By John Ruberry
On Christmas Eve, Netflix began streaming an eight-episode South Korean science fiction series, The Silent Sea, which is based on a short film from 2014, The Sea of Tranquility. Both projects were directed by Choi Hang-yong.
The show brings us to a dystopian world nearly all of Earth’s water is gone. What water remains is of course rationed.
Such environmental havoc hasn’t prevented the Republic of Korea’s Space and Aeronautics Administration from building an expansive base, Balhae, on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon.
Han Yoon-jae (Gong Yoo) is recruited to lead a mission to retrieve a valuable scientific sample from the Balhae base. Five years earlier 117 people were killed by a radiation leak and the base was abandoned. Han has an ill daughter whose proper treatment depends on receiving a higher water ration classification. Also recruited for the mission, for reasons no one can ascertain, is Dr. Song Ji-an (Bae Doona), a former astrobiologist, now an ethologist.
Here’s the plan: In a space shuttle-type craft, the SAA launches the 11-person crew, most of them armed with handguns, so they can land at the Balhae base, locate the sample, and quickly return home. Things don’t go well–the poorly briefed crew doesn’t know what to expect. Some crew members know more than others, the chief engineer, Ryu Tae-seok (Lee Joon), is among them.
Laying out plot twists will produce numerous spoilers, so I’ll leave them out of my review. Being the first Korean science fiction series set in outer space, The Silent Sea is understandably derivative. It owes much to John Carpenter’s brilliant 1984 sci-fi thriller, The Thing.
Although subtle, there is a Christian influence in The Silent Sea as well. Quite unlike the blatant image of a golden calf hurtling through space in another recent Netflix release, Don’t Look Up, which I only saw short segments of while I walked through our living room when Mrs. Marathon Pundit was watching.
Viewers of The Silent Sea will enjoy a suspenseful ride with compelling acting. On the flipside, the series is a bit long. It appears to be a six-episode series that has been stretched out to eight. And the ending was a bit of a letdown for me.
Amazingly, the desertification of Earth here is not blamed on human-caused climate change.
The Silent Sea is currently streaming on Netflix, it is available in Korean with subtitles with bits of English dialogue, and in dubbed English with subtitles. It is rated TV-MA for violence and foul language.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.