Real-Life Voyager 1 In ‘The Signal’ Series, Explained: What Does It Symbolize?


Netflix’s 2024 limited series, The Signal (originally titled Das Signal), centers around a German astronaut, Paula Groth, who picks up a strange signal during her stay on the International Space Station. But instead of sharing the secret with her colleagues, Paula only reported it to an Indian billionaire, Benisha Mudhi, who had funded her secret space mission for her own benefit. In the space station, Paula picked up an unknown signal on which she heard a voice trying to mimic a human. It was at this moment that Paula’s mind started playing tricks on her and made her believe that the signal had been sent by an extraterrestrial being who was trying to establish communication with humans. As she plunged deeper into the mystery, she realized that the alien vessel was going to land on Earth on St. Nicholas Day in the Waidu Desert. However, the paranoid astronaut never shared the exact date and coordinates with anyone except her husband, Sven, and her daughter, Charlie, because Paula didn’t trust anyone except her family.

Spoiler Alert

The Signal’s ending denies the existence of any alien body in the series. The entire world went into a frenzy when they found out about the arrival of the aliens, but in the end, it all turned out to be a big misunderstanding. It was true that Paula received a signal and heard a human voice on the other end of the device, but it didn’t belong to any extraterrestrial being. Instead, the signal was transmitted from a man-made probe called Voyager 1, which later landed in the Waidu Desert and was found by Sven and Charlie. In real life, the international space organization NASA sent two probes into outer space in late 1977 in order to explore the deepest corners of the galaxy. To this day, these probes have been transmitting essential data that helps in space research and exploration. These probes were also equipped with a signature Golden Record, similar to what we saw in the Netflix series. However, quite contrary to what was presented in the fictional series, the real-life Voyager 1 is still floating in outer space and will continue to do so until 2025. It is estimated that the generators in the probe will stop functioning in the upcoming years, turning the probe into a space junk. However, what’s inside it has much more significance than the probe itself.

The Golden Record has recordings of voices and images from different parts of the world. These recordings represent our diverse culture and our golden history (till late 1970). To anyone listening, it tells the story of human evolution and how, through our struggles, we have come to respect all forms of life. Carl Sagan, the head of the committee that designed these records, hoped for an extraterrestrial civilization to find these recordings, which would help them understand our culture and values better. The main purpose of it was to make them realize that we are humble beings who are eager to make contact and connections with other civilizations. Voyager 1 has been out there for a long time, still trying to continue the mission it was sent out for. Meanwhile, on Earth, humanity has lost its way in all these years.

We, as humans, have grown increasingly paranoid over time. We want to destroy or eliminate anyone or anything that looks different. We have lost our ability to accept people who are different. We have categorized each individual by the lowest denominator, and we are still not happy. There is a reason why Paula didn’t share her findings with other astronauts. Today, we are in a rat race against each other, and to tell you the truth, no one is winning because there is no finishing line here. We are just going round and round in circles, trying to get somewhere; we don’t know where. 

Paula knew that as soon as the nations found out about the arrival of extraterrestrial beings, they would get their big guns out to hunt them down and later experiment upon them. They would put those aliens in the most secure labs and try to replicate their technology, which would give them an edge over other nations. It felt like we weren’t curious anymore, just a bit more insecure. A similar thing happened in The Signal series, where the German military tried to nuke the upcoming alien ship so as to stop the neighboring nations from getting their hands on their revolutionary technology. It was quite a funny scene, though. No one bothered to ask the really important questions. Did the aliens have any such technology or not? No one bothered to track their ship on the radar when it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Or maybe they are just ignorant or in a hurry. They were so afraid that they nuked the entire area on the coordinates because that’s what the military knew. Destroy what you don’t understand, and kill whatever seems different.

And then there was this Indian billionaire, Benisha Mudhi, who went a step further and killed hundreds of people just to keep the aliens’ arrival a secret. She killed Paula and her colleague Hadi Hiraj to keep the right coordinates a secret. Mudhi’s final goal was to intercept the alien’s landing in secret so that she could invite (or capture) the new guests and use them for her capitalistic greed. In the end, she was not only tricked by Paulo, Sven, and Charlie, but fate itself. It was a loud and clear message for the entire human civilization to stop being a part of the race for a moment and look back in time to see where we had started and what we had become. Indeed, we have lost our way in all these years.

So, I don’t know if the aliens existed in the series or not, but the narrative was never actually about them. The ending of The Signal and the arrival of Voyager 1 were messages for humanity to do better. We need to stop looking for new civilizations and planets and work on ourselves first. Preserve what we have before we create or discover something new. We don’t need to spend billions on space research programs but to change ourselves for the better. And if there is a civilization out there, then it is indeed scrutinizing our actions and judging us for them. We have turned into scary monsters, and like gracious hosts, we need to get our humanity back before any guest arrives on our planet and graces us with their presence.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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