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Defiance: Pilot (PREVIEW)


On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Defiance is a rather ambitious new project from SyFy, not just a TV series but also a MMO-third person shooter game. According to the press materials I received with the TV preview episodes, each element of Defiance will play off and impact the other. Given the open-world nature of the game, I suspect that this interaction could lead to some interesting developments within the storyline of the TV show. Of course only time will tell if the show/game interaction is successful, but my hat is off to the creators of both for giving this a shoot. While I haven't played the game yet (it was onTuesday, April 2nd), the reviews have been largely positive. As many gamers can attest, that's not always a given when it comes to games that are tie-ins with movies or TV shows. They're often more of an afterthought, so hopefully the Defiance (the video game) will buck the trend.

As for the show itself? Well I'm happy to say it's one of the first original SyFy shows that I'm actually excited about. Not to be too harsh, but despite the network name, quality sci-fi isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind when I think of SyFy. The movies are laughable (Mansquito, Sharktopus, Dinocroc vs. Supergator) and the TV shows, while often having good concepts, never seem to have the production values to back them up. Of course, the one exception to that rule is the new Battlestar Galactica. It's been four years since that series ended…and it appears that SyFy might finally have a worthy successor in Defiance. Now before you either take up arms against me for blasphemy or start whining that you hated BSG, allow me to explain the comparison.

From the start, Defiance looks to have a similar ambition in scope and storytelling. I suppose if you want to approach the show completely in the dark, now would be the time to turn back. I won't be getting into any heavy spoilers, certainly nothing that you couldn't pick up from the Defiance website and/or from the promos, but it's worth mentioning, just in case. You've been warned…

At any rate, here's the basic premise. We're on Earth, but in the year 2046. Over thirty years ago, aliens appeared over our planet and the rest, as they say, is history. Or future. Whatever. It's not explicitly spelled out exactly what happened, which I suppose will be one of the major arcs of the series, or at least this first season. Humans are still present on the Earth, but the Earth itself was terraformed by the collective race of aliens known as the Votan. As a result, there are rumors of Antarctica now being a tropical paradise, while the setting of the show, a town called Defiance, actually sits over the ruins of old St. Louis.

It's in this setting that we're introduced to our cast of characters: Jeb Nolan, a bit of a rogue and scoundrel cut from the same cloth as Han Solo and Mal Reynolds, his daughter, Irisa Nyira, Amanda Rosewater, the Mayor of Defiance, Datak Tarr, a powerful alien leader in Defiance and Nicky Riordon, the out-going mayor of Defiance. First off, kudos to Grant Bowler who plays Jeb Nolan. While there are echoes of those famous scruffy space pirates, he manages to carve out his own identity in pretty quick order. I have a feeling that his character will be a fun one to watch. As a LOST fanboy, it was cool to see Fionnula Flanagan aka Eloise Hawking back in action as Nicky Riordon. Her character in particular seems to be a bit in the background, but possibly pulling some strings that will have repercussions later on down the road.

And it's in this way that Defiance also seems similar to BSG. While the first three preview episodes that I received definitely have a good amount of action, the writers are clearly interested in the mining the political and racial intrigue that's possible when you bring a bunch of different aliens and humans together in an uneasy alliance on the border of the terraformed frontier. There's a lot going between the races, and it's possible that I'm reading too much into it, but I'd wager that there is a rich backstory to interactions we start seeing in the pilot. Given the rough and tumble setting of Defiance, comparisons with Firefly will also likely start to surface as the show starts airing. It's not necessarily an unfair one, but again, there are hints here and there that the world of Defiance isn't trying to ape what's come before.

If it sounds like I'm stoked about this show, it's because I am. I've been a sci-fi nerd at heart from a young age and I love it when the tropes of the genre are intelligently explored and stories are told well within the sci-fi framework. Obviously it's too early to know whether Defiance will ultimately fulfill the promise that seems to be playing out on the screen, but count me in as a fan at this point. There's a lot to like here and I hope that this series will find its voice and will thrive. Check it out tomorrow night (April 15th) when it premieres on SyFy at 9 EST.

Jeremy Hunt
Review by Jeremy Hunt
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