MH370: The Plane review: Netflix's new show only scratches the surface

The most touching part is the interviews with the relatives of those onboard

67-American-aviation-journalist-Jeff-Wise American aviation journalist Jeff Wise Netflix

The first 40 minutes of MH370's flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, were uneventful. At 1:19am, the plane left Malaysian airspace. The pilot in command, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, one of the most experienced pilots of Malaysia Airlines, radioed Malaysian air traffic control: “Good night. Malaysian three-seven-zero.” The sign-off “good night” indicates that a pilot is crossing over from one airspace to another. It was the last communication from the flight. Two minutes later, MH370, with 239 passengers and crew members onboard, disappeared from radar in “one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history”.

Almost a decade later, despite a massive international search by multiple countries, the plane and its black box have not been found. Now, Netflix tries to piece together the story in its latest docudrama, MH370: The Plane That Disappeared. The show is divided into three episodes―'The Pilot,' 'The Hijack,' and 'The Intercept'. In each episode, a controversial new theory explaining the disappearance is introduced. Even as aviation experts, engineers, data scientists, journalists and hobbyists give their take on what transpired that night, the result is always a dead-end. It is shocking that, despite advancements in satellite imagery, surveillance and tracking, the search remains inconclusive.

As American aviation journalist Jeff Wise says in the show, “It is like an Agatha Christie mystery. Everyone in the manor house is now a suspect.” Could this be the work of Russian hijackers? An abduction attempt by North Korea? Or did a meteorite hit the plane? Could Shah have turned off all communication, depressurised the cabin and killed all onboard?

This last theory is explored in the first episode. In the second, Wise hypothesises that the Russians, to divert attention from the Crimean war, might have hatched a plan to enter the plane's electronic bay and tampered with the satellite data. The third episode delves into the possibility that the plane was shot down by the US military over the South China Sea to prevent a mysterious consignment from reaching China.

Perhaps the most touching part of the series is the interviews with the relatives of those onboard. “The not knowing is the most horrible part of it,” says Danica, who lost her husband to the tragedy. Intan Othman, wife of Hazrin―a steward who was assisting the captain in the cockpit that night―recounts how her daughter keeps asking about her father. “If papa died, where is his grave?” she asks. Ghyslain Wattrelos, who lost his wife and two adolescent children, says, “Deep down, you are telling yourself they are still alive. For quite some time I kept communicating with them. They had their phones, so I kept sending them texts.”

The sad part is that the series does not offer solutions, or even a glimmer of hope. It rekindles interest in the mystery, but that is all. There are no interviews with those who are currently in positions of power to throw light on why the issue died down, how the investigation has progressed or what is the possibility of ever solving this dark puzzle. This is a good watch for those who are not familiar with what happened on that fateful night. For those who lost their loved ones and those who have been closely following the story, the show offers little.