The first season of Netflix‘s 1899 has some bold and incredibly cutting-edge sci-fi ideas set on the enormous ship Kerberos. 1899 makes effective use of its cast of multilingual individuals to emphasize important themes related to sexuality, grief, trauma, and the nature of memory and identity, even if it purposely leaves many of its underlying mysteries unresolved to create an opportunity for a sequel.
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While the majority of critics and viewers have praised 1899 for its slow-burning drama and climactic conclusion, others have claimed that it plagiarized significant portions of Black Silence’s story. Even Mary Cagnin, the creator of the graphic novel, acknowledged the obvious parallels between her work and the television program in a Twitter thread. A closer look reveals that the plot, visuals, and cast of the two stories do resemble one another in several ways. But there are also some significant variations between the two. Here is a detailed explanation of the 1899 Black Silence plagiarism controversy.
What Is Black Silence?
First released in 2016, the official synopsis of the comic reads:
“In the future, Earth’s days are numbered. A team of astronauts is summoned to reconnoiter a planet that may be the only chance for human beings to survive. “Lucas is a renowned exobiologist who finds himself in a difficult situation and his career is on the line. Destiny brings him to Nee, a military woman with quite a reputation, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t know is that this mission will change everything he once believed to be true.”
How Similar are 1899 & Black Silence?
By comparing images from 1899 and Black Silence, Mary Cagnin demonstrated how a number of the show’s concepts are similar to those in her graphic novel. She cited, as an example, a picture of a pyramid in a desert from Dark Silence, which appears to be a recurrent theme in 1899. She also emphasized how everything in Black Silence, from the mysterious deaths on the Kerberos and Prometheus ships in 1899 to the triangular symbols that emerge in the characters’ eyes, correlates with her storytelling techniques.
Cagnin continued by saying that, like in 1899, her graphic tale features diverse characters who come from various nations and deal with interpersonal conflicts and unexplained deaths. She even mentioned how her characters hear weird voices crying out to them, much like Captain Eyk did in 1899. The plot of Black Silence also centres on a post-apocalyptic journey undertaken by a team of astronauts in search of a planet that can support the remains of humanity. While the plot of Black Silence is very different from that of 1899, the show’s last space sequence suggests that it may follow a similar path. So perhaps it makes sense that Cagnin would draw attention to the parallels between the two projects.
How is 1899 different from Black Silence?
The overall plot of 1899 and Black Silence share very little in common. So it would be unfair to compare the two shows despite all their similarities. Black Silence’s cosmic horror plot seems to be more in line with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and John Carpenter’s The Thing because it centers on a space mission that goes horribly wrong after the passengers of its main spacecraft land on a mysterious planet. While the majority of the first season of the Netflix sci-fi horror series takes place on a ship, it eventually becomes clear that everything, including the identities of its characters and the show’s desolate middle of the ocean setting, is just a simulation.
Even the supposed similarities between Black Silence and 1899 seem accidental rather than deliberate. For instance, similar pyramid imagery can be seen in a variety of other films, including Stargate and The Void. Even the triangle eye symbol has been previously used as a narrative device in Scott Sigler’s sci-fi novel, Infected. Not to mention, many science fiction programs, including Sense 8, have multilingual international cast members. 1899’s showrunners, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, have made no official comments on these accusations so far. However, considering the clear differences between 1899 and Black Silence, it seems unlikely that the plagiarism claims will land the Netflix sci-fi TV show in any serious trouble.