'Nightflyers' Has a Bloody Comic-Con Debut (Even Without George R.R. Martin)

The author of the novella on which the Syfy drama is based sent a pretaped message.
Gretchen Mol on 'Nightflyers'

Syfy’s Nightflyers made its San Diego Comic-Con debut … without its famous creator.

George R.R. Martin, who was originally scheduled to be on the panel for the show based on his 1980 novella, instead sent along a video message expressing his sorrow for missing the convention (he’s busy writing) and set up the first scenes of the drama.

The series’ opening sequence featured two characters in a knock-down, bloody fight … and at least one of them not making it out alive. (The clip will not be released outside of Comic-Con; the actor in question will be in more of the series than the opening scene, which is being kept under wraps for a reason.)

“The teaser is how we sold the show,” executive producer David Bartis explained during the panel, which included stars Eoin Macken, Gretchen Mol, David Ajala, Jodie Turner-Smith and Angus Sampson.

Added Sampson: "That was the first scene I read … and I was hooked. I thought, 'Wow, what are the rules here in space?'"

Nightflyers follows a group of people who are searching for life outside of the rapidly inhabitable Earth. “[It] is a journey to make contact with the first-known. alien race out there … a group of scientists who are on the most advanced space craft ever built,” executive producer Jeff Buhler previewed. “The mission to make contact with the object that has been discovered flying past our solar system.”

As the scientists adjust to life with the crew of the Nightflyer, things are particularly difficult for Captain Roy Eris (Ajala), who is used to building colonies for humanity to live off-planet. “He struggles with human interactions — he’s a hologram,” Ajala teased. “I think this journey becomes a catalyst for him.”

Things were lighter when the cameras were off, as the cast got to explore their practical spaceship. "I’ll never forget the moment the cast came together and went on set to check [it] out," Ajala said. "It’s very epic. It’s very impressive.”

During the Q&A portion of the panel, a fan — inspired by the trailer — asked about the team’s inspiration from 2001 and The Shining. “We leaned heavily on the shoulders of the greats,” Buhler said. “We were not shy about pulling the themes and even some imagery. There’s a lot of 2001, The Shining and Ridley Scott’s Alien.”

But that won’t be the only pop culture similarities fans can expect: Like Martin’s Game of Thrones, Nightflyers will also have a high mortality rate. “We were saying goodbye to people every week,” Sampson acknowledged.

Nightflyers is set to debut this fall on Syfy.