You gotta love a science fiction show that opens with a man and his alien daughter roaming a devastated landscape singing along with Johnny Cash and June Carter to the tune of “Jackson”:
We got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper’s sprout.
We been talking ‘’bout Jackson,
We been talking ‘’bout Jackson,
Ever since the fire went out . . .
Nolan and Irisa are scavengers, looking for anything of value among the wreckage of fallen alien spacecraft dotting the bleak terraformed hills of New Earth in the year 2046. And whaddaya know? They find something. Something that can make them rich and end their vagabond days forever.
‘Course they don’t get to keep it. That’s not how things go in post-apocalyptic worlds, and where would the fun be if they did? In SyFy Channel’s new show DEFIANCE, what they find in the fallen Ark just leads them to the town of Defiance, built on the ruins of what was once St. Louis, and to a new, more settled life.
DEFIANCE is the creation of executive producer Rockne O’Bannon (creator of FARSCAPE), and writer-producers Kevin Murphy and Michael Taylor (BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA, CAPRICA, STAR TREK VOYAGER) in conjunction with game producer Trion. Trion has created an extensive role-playing game for DEFIANCE for XBOX 360, PS3 and PC formats.
Perhaps because of the needs of the game, or maybe just because the writers were doing their world-building job, the backstory for DEFIANCE is extensive. We actually pick up the story after all sorts of interesting things have happened—alien worlds have been destroyed; the refugees have come to Earth seeking asylum; things have gone from welcome to war between humans and aliens; the alien Arks have fallen out of orbit, letting loose their terraforming machines on the Earth; the war has been fought to a bloody standstill, destroying almost everything.
And in a brilliant display of the art of writing, we don’t hear all of this in long, droning narration voiceovers or useless dialogue. In the pilot and second episode of the new series, we get hints of what has happened, but not the full story. I had to go to the website to get the details. (And since it’s all there for everyone to read, I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets.)
So the writers have created this intriguing world for their characters to play in, but the best part by far is that their characters are well worth watching. Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), at 42, is older than your usual hero, old enough to have the weight of experience on him and to remember a time when Earth was “alone” in the universe. He’s still strong enough to hold his own in a brutal underground fight against a “bioman” (essentially an android) and lusty enough to capture the interest both of the town madam and the town’s mayor, who just happen to be sisters. (To be fair, only the madam acts on that interest.)
Nolan, it turns out, was also one of the Defiant Few, a soldier in a key battle of the Pale Wars between the humans and the aliens, in which fighters on both sides threw down their arms, refused to engage each other and instead began rescuing civilians from the destruction. We talked in a recent blog about the qualities of a hero, and Nolan has my favorites in spades—courage, leadership, resourcefulness and, above all, compassion. It’s no surprise that by the end of the pilot episode he’s asked to stay on in Defiance as its Lawkeeper, or sheriff.
Nolan rescued his “daughter”, the Irathient Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), at a young age, and has kept him with her through many hardships over the years. We still don’t know the full story of her rescue. She has told one person that he saved her by killing her parents. It’s clear that the girl doesn’t share his soft heart for the people of the town they’ve stumbled into. She’d rather be back on the road. But she trusts him, so she stays.
|Nolan and Irisa share a father/daughter moment.|
Every good story has to have good villains and DEFIANCE has its share. You have the obvious choice, Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a Castithan with a grip on the criminal element of Defiance; his scheming wife, Stahma (Jaime Murray); and the hot-headed, prejudiced owner of the mines that run beneath Defiance, Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene), all of whom are constantly at each other’s throats. But they may all be outdone by the sweet-faced former mayor Nicky (Fionnula Flanagan), who apparently has a diabolical plot to destroy the town!
If we can avoid too many episodes that cater to the gamers’ desire to hunt and kill mass quantities of bulked-up aliens (which we had in an “epic battle” in the pilot), DEFIANCE has great promise as science fiction on the order of its producers’ predecessors—FARSCAPE, BATTLESTAR GALLATICA and CAPRICA. All of those terrific shows had a large element of romance, too. I can’t wait to see what develops in the town of Defiance.