The Twilight Zone: Six Degrees of Freedom Review
This week’s trip into The Twilight Zone, Six Degrees of Freedom, presents an interesting atmosphere and nice performances, but also a lack of meaning and generic sci-fi fodder.
The episode follows a crew of astronauts (DeWanda Wise, Jessica Williams, James Frain, Karin Konoval, Jefferson White) as they embark on a mission to Mars to see if human-life can exist there. Things become complicated, though, as their facility is becomes under attack just before they launch into space. Now, the crew is filled with a sense of dread that their loved ones are no longer alive and they begin to question the legitimacy of their mission.
The concept of Six Degrees of Freedom actually started of interesting with the crew’s debate of whether continuing with their mission was the right call. There’s a nice slow build of tension and distrust between Wise’s Commander Brandt and the rest of her crew. Although, even with the nice performances from everyone involved, there’s a lack of character development and time to even really get into their heads and figure out who they really are. Honestly, they come off as tropes, for the most part, with Brandt being the “tough” and “in-charge” commander who believes she’s always right and the other members resembling different aspects of a typical space crew.
This is especially true for White’s Pierson as his “quirk” of being calculated adds to the episodes big dramatic turn that doesn’t feel warranted at all. There’s a thought that Pierson has about their mission that completely changes the mindset of the episode and attempts to add a new sense of paranoia to their journey, but it’s unnecessarily tacked on and doesn’t leave much of an impact. Not to mention, the big speech he gives to tell everyone what he thinks is happening is completely eclipsed by the overbearing score the episode has. Even the episode’s final twist basically just mixes government spying and alien tropes that didn’t leave any impact on me at all.
Frankly, if more time was given to building the relationships and sense of “family” the episode claims its characters have, I might have actually believed it. There’s distrust almost immediately between crew and, while I can understand they’re in a situation that they didn’t expect, Brandt immediately cuts everyone off from communicating with Earth for no real reason. We don’t really get to see why she has this serious demeanor or how serious their relationships are. Rather, their journey and personalities are displayed through different scenes that countdown their arrival to Mars. Even when something bad happens to Pierson the crew doesn’t act like a part of their family is troubled and instead has no real reaction at all, so the idea of them being a “family” completely lacks any sort of believability.
There wasn’t even any sort of social thought or message that I could ponder by the end of the episode, which is strange for The Twilight Zone. This isn’t to say that every single episode has to have some kind of social message or theme put behind it, but it would’ve been interesting for some commentary on our desire to find extra-terrestrial life and a new planet to live on. Pierson does deliver some interesting thought about why we haven’t really found other life-forms, but it’s so easy to forget it as the episode doesn’t touch on that thought for the most part.
I will say the episode does utilize its condensed atmosphere to create some claustrophobic feelings. There’s a lot of tight camera shots that make the inside of their ship seem very small and create feelings on being trapped that, admittedly, made certain scenes tenser. The design of the ship was also very slick and the set design was very impressive. Even the idea of the ship’s artificial intelligence, Tina, is interesting, even if it’s just another sci-fi trope and is completely under-utilized. There are also some nice references to past Twilight Zone episodes and even to legendary author Ray Bradbury, who actually had a hand in the original series.
This week The Twilight Zone slips into its old ways in delivering a story that doesn’t leave a unique impact or much to say. I want to believe that the series can capture the same kind of magic and subversion that The Wunderkind brought, but with episodes like Six Degrees of Freedom, my sense of doubt only grows stronger.