Rockne O'Bannon gave us 'Farscape,' so that counts for a lot. When it was announced that he had a new project, peoples' expectations and hopes were quite high. Add to that, co-executive producers who were involved in 'Caprica' and 'Battlestar Galactica' and you've got a good pool of talent. This project is a series called 'Defiance' that was simultaneously developed as a video game.
In a dystopian future, Earth has experienced mass extinction of plants and animals. Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) is an ex-Marine who is traveling with his grown, adopted Irathient (a kind of alien) daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). They arrive in a town called Defiance (previously known as St. Louis). The mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) is trying to keep things together, but there is tension between the human and Voltan (a general name for the collection of alien races) population.
Nolan is asked by Amanda to capture the killer of the previous lawkeeper, which he does. This makes him the new lawkeeper in town. It's perfect timing, too, because the town's protective shield has been damaged and they are vulnerable to attack from the Volge (alien automatons that is a common enemy of all).
While all of this is happening, there is the usual interpersonal drama that tends to happen in communities. Star-crossed lovers, selfish ambitions, and people finding out their destinies all help to keep things fresh.
Unlike 'Farscape' where our limited set of heroes journeyed around the universe and time, finding adventure along the way, 'Defiance' is much more leisurely-paced. There are more characters, fewer locations and the danger is (often) more subtle. It is rare that an episode is a self-contained adventure, so the series is constantly building upon what presented. There is no ultimate destination, it is all about survival.
There are a number of conflicts that quickly begin to brew throughout the first season. Something that is both brave and unfortunate is that one or two of them are snuffed out well before the season is over. Any potential developments with those later in the series are nullified. Who knows what could have been revealed in the second season?
If you like westerns, there are elements of that in this. It also has tensions between different races, political power struggles, characters with dark secrets, a few romantic subplots and a bit of supernatural tinkering. The kitchen sink approach is another decision that both helps and hurts this show. Things are rarely dull and there is something for most everybody, but this also dilutes things. We have so many characters, aliens and storylines to keep track of, it isn't as easy to get as emotionally invested in some of the characters.
Being the outsiders, Nolan and Irisa are clearly the most memorable figures in here. Amanda is also noteworthy for the romantic undercurrent she shares with Nolan and her responsibility for keeping the town in order. All of these performances are dandy. One has to figure that a few of the peripheral characters (most of which have not been mentioned thus far in the review) will emerge even more and help the story to expand.
Special features include: deleted scenes, gag reel, a making of featurette, a look behind the scenes and a feature about creating both a television series and video game simultaneously.
It may not have been the best decision in the world to try to do so much with one universe right off the bat. 'Defiance: Season One' has a lot of familiar elements and some flaws but also has a lot of potential for growth. The second season may very well be what determines whether this becomes a long-running, beloved series or whether it fades into obscurity.
At least give it a chance if you have enjoyed previous frontier, post-apocalyptic futuristic westerns.
Not Rated 559 minutes 2013