The series starts by introducing us to a team of astronauts and an astrobiology scientist named Song Ji-an (Bae Doo-na) recruited by the Space Aviation Administration (SAA), who are sent to the Balhae Base on the Moon to find a key to survival. Their team includes Dr. Song, group leader Han Yunjae (Gong Yoo), head engineer Ryu Tae-suk (Lee Joon), team doctor Hong (Kim Sun-young), chief of security Gong Soo-hyuk (Lee Mu-saeng), and spaceship pilot Kim Hee (Lee Sung-Wook). Together they have to gather samples of an unexplained substance from an abandoned space station within 24 hours. Mysteriously the station was shut down after a radiation leak killed everyone on board 5 years ago including the head researcher of the station who was also the elder sister of Song Ji-an.

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Once the crew set off for their destination, right off the bat, their spacecraft suffers from a system failure and as a result, their spaceship makes a crash-landing on the moon. Soon after landing, they discover a pile of dead bodies in the station and wonder how the radiation level across the station is normal. They also get to know the actual truth behind the Balhae station. The scientists at Balhae Station were tasked with finding a way to make lunar water safe and plentiful for the human population. So they experimented with the dangerous lunar water on 72 children. Eventually, they all died as when the lunar water is exposed to the human body, it multiplies exponentially inside of the host until they are dead, drowned from the inside out. When the team thought everyone was dead after they saw the pile of dead bodies, they found Luna, the only clone who has survived the experimentation process.

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‘The Silent Sea’ is actually an adaptation of the short film ‘The Sea of Tranquility’ by the same director, Choi Hang-yong. It was created as the director’s graduation project for the master’s degree program at the Korea National University of Arts in 2014. The short film was also shown at the Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival in 2014, where the project attracted attention from veteran actor Jung Woo-sung to reproduce the project into a drama series. As the 37-minute short film was adapted into an 8 episode-based series, the story was extended further into the survival of human beings, instead of narrowly focusing on the survival of space explorers.

The production crew of ‘The Silent Sea’ was not kidding when they promised an out-of-the-world experience for the viewers. Apparently, the series has a very realistic set and costumes that made everyone feel they're really on the moon. The texture of light also had to be different, because there is no atmosphere on the moon. Director Hang-Yong revealed that they used LED walls that lets actors see what kind of backdrop or scene they are in instead of putting green and blue screens. The production team tried hard to make the space suit as light as possible to make sure actors can act with ease, but they were still around 8.5 kilograms. To make the series much more realistic, they used about five studios so in total there were like 10,000 square yards.

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A lot has been said about the moon in movies and books but there aren't many Asian films that let viewers have an immersive out-of-the-world experience. "Even though the moon is near to us, there is really nothing much about it that we know," Director Choi Hang-Yong said in an interview. In a press conference screenwriter Park Eun-gyo said, “As Korea did not have many sci-fi projects, I was surprised about the lack of data and experience that could be referenced in writing about the space-related series. There were not a lot of seniors who could offer advice. That’s why this was very challenging for me in developing the short film into an eight-part series”.

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Even though there were many obstacles, ‘The Silent Sea’ was able to overcome each and every one of them. Overall, ‘The Silent Sea’ has an ambitious premise and plot that grows to become a double-edged sword by presenting us nail-bitingly intense scenarios. It also does an immaculate job depicting the horrors that only the unfamiliar can bring, all while taking place in the claustrophobic confines of the station’s dark, winding hallways, which offer no real escape. It’s a story that tosses around the question about the value and meaning of survival in a space that’s the closest to death. If all of humankind is placed in a situation in which their lives are threatened, on what standard would we choose our actions and the path to better humanity? In this, this series uplifts beyond a space based entertainer and becomes an intelligent social commentary on the state of our planet’s affairs.

The drama’s greatest strength is in its ability to tastefully play to this shared sense of dread in the context of a very possible future, making it feel all the more terrifying. First-rate production and set design, as well as a premise that has gone through tireless refinements over a decade, ‘The Silent Sea’ is ultimately a nuanced exploration of outer space as humanity’s last hope, that sheds light on the extreme lengths. The drama promises to boldly go where no other K-drama has gone before.

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With the year coming to an end, it was the best decision to let ‘The Silent Sea’ end it all off well. ‘The Silent Sea’ was released on 24 December 2021 on Netflix. It also can be watched on sites like Dramacool.

* Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 10th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka

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