I had a film professor in college that used to tell his students if a film didn't get your attention in the first twelve minutes and give you, the viewer, a reason to stick around it probably failed in doing its job. It was something to that effect, give or take a few minutes. I understood the point obviously and for whatever reason I've often used that as a barometer on television and film, sometimes to my detriment.
The complex nature of television today sometimes requires a bit more patience. Fringe anyone? You know what I mean. It's good to give these creative endeavors the chance they deserve. The X-Files (1993-2002) blossomed. Fringe (2008-2013) proved to be solid as first seasons go. Babylon 5 (1993-1998) managed to survive an awkward start. Terra Nova (2011), Surface (2005-2006), Threshold (2005-2006) just couldn't get over that hump.
So with the promise of another SyFy original (I know I cringe a little too), I await with baited-breath for Defiance. I took a look at those first fourteen minutes last evening. It certainly pulled me into unique science fiction fantasy escape. The CGI was impressive enough to create a surprisingly original landscape. Defiance promises to offer an impressive piece of world-building complete with intriguing characters, likable ones too, aliens and monsters. That's a recipe for success if done right.
The fourteen minute preview had me at... well, Johnny Cash. Two of the lead characters, one alien and one human, spend a good sequence playing duet to Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Damn! You've got my attention. Any science fiction series far out enough to capture the look and energy of something like Farscape (1999-2003) with its sense of Star Wars-like adventure grounded in the Earthly good tunes of one, late great Johnny Cash has my personal vote and support. John Crichton knew how to draw on popular culture too.
It's no surprise it flexes Farscape-like muscles either. Defiance, developed by Farscape creator and Alien Nation (1988) writer Rockne S. O'Bannon, has his fingerprints all over it. He knows how to deconstruct the genre and build something new and refreshing. It holds a lot of promise on this fact alone.
The sci-fi tech weaponry mixed with a little Mad Max-aesthetic of the rolling vehicles also promises to lend some thrills. Very little is established initially other than the fact Earth has been terraformed by aliens and 33 years later Earth looks a whole lot different from altered vegetation to alien lifeforms, a fusion of the Earth we knew and one that has been altered dramatically. It's an intergalactic melting pot.
Defiance appears to be surprisingly original while borrowing elements from Firefly (2002), Terra Nova, and Farscape. There are definitely flavors from those aforementioned series that thread through the special mix on the series. Obviously it's too early to tell, but I have been hopeful and based on those first fourteen minutes I remain optimistic.
Defiance offers plenty of potential for tapping into global and culturally-sensitive questions with regard to illegal immigration. With characters clearly immersed within a combination of high tech Farscape and lo-tech Firefly where humans and aliens co-habitate Alien Nation style, it will be interesting to see if Defiance presents not a philosophy of us versus them, aliens versus humans, like Falling Skies, but rather present unions based on a shared philosophy and thinking not by lumping groups by ethnicity, but rather mixing them by thought and belief. God knows America is at a crossroads between the belief in big government and personal freedom free from extensive intrusion. I look forward to seeing how Defiance frames and works these societal debates within what should be a thrilling science fiction saga.
Maybe, just maybe, this SyFy Original will be one of those rare efforts to come along and stick around for at least four seasons. At least the cable channel is finally sinking some money into actual science fiction. Now there's an idea. The cable channel struck success with Farscape and Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). Perhaps the effects-heavy Defiance will be their next big thing, and I sure as hell hope so, because most of their original programming ain't worth a damn and I haven't seen them plug for a series of any interest in quite some time, plus I'm hungry for it. For once, they have this discerning Sci-Fi Fanatic's attention and I'm hopeful this one is a keeper. Don't get me wrong I love Erik Estrada, but I don't want to see another Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo (2013).