I review the pilot episode of SyFy’s new western drama, Defiance, written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Kevin Murphy and Michael Taylor and Directed by Scott Stewart – which whilst unoriginal, is still a lot of fun. Full spoilers inside.
Defiance S1x01 – “Pilot“
You know that April Fools Joke that I made about a Firefly second season? Well, it seems that this might just be the closest thing we’re going to get to a new space western drama. It introduces us to a world that has changed, 33 years later, mainly due to the introduction of eight different types of alien species, with the collective name being the Votans, who didn’t expect Earth to be inhabited when they fled the destruction of their solar system.
A vast ray of space debris lies around Earth, and the planet has been terraformed dramatically to the point where it is virtually unrecognisable. A fortune in salvage falls regularly from the heavens, and the two main characters, Nolan, a badass human soldier and his adopted, Irathient (one of the subspecies of the Votans), Irisa, follow an ark down to the surface where they hope to find something that will get them out of America. However, they’re ambushed and badly wounded, and it isn’t long before they wake up in the town of Defiance, that once went by the name of St. Louis.
Any show that opens with Johnny Cash (or in this case, Johnny Cash and June Carter), is going to have my attention and I just thought that I’d give Defiance a bonus point for that as Cash is one of my favourite artists before we get started on the actual review. We’re quickly introduced to the main cast, Nolan and Irisa, who are whilst characters that are likable enough to root for, you can’t help but think that they’re similiar to people who you’ve encountered before. Nolan could easily be a Malcolm Reynolds or a Han Solo, and we wouldn’t notice the difference. They don’t stand out well, but their banter and their world makes me want to stick around for more.
As these two characters dominate most of the screentime, the rest of the cast don’t get to develop into anything that interesting. Mayor Amanda Rosewater of the city of Defiance is probably the most memorable, but aside from that there aren’t that many characters that stick around in your mind. There’s even a pair of star-crossed lovers, caught in a very Romeo and Juliet way between the two most prominent families of the town that are quickly introduced to us and their respective members, but they’re forgettable as pretty much 90% of the rest of the cast is.
The story itself is somewhat lacking, and the parts featuring Nolan and Irisa struggling to create a living in Defiance will draw your attention much more quickly than the cliched save the city from alien invaders with the help of the two leads who were going to leave the town to its fate, but then return with a weapon capable of outlasting the siege. Heck, didn’t Han Solo do this already in A New Hope? The rest of the plot is basically focusing on the more Romeo and Juliet angle which wasn’t very interesting at all and I hope this is not the direction that the show is going to keep going with.
The special effects are also hit and miss, as whilst there are certain elements such as the ships, particularly those at the beginning, that look pretty awesome, I wasn’t too convinced by the CGI work on some of the aliens, nor the new Earth.
And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s also very predictable. You know what’s going to happen before you go in, and there’s no sense of suspense. The ending of the series leaves it very open however and there are several directions that the show could be taken from here. I might stick around for at least Episode 2, as I did, despite all the criticism, enjoy it better than I thought it would after hearing some of the reviews.
If you’re confused as to the exact types of of Votans in Defiance, SFX have a handy guide at the bottom of their review of the Pilot.
EPISODE GUIDE: S1x01: Pilot, S1x02: Down in the Dark Where the Dead Men Go, COMING SOON: S1x03: The Devil in the Dark, S1x04: A Well Respected Man, S1x05: The Serpent’s Egg, S1x06: Brothers In Arms,