Thursday, March 28, 2013

Defiance: The First Fourteen Minutes

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).

6 comments:

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

I am here to lay your fears to rest. I have seen the first 3 episodes of DEFIANCE and I can tell you with 100 percent confidence that you will like it. I love it. Like you, I go by the first 15-20 minute rule as well and Defiance had me right at the beginning. Is it weird to be attracted to an alien female?

After the pilot was so good to me, I was concerned about the next three episodes, but the world that is created with Defiance is one of interest and complexity. I think you will be quite surprised!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Great to hear Troy. I feel like Defiance is a no brainer for me. It doesn't even look like a tough call it looks so good.

In fact, it doesn't have quite the family cheese quality that seemed to plague Terra Nova at the outset.

Further, that alien female is attractive. I couldn't agree more. Enlarged forehead or not, she's beautiful and she's also interesting as characters go. looking forward to it. Thanks.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Thanks for the heads up on the 14-minute preview of Defiance, Sci Fi Fanatic! Although a link to the video would have helped, I was able to find the clip with a fairly short Google search. Honestly, I was impressed so much with just the first five minutes that I stopped watching there. If the weekly episodes are as well thought out as the pilot episode appears to be, I think we have another Farscape on our hands. I did not like Battlestar Galactica like so many other sci fi fans, so I only make the Farscape comparison.

I think you’re being a bit too harsh with the Sci Fi Chanel’s record of original quality TV programs, citing only the previously mentioned Farscape and Battlestar Galactica. I for one currently enjoy Warehouse 13 – which while technically more fantasy than science fiction, is for the most part a quality and entertaining program. I also really liked their recently cancelled Alphas, which was the best depiction of mental powers that I have seen on TV. While Eureka wasn’t my favorite show on SY FY, it was my wife’s and I did think it was consistently well written, acted, etc. I’m surprised you left out Stargate SG-1 from you list of quality Sci Fi Chanel programs. While it got its start on Showtime, it ran for and was produced for fivr of its ten seasons on The Sci Fi Chanel. The SG-1 spin-off series, Stargate Atlantis, was a Sci Fi Chanel original and it was in some ways even better than Stargate SG-1.

So while The Sci Fi Chanel – now SY FY – has had some real misfires – Black Scorpion and Painkiller Jane spring immediately to mind – there were many other shows that were well worth watching. I was also a fan of: Andromeda, The Dresden Files, The Invisible Man, Sanctuary, Sliders and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hello Doc. Hope all is well.

Honestly, I'm not sure I am being that hard, while having a bit of hunor with it. They do put out some dreadful stuff. Though I did watch Daybreakers today.

You made some of my points for me. I loved SG-1, but it was a SHowtime Original which is why I didn't mention it. And yes, I loved Stargate Atlantis too. I'm even going to give SGU another shot.

Not much of a fan of Eureka or some of the other stuff of late to be honest.

But honestly, not a big fan of those sci-fi shows you mentioned and my point and the spirit of my enthusiasm for Defiance is that this is a bona fide science fiction story and one that I hope is successful in the vein of Farscape as we both see it - just a rip roaring science fiction epic.

I knew you'd find the link Doc! ;)

Cheers and thanks for the comment. I really look forward to Defiance too. It will likely be must watch TV along with Falling Skies over the coming months. Truly thrilled about it.

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Definitely no cheese factor with Defiance which I was pretty happy with. The story of the two main characters is intriguing, especially with the alien female. The sets are amazing and the special effects are very good for Syfy.

As for the programming on Syfy, well I tend to agree with both of you. They have had their definite hits and misses. I am thinking more of the misses tend to be their original movies, some of them have been simply dreadful, but they have had some pretty good series. Like Doc, I am currently watching Warehouse 13 for the first time. Started the past couple of days and already almost done season 2. It's much better than I thought, although it's basically the same premise as the 80's series Friday the 13th:The Series, but still loads of fun to watch.

My concern is that they are pairing Defiance with Warehouse 13, but having Defiance be the lead in for Warehouse 13, which I don't think is a good idea. Let Warehouse 13 be the lead in for the new show. help build its momentum, but we shall see.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Fair to say Troy, the truth for SyFy lies somewhere in the middle.

Looking forward to this series.

With The Walking Dead over as of Easter, we have Falling Skies and Defiance ahead.

Thumbs up in general to The Walking Dead finale. Enjoyed it.