Syfy launches “Nightflyers” (9 p.m., TV-MA), a mind-bending space opera set in the year 2093. Based on a novella by George R.R. Martin (“Game of Thrones”), this 10-part series blends psychological horror with speculative science fiction, employing lavish production values to spellbinding effect.

Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire”) stars as psychiatrist Dr. Agatha Matheson. With Earth doomed, the Nightflyer spacecraft has traveled to the edge of the solar system to meet up with a ship from a superior alien race in the hopes that their technology may be used to save humanity.

All previous efforts to communicate with the aliens have failed, so expedition leader Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) takes the risky strategy of using another alien, Thale (Sam Strike), as a kind of liaison. Unfortunately, Thale is a sullen creature, not unlike an angry adolescent with violent telekinetic powers. He responds only to Dr. Matheson, and even she requires powerful sedatives to keep him in check.

The mysterious nature of the mission and the presence of a dangerous creature has set the crew on edge. And that’s before a series of unfortunate events threaten the spacecraft itself.

A slow-building thriller, “Nightflyers” will appeal to Martin’s many readers and fans. It also evokes elements from several films by director Stanley Kubrick. A spacecraft on a mission to discover a higher intelligence is an obvious nod to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Its themes of isolation and madness are straight out of “The Shining,” and shots of Thale’s fleshy face and angry eyes seem influenced by Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in “Full Metal Jacket.”

A clearly expensive production, “Nightflyers” will air its first five episodes nightly through Thursday, Dec. 6, and resume with episodes six through 10 the following week. Viewers will also be able to watch “Nightflyers” through Syfy On Demand, and the Syfy app. Co-producer Netflix will stream the series at a later date.

  • ABC will take over from CBS with the Christmas lingerie spectacle “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Holiday Special” (9 p.m., TV-14).

Meanwhile, CBS airs “Garth: Live at Notre Dame” (7 p.m., TV-PG), marking the very first concert performed at Notre Dame Stadium. A dominant force in country music for decades, Brooks has been certified as the biggest-selling solo artist in American history, having sold more than 10 million copies of seven different albums.

  • Another live TV event, “Discovery Live: Into the Blue Hole” (3 p.m., Discovery) follows business mogul Sir Richard Branson, explorer Fabien Cousteau (grandson of Jacques) and submersible pilot Erika Bergman as they plumb the depths of Belize’s legendary Blue Hole, one of the world’s largest submerged sinkholes.

Holiday highlights

  • An architect’s plans to restore a hometown landmark hit emotional roadblocks in the 2018 romance “A Majestic Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
  • Old friends and neighbors tend to a tree they planted as children in the 2018 romance “The Christmas Pact” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
  • A fetching professor submits to online dating in the 2018 romance “Christmas Cupid’s Arrow” (8 p.m., ION).
  • A doll comes to the rescue (again) in the 2018 holiday fantasy “Life-Size 1: A Christmas Eve” (8 p.m., Freeform, TV-14).
  • The 2018 National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony (9 p.m., Ovation and Reelz).

© 2018 United Feature Synd.