking for a TV binge as the summer winds down and sci-fi is your thing, let me direct you to Another Life, available now on Netflix. My full preview of the Katee Sackhoff-led drama is here, and this week, I chatted with the showrunner behind the series, Aaron Martin, who’s also brought us shows as diverse as Being Erica and Slasher.
Martin was approached by The Best Years colleague and Another Life executive producer Noreen Halpern to pitch his vision on the basis of a Netflix concept that already had Sackhoff attached to star. The network liked his ideas and the series was greenlit, shooting last summer and fall in Vancouver.
Sackhoff’s character, Niko, is the centerpiece of the show. She’s a semi-retired astronaut called back up a decade after an early tragedy to head a new exploratory mission after a several-stories-high alien artifact is planted and seemingly abandoned on Earth. Returning to space creates a mix of emotions for her character, and that’s our hook.
“In our minds, in the writing room, [she agrees to go because] she felt the best way to protect her daughter and husband and Earth was to lead the mission, because she knew she could make the tough calls,” Martin says. “Even though [her decisions on the earlier mission] had haunted her forever, she knew she could do that. She’s caught between guilt over the earlier tragedy and guilt over leaving her daughter, but also having a mission to save everybody she loves.”
The other side of the coin back on Earth is Harper Glass, an uber blogger played by Selma Blair, who has a staggering 250 million followers. “[We shaped her character by] looking at where [blogging] is now and imagining what the future would be like when bloggers and traditional news all meld together,” Martin explains.
“We wanted her to be a mix of Christiane Amanpour and Kim Kardashian. That might be what happens in the future—someone’s personality is just as important as the news she’s talking about. She cares about finding the truth out. It’s a bit self-serving, but In her mind, she’s working to expose the truth about this thing that landed on Earth.”
The first season spins off a young crew who are essentially expendable because there are literally backups for each of them in stasis pods on board the ship. Martin explains that’s borne out of how wars have always been fought. “When countries fight wars, they generally send out their young people to do it,” he points out.
“They typically don’t have families, husbands or wives or children. They’re going to be the ones heroic enough to go out into space to figure out what they’re going to do about this artifact. That’s the reality of war. You get killed and you have people coming up behind them to take their place.”
The crew is also a refreshingly diverse mix of ethnicities, identities, and sexualities and Martin says that’s a bit of an homage to his hometown of Toronto. “You would hope that in the future, all these ridiculous things that are supposedly problems in the present—which bathroom to use and the debate around gender and gender identity—that nobody cares,” he says.
“It’s part of who these characters are. You get accused of being a social justice warrior [when you write about them] but these are just characters. They’re straight, gay, non-binary, white, black… It’s not a social justice warrior thing. I wanted the cast to be as diverse as the city I live in.”
The character you may care most about by the end of the season is William, played by Samuel Anderson, an AI creation with human tendencies. Martin enjoyed writing him precisely because he’s a jumble of emotions. “He is a new form of life. He’s been given the programming of emotions, but nobody thinks about what happens when those emotions override programming. He’s essentially a teenager because he doesn’t understand the complicated emotional feelings that are thrust upon him when he falls in love,” Martin shares.
“We wanted to avoid the idea that AI is inherently evil. It’s just a different kind of technology. We wanted him to have emotions. We wanted to see what would happen to an artificial intelligence that was given the ability to feel the same way the humans he’s helping are feeling.”
When Another Life was picked up to series, Martin handed Netflix’s Slasher off to another production team to shoot Season 3. That was a switch up from the first two seasons where he was showrunner and had written most of the episodes. “I [had written] the pilot for Season 3 and broken the first four or five episodes and came up with the characters and general arc,” he recalls.
“I handed it over to Ian [Carpenter] and he took it and ran with it and did a great job. We’d been working together since The Best Years. It was nice to hand it off to him and director Adam MacDonald knowing they both loved the show before they took over. It was a actually a really good fit. I was really happy with what they did. I think it became a lot more violent, which the audience responded to.”
There’s no word yet on a second season of Another Life, but Martin has an idea of what he’d like to do. “Season 1 is about figuring out what that thing is and why it’s there and why the aliens are there,” he says. “At the end of Season 1, I want Niko to think one thing and Erik to think another. Season 2 would be about what happens when both side have completely different points of view.”
Photos Courtesy of Netflix.
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