SyFy has been somewhat hit or miss recently, especially around the time they changed their name. The SciFi Channel, however, was an amazing accumulation of science fiction based television and movies. Programs like Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, and even Eureka! were charming and very well written. Blending science fiction with other genres, such as drama in the case of re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, SciFi was able to draw in hardcore science fiction fans as well as more casual viewers, leading to a fairly successful viewer base for the cable network. Nowadays though, SyFy’s program lineup has been somewhat lackluster leaving me wanting more. However, I recently heard about their new show set to premiere on April 15th of this year. The show is called Defiance, and I have to say, it looks like it has some great potential.
The premise for the series is actually really cool, but also fairly complex along with what seems like an in-depth and rich backstory. An alien collective known as the Votan (think of the Covenant from the Halo series here for a great comparison) shows up in Earth’s orbit looking for a new place to call home after their own star system was destroyed. In a true stroke of writing genius, the humans make the Votan plea their case to settle on the pale blue dot and live with us, while politicians around the world debate on whether or not we should let them stay. After running out of supplies the Votan can no longer wait for Earth’s leaders to decided and instead invade the planet looking to settle here by force. The war rages on for years, and eventually some human forces shoot down a Votan ship in orbit that just happens to be a terraform ship. It crashes on Earth somewhat intact and begins to terraform the planet even though it can already support life. This leads to a dangerous and alien wildlife ecosystem to evolve on the planet rendering the landscape hostile to both the humans and the Votan. A ceasefire is called, and the new struggle for survival is against the new and dangerous life forms the terraforming process has created on Earth.
The series takes place in the remains of St. Louis, which is now a small refugee camp called ‘Defiance.’ Humans and aliens alike, including all seven of the Votan races, attempt to live in harmony and survive together against the post-apocalyptic changes in the landscape along with the new life forms that threaten their existence.
On the surface, the premise seems fairly interesting. I really enjoy stories that have a rich backstory, especially when it comes to science fiction. Having the story pickup after so much history is going to be very intriguing. By the time we meet our characters they’ve already gone through first contact with several alien species, an exhaustive war said alien species, the terraforming of Earth, and now the struggle for survival in a new landscape. Talk about in depth! This will lead to some (hopefully) great character dynamics between the humans and the various alien races. Think Hell on Wheels where we see Union soldiers and ex-confederates having some mutual hatred for each other, except in this situation, no one was the clear victor of the war.
Placing our new found alien friends and war-torn human survivors in a foreign landscape is also a clever writing strategy. It puts both sides in unknown territory attempting to survive with an uneasy alliance. This allows from some great tension as well as a mutual benefit for both sides to work together. I hope we get some fantastic drama out of this just like with Alien Nation. The character interaction possibilities here are quite limitless.
The only obvious question that comes to mind from reading the premise is: why didn’t the aliens terraform Mars as their new home? What about other planets near our solar system? If they had a fully functioning terraform ship, they could have left Earth rather quickly after it was obvious the humans weren’t going to let them stay. Perhaps the show will explain this, and I hope they do, as leaving questions unanswered in a science fiction show is a writing sin.
There’s also going to be a huge interactive push with this show as well. Apparently some sort of video game will be released with the show as well that directly relates to it. On one of the most recent teaser trailers, the text on the screen reads: “Watch it. Play it.” As to what this means exactly, your guess is as good as mine. Here’s hoping they actually put time, effort, and money into both the show and the video game component as well.
I have high hopes for Defiance, and I really do wish it becomes another flagship science fiction show that stands the test of time. We definitely need more of them around, as I personally can’t keep re-watching Battlestar Galactica over and over again. I probably will anyways.