'Nightflyers' Canceled at Syfy

The pricey George R.R. Martin drama was a co-production with Netflix and could not break through the clutter.
Jonathan Hession/Syfy
'Nightflyers'

Nightflyers will not fly again for Syfy.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has opted to cancel the expensive space drama based on the George R.R. Martin novella after one season. The cancellation arrives as one of its leads just booked a series regular role in a broadcast pilot.

Nightflyers was, without question, a big swing for Syfy. The series, based on Martin's 1980 novella and the 1987 film of the same name, followed eight maverick scientists and a powerful telepath who embark on an expedition to the edge of the solar system aboard The Nightflyer — a ship with a small tight-knit crew and a reclusive captain — in hopes of making contact with alien life. But when terrifying and violent events begin to take place, they start to question each other, and surviving the journey proves harder than anyone thought.

Early in the process, Syfy brought in Netflix as a co-producer on what sources said was the most expensive drama the NBCUniversal-owned cable network has ever developed. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire) starred on the series, with Netflix having first-run rights to the show outside of the U.S. Netflix's involvement has helped the studio offset the costs associated with producing the ambitious space-set project. The Ireland-produced drama also received financial support from the government of Ireland through the minister for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Irish Film Board.

The project was fast-tracked after being put into development in May 2017 and picked up to pilot the next month. Netflix boarded in September 2017, helping to get the ambitious drama picked up to series. The cast was formally announced in January 2018 along with the official pickup, which is when Daniel Cerone was brought in as showrunner. Cerone exited the series two months later and was replaced by executive producer Jeff Buhler, who adapted the novella for TV. Author Martin was credited as an executive producer but was not heavily involved, given his overall deal with HBO and commitment to Game of Thrones and their multiple potential prequel series. 

In a bid to eventize Nightflyers, Syfy set a binge model and released the entire series on Dec. 2 on its digital platforms and aired the series over 10 straight nights on its linear network. The series hit Netflix on Feb. 1 and, unlike the breakout success that became LIfetime's You, did not break out. The Dec. 13 season finale — which now doubles as a series finale — drew just 420,000 live viewers (down from 623,000 for the premiere).

In a series preview interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Buhler said he had a multiple-season story in mind for Nightflyers. "This really feels like the opening of a huge world. The Nightflyers novella is one of many stories that George has written in the "Thousand Worlds" universe. In that universe, there are many planets, many species," he said.

With the cancellation, Syfy's scripted roster includes The Magicians, Happy, Krypton, The Purge, Deadly Class, Van Helsing, Wynonna Earp and the final season of Killjoys.