Defiance is a brand new venture for Syfy, a science-fiction epic with a vast array of characters and stories, in addition to being simultaneously associated with a tie-in game. I’l be reviewing the TV show to see if it lives up to the hype, or if it falls short on its ambitious premise.
We open onto the world of 2046; a future Earth ravaged but terraformed by years of inter-species warfare after various Alien travellers – the collective ‘Votans’ – arrived on our doorstep in 2013. Viewers are immediately introduced to Jeb Nolan and Irisa (it is through Irisa’s narration that we discover the history of this new world), a pair of treasure hunters seeking out the falling debris from the Ark ships that brought the interplanetary population 33 years prior. After obtaining their most recent prize, apparently worth enough to get them to Antarctica (perhaps a holiday hotspot in this terraformed Earth?) they are subsequently attacked by Irathient raiders, and their escape leads to them winding up in the titular ‘Defiance’ – a fortified haven, formerly St Louis.
It is here we come to meet the rest of the cast, in a ramshackle city celebrating Armistice Day: the charming mayor, played by Julie Benz (of Buffy, Angel and Dexter fame), the wealthy Tarr’s (Jaime Murray and Tony Curran) and many more, including Mia Kirschner’s assertive brothel madame Kenya. The varied species introduced in this series are all given interesting characteristics, though seemingly modelled as ever on human features; Irisa is herself an Irathient raised by Jeb, a human, whilst the Tarr’s are Castithan – pale skinned and white haired (with obvious contact lenses and a rather powdery looking complexion…).
The characters in Defiance are largely the archetypes you would find in any standard piece of fiction: a well-meaning but inexperienced mayor, a good-hearted rogue, a Lady Macbeth of social grace and political acumen, and the futuristic lovebirds a la Romeo & Juliet (The Tarr’s son, and their rivals, the MacCauley’s daughter). There is nothing wrong with this per se, the sheer ambition of this project means that viewers can forgive some uninspired script decisions whilst enjoying its original and spirited concept. The cast all fill their roles suitably, with Stephanie Leonidas as the loveable but hot-headed Irisa currently the stand out MVP to watch. Arguably it is unfortunately Grant Bowler playing Jeb who lacks the most charisma. He is a typically gruff, scoundrel type with a heart of gold, but so far he fails to maintain a magnetic presence on a show swarming with over-the-top environments and characters.
This is an ambitious show for Syfy, yet as with most of their output, CGI quality remains an issue. There are some questionable moments, but luckily for now it seems that there are enough fantastic shots and entertaining elements to keep it compelling viewing. It seems that there could be enough potential still to bolster this show for the rest of the series, I certainly hope that it lives up to the promising start.