Netflix’s new series The Silent Sea is based on Choi Hang-yong’s short film, The Sea of Tranquillity. The film is about a group of astronauts desperate to find the answer to humanity’s survival. Set in the near dystopian future, Earth has gone through desertification where fish doesn’t exist anymore. Pets are no longer allowed, and people are classified into a social class that determines how water is distributed. To solve the scarcity of water on Earth, humans travel to the moon to find solutions.
In the thick of this, Dr Song Ji-an (Bae Doona), an astrobiologist, is recruited for a mission by the Space Aviation Administration (SAA). Her goal is to go to Balhae Lunar Research Station and retrieve a valuable capsule. At the head of the exploration team is Captain Han Yun-jae (Gong Yoo) with Dr Hong Ga-young (Kim Sun-young), Ryu Tae-suk (Lee Joon), Chief Gong Soo-hyuk (Lee Moo-saeng), and many more. Ji-an becomes sceptical of the mission and the secrecy behind the sample. She reluctantly joins the mission to discover the truth behind her sister’s death at the research center.
The Silent Sea doesn’t hold back on the dangers, instead immediately jumping into the action. The spacecraft suffers a system’s failure and crashes onto the moon’s surface. When the team finally arrives at the research center, they discover a pile of bodies in the hallway. It is believed that radiation killed the crew members. Ji-an and Yun-jae, and the rest of the crew set out to find the capsule and return home. Upon investigating the mysterious death of one of the members on the spacecraft, they discover the hidden truth behind the mission as more secrets are uncovered.
Like many Korean films and TV shows, it exhibits a lot of interesting social commentary of today’s culture and politics. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite explores the growing class divide in South Korea, specifically two families living in contrasting domestic situations. Another film, Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, which also stars Gong, is an action-packed zombie movie. Busan deals with the commentary of how powerful people are untrustworthy and selfish, corporate businesses being responsible for the deaths of people, and prioritising money and safety over regular people. Tragedies could be avoided if only powerful people acted accordingly and swiftly instead of being greedy and selfish. These kinds of characteristics are shown in many Korean movies.
These allegories are reinforced in The Silent Sea using themes from the possible future of the desertified Earth. With citizens being sanctioned by social class and “water access”; the rich don’t have to worry about how much water they consume, while the poor are forced to ration their water intake. In the show, a movement that calls to abolish this regulation is introduced. Unfortunately, greedy business people, inequality and capitalism have taken over every aspect of this Earth. The Silent Sea implies that if lunar water is introduced to the world, there is a chance that it might be used for immoral purposes. This is seen when the show kills people in exchange for it, and that is why the research is highly classified in the Balhae Station.
In addition to that, Ji-an’s sister Song Won-kyung (Kang Mal-geum) worked as the chief researcher responsible for experimenting with lunar water on children that led to many brutal deaths. Won-kyung leaves a clue for her sister: FIND LUNA, and upon discovering a survivor onboard Balhae Station named Luna (Kim Si-a), a clone who survived the experimentation with extraordinary powers that survived the exposure to lunar water and adapted to it. Ji-an implores that if Luna is discovered by corporate businesses or governments, she will be confined to a research facility and experimented on her entire life. She suggests taking Luna and the water samples to a neutral ground to keep her safe and continue the research.
Also, SAA’s Director Choi (Gil Hae-yeon) knew about the disaster at the Balhae Station, to the point where she was responsible for the people that were left behind. She is desperate to get the sample no matter what the cost. Chief Kim (Heo Sung-tae) secretly contacts Yun-jae and Ji-an to share his concern about Director Choi’s growing power and wishes to have her removed.
Ultimately, The Silent Sea is an exploration of the corporation and government’s control and abuse of power to gain more control of resources. Also, it explores the topic of corporate-funded space mercenaries that are responsible for getting the lunar samples and bidding them for the highest prices. As it turns out, some of the characters sabotage the mission to secure the resources. The awful and terrifying circumstances bring into question, will powerful people continue to preserve themselves from disaster? There is a shared sense of dread within The Silent Sea, and the themes explore how these actions have resulted in catastrophic results. The rich and powerful are hungry to save themselves from any responsibility, while poor people are subjected to decisions made by governments and corporations.
Nuha Hassan is a film and TV writer and reviewer, based in the Maldives. She is a Staff Writer at Film Cred, Off Colour, and Flip Screen. Apart from writing about film, she is a Video Editor at Dead Central. She studied Master of Media at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her love for film started with David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Her favourite comfort film is When Harry Met Sally.