Another attempt by Syfy to create a series born out of the legacy of Firefly, and Serenity, that came close to greatness, but missed the target.
Defiance is an American science fiction western drama television series developed by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor. The show takes place in small town, in a post-apocalyptic future, on a radically transformed Earth containing new species, some having arrived from space, many others the result of accidental contamination by Votan terraforming technology which has changed native flora and fauna in unforeseen ways.
The series is set shortly in the future, where aliens, known collectively as Votans, have come to Earth seeking a new home after their star system got destroyed in a stellar collision. When the Votans left their solar system 5,000 years ago, their instruments detected no signs of technology on Earth, so they thought Earth was uninhabited. Upon their arrival in 2013, they discovered otherwise. The humans responded to them with hostility and suspicion.
The show was an experiment in transmedia collaboration with Trion Worlds who released an MMORPG video game of the same name tied into the series world and mythology.
Defiance was broadcast in the United States on the cable channel Syfy and in various international markets. It premiered on April 15, 2013, in the United States and that same week in most countries that picked up the series. Defiance was renewed for a 13 episode third season on September 25, 2014, which premiered on June 12, 2015.
The show followed Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), and the town’s new mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) in addition to an ensemble of actors portraying different characters in the growing town.
After a very promising looking series pilot episode with an interesting premise, it showed a lot of promise. However, it squandered the opportunity by failing to follow through on that promise.The series got bogged down by some bad decisions regarding the direction of the show, and combined with some poor writing it spelled the series’ doom.
The ensemble cast was both the show’s strength and its weakness. It was its strength in regards to individual members of the cast that became quite popular, and its fault, when it sometimes wandered off and dwelled overlong into storylines, and aspects of the series involving characters that were less interesting and engaging.
All of the essential requirements for a hit series were in place. An excellent cast, for the most part, and quality production values, along with some interesting science fiction tropes to help flesh out its narrative. Despite that, by the end of season one, a lot of fans had dropped the series, which I nearly did too, but instead, I chose to hang around to see what developed down the line.
There was a lot to like about this show, but it fell into the same pitfalls that claimed other genre shows in the past. It simply spent too much time, on occasion, dwelling on the human drama aspect of its narrative, while failing to explore the science fiction aspects of it.
Watching the series became a hit or miss proportion when looking for good solid science fiction episodes, of which there weren’t many, in between, were the stories and the drama the show depicted that revolved around interpersonal relationships and the show’s portrayals about living in a small frontier town.
One of the most popular aspects of the series, and one of my favorites was the volatile relationship between Datak Tarr (Tony Curran ), and his wife, Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray), members of an alien race called the Castithans. Their exotic lifestyle, was more fully explored in the series than the other races on the show because it offered an opportunity to give the series a more sexual edge. Partially due to Stahma often appearing wearing very little in the way of clothing on the show.
The Tarrs were an exciting couple, with Stahma playing the role of an alien Lady Macbeth whose ambitions outweighed even her husband’s, who she prompted to take action on a regular basis in regards to the family’s interests, which she eventually took over herself. They were gangsters, and the crime lords of Defiance and their story was sometimes reminiscent of films like the Godfather and other crime stories.
Another fascinating alien character on the show and another of my favorite characters in the series was Doc Yewll (Trenna Keating) the town’s doctor, another version of the often used trope of the grumpy outspoken doctor often seen in science fiction and westerns, the genres this series attempted to bridge. She was an interesting character, surrounded by lots of mystery regarding her alien nature and her past.
The series made other attempts to introduce more interesting alien elements into the series, some succeeding better than others, but ultimately the series got bogged down in the sort of soap opera personal drama that has claimed other science fiction series and caused them to fail.
There was also an overriding story arc involving Nolan’s adopted alien daughter Irisa, which was intriguing but remained too elusive in any definition of its true nature. It developed too slowly and remained too undefined to hold my interest because it never got explained or resolved to my satisfaction enough to keep me interested. The occasional depictions of it are intriguing, but it seemed like all innuendo with nothing substantial behind it to chew on later.
The series was 13 episodes long for each of its three seasons, and in its 3rd and final season, the show’s creators made the dubious, and what seemed like, desperate decision to introduce some space vampires into the series last season. The show finally began portraying some spaceships and other outer space stuff to the series, but it seems it was too little, too late to save the series, and it ended with Nolan riding off into the allegorical ‘sunset’ in the series final episode. Thus ending the series as another sad science fiction tragedy for which Syfy is infamous.