16 April 2013 | Safetylight
A lot of clichés done well makes for good TV.
Reminds me of the old Masamune Shirow manga series, "Appleseed". Combine that with Mel Gibson's "Road Warrior" and a bit of "Babylon 5" with maybe a dash of "Command & Conquer" (yes, the video game), and you've got yourself "Defiance".
Now, this sort of story has been tried before many times, and it has failed each time. (Earth 2, Revoloution, Dark Skies, Terra Nova, Outcasts) Either the writing was too naive and silly, or too dark and serious, or the casting failed to deliver engaging characters we liked and cared about. Or the budget simply fell apart. Any one of a dozen problems can sink this sort of show.
"Defiance" might just get it right.
The story is nothing we haven't seen before, but so what? There are no new stories; it's all in the delivery, the fun of the retelling.
A pair of tough-as-nails left over warriors, survivors of a planet-wasting future war carve out a nomadic life for themselves in the badlands. They are tightly bonded, mismatched family for one another, an alien warrior princess and a human super soldier; they don't need anybody but themselves.
So when their path takes them into the middle of new colony filled with politics and problems, desperate, hopeful people of many races trying to build new lives, our heroes have every reason to make tracks and head for the horizon. Such a town is just too much trouble, a great place to get bogged down and probably get killed. No thank-you.
But of course, heartstrings are plucked, making it impossible to leave these babes in the woods to their own demise. Our heroes become protectors in the middle of impossible odds and ego-driven, racist rivalries and all the dirt which makes life a difficult place. A stupid, ugly town filled with stupid, ugly people. Who are also, people with good stuff inside them as well. An unfortunate mix, because if they were all bad, you could just leave them to rot without a second thought. But no, the audience is shown enough hope to want to see these people rise above themselves and just get along. It's fun as viewers to hope. And so our heroes decide to stay.
Such a story would be an unbearable cliché if it weren't done, as this one is, with such a good deal of competence.
The pilot worked, was entirely watchable, was fun, and shows plenty of promise.
No, it doesn't have the unique charismatic spark of a Firefly, or the (albeit wooden) broad-stroke genius of Babylon 5. But it does have all the parts you need for a thrilling series, and better yet, it has the casting and acting chops to make the characters engaging. And best of all, in the midst of all that grime and calamity, it retains the up-beat bounce to make the world a place to want to visit next week.
For a series pilot, getting so many difficult parts to work this well together is extremely hard to pull off. But they did it.
Presumably, as the actors settle into their roles over the course of several episodes, on-screen chemistry can only get better. Hopefully, they've got some good script writers on board to make good use of all this potential, and the budget and executive smarts needed to give this show the chance it needs for a good run.
I think it's just possible that we're looking at a winner. *Just*.
Because this particular road through the sci-fi wilderness is littered with the remains of the fallen. If they pull it off, it'll be a big first.
So I wish good luck to the aptly named, "Defiance" in the face of these long odds.
They'll need both!