Sky One’s new sci-fi drama series, Intergalactic, features a cast as stellar as its out-of-this-world settings. On a visit to its impressive set at Manchester’s appropriately named Space Studios, we got to chat to some of the actors who are boldly going into the depths of a fascinating galaxy. For those of us whose biggest source of excitement this past year has been a trip to the shops, it’s a tempting proposition.
The show’s key characters are a ragtag bunch of prisoners aboard the transport ship Hemlock and their guards. They’re forging a new future after they make a break for freedom, with a futuristic Earth’s authoritarian government in hot pursuit. The lively, larky chemistry between the actors is evident from the minute they come bounding in, covered in alarmingly realistic fake blood after filming the violent aftermath of a parasite infestation. Lovely. Oliver Coopersmith, who plays pirate Echo, jokes that the counterfeit gore is “gross”. “It sticks to your hair, so if you pull it, it stings a bit! The things we have to go through, eh?”
Thomas Turgoose, who takes the role of hapless prison guard Drew, thinks that what distinguishes Intergalactic from its sci-fi peers is the characterisation. “They’re so believable and so real.” The key driver of the plot is the wrongful imprisonment of Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn), daughter of a powerful politician and the odd woman out in a crew of miscreants. Steyn takes up the story. “She’s a cop. She’s just graduated as a police officer, and then she’s arrested for a massive crime that she didn’t commit – a terrorist crime. She’s put on this spaceship with all these criminals, and her world is flipped on its head. Everything that she’s been brought up to believe is the right thing might not be true.” Her pursuit of fugitive Verona (Imogen Daines) marks the end of a promising career, but it’s the start of a personal awakening to the real meaning of justice.
Diany Samba-Bandza is Genevieve, a good-natured young woman who’s been trained as a “killing machine” by her gangster mother, Tula (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). She laughs as she describes Genevieve’s “weaponised hair” but grows more serious as she talks about the “toxic” bond between Genevieve and her mother, whose parenting’s been lacking in any maternal warmth. Tula’s certainly a powerful presence, as Duncan-Brewster notes, but she’s not going to get everything her own way. “At one moment, I might be in charge, and it seems like I’m running the ship, but then at another moment, someone else is in charge, so it’s constantly changing.”
Viewers who know Eleanor Tomlinson best from her role as Demelza in the BBC’s Poldark will enjoy seeing another side to the actress’s talents. Despite her abiding fondness for the hugely popular Sunday-night saga, she’s thrilled with the opportunity to act in a series she describes as “a breath of fresh air”. “I wanted to be very, very different in it. I didn’t want to be red-headed…I think we’ve seen that before!”, she tells us, tongue firmly in cheek. Petticoats and stays are out; prosthetics – scaled back, to her relief, after the original design became a bit too restrictive – are in. Tomlinson laughingly describes her character’s wild-child qualities. “She’s a bit mad! She’s a bit bonkers…”
She feels that alien Candy, a drug mule paying off a debt to Tula, is someone we’ll come to empathise with. “She’s a bit irritating, and she’s kind of misunderstood. But I quite like that. She’s not the goody-goody, she’s trying to better herself, so I think in the end, you do root for her.” Tomlinson’s recent forays into sci-fi, including the BBC’s 2019 adaptation of The War of the Worlds and HBO’s The Nevers, have allowed her to stretch herself creatively, and Intergalactic’s unique tone made for a refreshing change after heavier fare. “I think it’s kind of a dark comedy, weirdly, but it’s basically this group of kick-arse women who are not conformist. It’s just very current and modern, and it’s nice to see that on primetime television.”
Duncan-Brewster offers another explanation for why an escapist sci-fi show is so right for the current moment. “We are all still looking for some sort of answer, some sort of relief or magic wand that will make the world better, deep down. It offers hope in some way, I think, when you see a world that exists however many hundreds of years away from where we are now.” Utopia might be as far from their reach as it is ours, but they’re still trying to get there – and that, in itself, is a point of light in a dark galaxy.
And if all else fails, as 2020 taught us, sometimes happiness lies in small pleasures. Turgoose’s recipe for an ideal society? “Nando’s,” he tells us, to a roar of laughter from his castmates. “Everyone should be entitled to Nando’s.”
Intergalactic airs on Sky One and all eight episodes will be available to stream on NOW from Friday the 30th of April.