I came in cold to this series, though Showcase was kind enough to send me a screener of the series opener, and within minutes I was wowed by the show, if I had known that Rockne S. O’Bannon of Farscape fame had developed it for television, it probably would have taken less time.
The year is 2046, and the Earth is no longer ours. It’s been modified, changed by terra-forming and war with the arrival of seven alien species known collectively as the Votans. After a momentous event, the war ended, and an uneasy peace developed.
The series takes place in the years after the war. There are tons of wrecked spaceships in diminishing orbits above the planet, and every now and then one of them will make Arkfall. This is how we’re introduced to our new heroes. There’s Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), a former soldier in the Earth Military Coalition, irreverent and charismatic, and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), an Irathient, a war orphan that Nolan has raised as a daughter and partner. They live on the edges of a lawless world, hoping to raise enough money to get to Antarctica, which rumor has it is a paradise.
After a run in with a roving band of Spirit Riders, a clan of Irathients, the two end up in the small town of Defiance, previously known as St. Louis.
They meet up with the town’s new Mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), Kenya (Mia Kirshner), the proprietor of the local brothel/bar Need/Want, gets caught up in a murder between two families the McCawleys, headed by Rafe (Graham Greene) and the Tarrs, a family of Castithans headed by Datak (Tony Curran) and Stahma (Jaime Murray), who run the town’s underworld.
And despite best intentions, Nolan and Irisa end up stuck in the town, with Nolan serving as the town’s lawkeeper, helping to keep the town safe…
The 90 minute pilot is well-written, with characters, the world and species already completely realized. The makeup, costume deign, and CG are all top-notch. Apparently there are already two full alien languages completely developed for the show, so I imagine sci-fi geeks will start throwing Castithan and Irathient swear words into their lexicon any time now.
I’ve already watched the series opener twice, and love what we’ve learned, I am intrigued and interested in all the characters and I also like that there’ are hints of more going on under the surface, setting things up possibly not just for this season, but for many (please please). There are people keeping secrets, plans within plans, and a massive cast of characters. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and see where they go with it, hoping that each of the citizens we’ve met so far get to develop and grow as the show progresses.
The plan for it, at least if the pilot is any example is to tell small-town stories but against a science fiction backdrop. That genre allows them to address all manner of issues, which the best science fiction has been doing for decades. I hope that this one will join the ranks of the best. Television is currently in need of some thought-provoking and fun sci-fi.
Let me know what you think after you’ve seen it! And if you try the video game let me know how it plays, I may have to race out and get one!
Defiance premieres tonight on Showcase in Canada and SyFy State-side!