'Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.'
Although the context of Netflix's new original 'The Silent Sea' and 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' differs, there are enough reasons why the series will remind you of Coleridge's famous stanzas.
Unlike the ballad, this rather twisted dystopian sci-fi directed by Choi Hang Yong is a time-appropriate reminder of the horrors that lie ahead of humans on planet earth. Adapted from the director's short film named 'The Sea of Tranquility' (2014), the eight episode sci-fi thriller was launched on 24 December, 2021.
'The Silent Sea' in its science fiction theme takes place far in the dystopian future. However, the narrative begins with a description of a world without water. It depicts a society in which societal ranking leads to unequal distribution of the new currency, water. To save the Earth, a team is sent to the infamous Balhae Lunar Station, an abandoned lunar station that had previously experimented with Lunar water.
The team, being earth's only hope to feel ocean waves or breathe in the greens again, sets off to retrieve the Lunar water samples. But soon enough, the mission to save humanity turns to a chase of securing survival.
In a show of betrayal, lies and misinformation, the team confronts a bigger truth that lies within the orbit of the moon. Up close, the story provides scenarios that touch on difficulties that we face in our everyday lives.
Through its theme, it picks up the issue of climate change, social inequality and the dawn of a world of chaos and catastrophe. The sci-fi's over-all star-studded casting with Goblin star Gong Yoo as Captain Han and Bae Doo-na as Doctor Song Ji-An playing protagonists, did not leave a chance to question their performance.
Their distinctiveness wonderfully conveys the emotions of each on-screen character. The creators must be credited for the accurate and detailed VFX renderings of both the dystopian earth and the high-tech Balhae Station.
However, the series could not steal the limelight like its Korean wave predecessors i.e Squid Games. Even after securing the place of the most watched non-English show in its inaugural week, the piece could not meet the audience's expectations.
While the streaming scenario set by Squid Games and Hellbound paired up with a star studded casting worked easily in gaining a crowd for 'The Silent Sea', the plot demanded a lot more to thoroughly engage the audience.
In the 400 minute runtime, the storyline left a decent room for criticism. For an eight episode show, the piece called for a more fast paced narration. While Korean productions are famous for telling a complete story, this production breaks the tradition by presenting several subplots with no apparent conclusion in sight.
The creators also miss the significant chances to highlight social inequalities in its plot. Contemporary to 'Squid Games' depiction of social ranks rather stay as mere contextual necessity in 'The Silent Sea'. The backstory of great drought and RX or the survivor Luna could have been a better plot to focus on to keep the viewers craving a second season.
With this many questions on plate, it would be disappointing if the series does not get renewed for a second season to resume its Lunar adventure.
The newest addition 'The Silent Sea' also ticks off the mark for an eastern representation. In a previously Hollywood centric consumption industry, Netflix has encouraged change.The unexpected success of Squid Games that resulted in bagging the first South Korean Golden Globe hints to the intended positive shift.
While Netflix has meant big business for domestic Korean Production companies, addressing the possibility of a monopolistic streaming environment is a real-time challenge.
But apart from it, 'The Silent Sea' indicates the Korean drama industry's venture into new genres of shows instead of sticking to a certain one.
Although the drama may give deja-vu moments to sci-fi enthusiasts, it would not harm to sneak this mystery filled thriller in your weekend's binge watch list. A collapsing earth, but this time Moon to the rescue instead of Mars - what not to like!