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Defiance TV show pilot review

10 Apr 2013  by   Paul Younger

defiance

Since Star Trek was canned and Battlestar Galactica finished there’s been a severe lack of decent sc-fi TV shows – but finally there’s a new offering from the Syfy team to fill the gap.

This week we managed to get our hands on a special preview of the first feature length episode of Defiance, and while I am no TV or film critic, I do know a good sci-fi show when I see one so stick with me while I take you through it.

Now that I’ve seen the first episode, the game is making a little more sense, although I will stress the word little due to the nature in which you are thrown into the first TV episode.

Defiance is set 33 years in the future following the arrival of a group of alien races collectively known as the Votans. This friendly bunch are looking for a new home following the destruction of their own star system. The arriving aliens are not exactly welcomed by the  humans but negotiations regarding their settlement on Earth get under way. This lengthy process gets drawn out, the Votan ambassador to the UN gets assassinated and war breaks out between the humans and Votans in what is known as the “Pale Wars”.

During this time Votan ships full of potential inhabitants, who are in a hypersleep stasis, are orbiting the planet waiting for an agreement to be ironed out. There is an unfortunate disaster on the fleet, known as “Arks”, and terraforming technology is uncontrollably released on Earth, devastating the landscape and creating new mutated life forms.

The Votans and humans decide to band together and fight to survive against the environment and the new twisted life forms. Meanwhile remnants of the Ark fleet are literally falling out of the sky and landing on Earth creating “Arkfalls”.

This is where the TV show picks up with Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) on the trail of one of these Arkfalls, searching for precious cargo they can sell. While salvaging they are jumped by an unruly band of Irathient thugs (one of the seven alien Votan races) and it’s a race to escape.

The show moves on to the main location, the city of St. Louis, where we can assume that most of the series will be set. Note this is not the same location as the game, which is set in San Francisco.

Datak Tarr

Datak Tarr

As the episode progresses, rather obviously, Nolan is appointed the Chief Lawkeeper and you get the feeling that each week he’s going to be investigating an alien murder or bomb plot while attempting to keep the power struggle between the characters Datak Tarr, who would look at home in Slytherin House, and Rafe McCawley, the operator of the largest mine, from exploding.

Defiance could be in danger of turning into another version of the BBC’s sci-fi series Outcasts which started out promising but failed to show any real imagination in plot-lines. Let’s hope the writers on Defiance can avoid that.

Convincing effects can make a great sci-fi series. Battlestar managed to pull off some great visuals making it almost believable, but sadly Defiance looks a little low budget in places. At the very start of the episode the blue screen work is pretty shoddy as they drive to the Arkfall, the make up isn’t great, and the good old Star Trek trick of giving the aliens funny foreheads is back and is as unconvincing as ever. Some of the effects are so obviously knocked up on computers it really pulls you out of the world.

The action manages to hot up but all the stereotypes are present: there’s the town mayor who is struggling to maintain the peace, two feuding families locked in a power struggle, a slutty bar tender/brothel keeper, the hothead sidekick, the young lovers from two different races and the scheming mother figure. Let’s not forget Nolan himself, the star of the show, who is simply a wise-cracking Indiana Jones type who has a thing for the ladies. Pretty much every sci-fi cliche has been adopted here.

This initial pilot throws you in at the deep end but fails to fully explain the backstory which won’t make things easy for the new audience. Still, all sci-fi buffs are smart cookies so no doubt they’ll hit the internet to find out more, as I did after watching the first episode.

So why are we discussing a TV show on IncGamers? Well, TRION want players of their recently released Defiance game to at least check out an episode which they hope will explain some of the story, and also familiarise players with the key characters who will pop up from time to time in the game.

Having played the game, I would recommend watching the first episode to see how it all fits together. Whether you’ll stick with the TV show really depends on whether the writers come up with some imaginative plots and don’t get too bogged down turning it into a soap opera about what is effectively a small town and its ten or so main characters. That would be a wasted opportunity when creating a cross-media project such as Defiance.

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