Defiance - Review

Almost all subgenres of science fiction are represented in recent TV shows. From shows like Dollhouse, set in the real world with sci-fi elements, to science-fantasy shows like Doctor Who, which bend all rules of reality. SyFy (formally the Sci-Fi channel)'s new offering lies somewhere in the middle: Defiance is set on Earth in the not too distant future but not Earth as we know it - this world has been haphazardly terraformed after an accident involving a fleet of alien space ships. The planet has been changed to the point of being unrecognisable, dust covers the ground, alien plants and animals live here, almost all human society has collapsed and even the geology of the planet is now different.

What we are presented with is Earth as an alien world, which quickly establishes the relationship between the remaining humans and an alien race known as Votans, who now also inhabit our planet. Despite the near future Earth based setting, Defiance feels like a show much more removed from reality. The Votans come in many different varieties, which means the world of Defiance is populated by a wide cast of exotic creatures. By and large, these are well realised; make-up and costuming have come on a long way since Babylon 5, where different races were denoted by strange haircuts.

Defiance is mainly set in a small eponymous survivor's town which used to be St Louis, but now has more in common with a border town from the old west. The action focuses around Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), the local law man, and Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), Defiance’s new mayor. Defiance is home to a good many Votans as well as humans, which gives the audience the opportunity to get to know this race in all its different forms.

Defiance draws its influence from good sci-fi stock. There’s the border town/wild west dynamic from Firefly and Borderlands, the colourful cast of different bizarre aliens reminiscent of Babylon 5 or Mass Effect, and the post-apocalyptic feel of The Book of Eli. There’s also the intriguing back story of the Votans’ arrival on Earth after the destruction of their own system, the Pale Wars which have driven both races to the brink of extinction, and the “Ark Fall” event which released the Votans' terraforming technology on Earth in a sudden rush – resulting in the devastated planet of the show’s setting. Defiance also uses the tried and tested approach of utilising sci-fi elements to address real world problems, in this case the effect of new cultures arriving into an inhabited space and how different groups integrate.

The question is: will Defiance find a fan based sufficiently dedicated to keep the show going? It looks possible, as a gap in the market has opened up following the demise of Enterprise and Stargate Universe and fans adore a vacuum. It will take a few weeks before we can be certain if Defiance has a strong enough story to maintain viewers, but what can be said is that it has the sci-fi credentials and essential plot elements to be a success. Defiance exists in a sci-fi subgenre currently under represented on televisions and I would urge any fan of any of the above influences to watch and see what will befall the human and Votan inhabitants of this frontier town.

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