Netflix's 'The Signal' is a lyrical sci-fi miniseries with clever twists and turns (review)

Make no mistake, outer space is a pretty hazardous place to live and work, even without any uncanny happenings to unstable astronauts operating in microgravity.

Joining the recent slate of sophisticated science fiction films and TV series like Netflix's "3 Body Problem," "Spaceman" or "I.S.S.," and psychological puzzle-box mazes like Apple TV+'s "Constellation," "The Signal" is a surprising new German-language mystery-thriller that has recently docked on Netflix, and it's an exceptionally classy Euro production well worth a weekend watch.

Directed by Sebastian Hilger ("Wir sind die Flut") and Philipp Leinemann ("Blame Game"), this four-episode "first contact" miniseries launched March 7, 2024 and stars Peri Baumeister ("Blood Red Sky"), co-writer Florian David Fitz ("100 Things"), and Yuna Bennett ("Dear Thomas").  

Related: The best sci-fi movies and TV shows to stream on Netflix in March

Conjuring up memories of other Netflix German sci-fi shows such as "Dark" and "1899," "The Signal" strikes just the right tone and balance for these types of otherworldly mystery offerings, with a fully-invested cast, atmospheric cinematography, slick production design, superb special effects, and a finely crafted storyline that keeps you guessing until the perfect "stick the landing" finish.

Official promo poster for Netflix's "The Signal." (Image credit: Netflix)

Here's the official synopsis:

"After months on the ISS, scientist and astronaut Paula (Baumeister) is finally back on Earth. She's just parachuted into the atmosphere aboard the Vision Capsule and, after a flight across the ocean, she'll soon be back home with her family. But Paula never makes it, and the plane she boarded is nowhere to be found. It's as if it completely vanished.

"Paula's husband, Sven (Fitz), is distraught and desperate for answers. He and his young daughter, Charlie (Bennett), grasp at any shred of hope they can find. Nothing turns up — until Sven finds out Paula has left him a riddle that may lead him to her. But the more he follows the clues, the more his life is upended. Sven realizes that his wife's possible hints as to her whereabouts may instead be indications of an imminent disaster, not only for Sven and Charlie, but for the whole planet. It turns out, while stationed on the ISS, Paula made a harrowing discovery."

Actress Peri Baumeister discovers a strange transmission in "The Signal" (Image credit: Netflix)

To delve any further into the clever plot mechanics and interesting narrative twists would be to ruin the fun of chasing "The Signal" down its precisely-dug rabbit hole. By all means, make sure to view the entire series in its original German language with subtitles to ingest all the nuances of the actors' credible performances as they attempt to piece together the coverup to find the truth. 

Also joining the main cast are Hadi Khanjanpour ("The Covenant") playing Hadi, Paula's astronaut colleague, and Sheeba Chaddha ("Talaash: The Answer Lies Within") as Mudhi, a benign billionaire who financed Paula's space mission to the ISS.

"The Signal" sends out a healthy helping of nostalgic "X-Files" and "Fringe" vibes as Sven and his hearing-impaired child are pushed to the brink while struggling to discover the reality of Paula's disappearance aboard the downed airliner all while being wrongly accused of culpability as the media descends to feast on their grief. 

Peri Baumeister and Florian David Fitz in "The Signal" (Image credit: Netflix)

In an increasingly crowded sci-fi arena currently witnessed in the steaming universe, "The Signal" represents another German-bred success that stirs the heart and opens the mind. Perhaps the best way to describe this impressive miniseries comes from a line spoken to Paula by one of her American astronaut crew members on the space station in response to her strange existential attitude:

"How very German of you. Philosophical, poetic, and just a gentle touch of depression."

"The Signal" is currently available to stream all episodes exclusively on Netflix.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.

  • Singsling
    No sorry the whole premise is horrible. Voyager 1 isn’t even really into interstellar space yet so which aliens are supposed to have found it and sent it back to earth? It will take tens of thousands of years to get anywhere near a star.
  • COLGeek
    Singsling said:
    No sorry the whole premise is horrible. Voyager 1 isn’t even really into interstellar space yet so which aliens are supposed to have found it and sent it back to earth? It will take tens of thousands of years to get anywhere near a star.
    It is a science fiction show, not science fact. Just an observation.