Published Oct 15, 2013In just a handful of episodes, Defiance establishes itself as a very likely candidate for the next great science fiction series. Boasting the most richly textured worldbuilding and progressive frontier politics since Firefly, and with a colourful cast of personalities to give it life, the community-centric action drama is immediately immersive and endlessly inventive.
Forget the minor budgetary restraints associated with a SyFy Channel production; this show makes the most of its money, and any lack of animation fidelity is more than made up for by the strength of design and a compelling story that blends elements of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Deadwood. With little preamble or background, the pilot episode drops the viewer on a drastically altered Earth. We gather that a space ark populated by numerous alien species came to our planet seeking to resettle, resulting in a lengthy, brutal war and partial attempts at terraforming our planet.
Two scavengers of the resultant badlands, a decorated former military man and his adopted Irathient daughter, wind up taking refuge in an independent town built over the wreckage of St. Louis. The town, Defiance, is a rarity in the new world order — a community without affiliation or bias. All species are welcome and influence is accepted from no other governing body than that elected by its citizens, despite frequent overtures from militant human faction The Earth Republic.
Finding themselves in the right place at a time of great need, Nolan (the roguishly charming Grant Bowler) and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) help the town fight off a vicious breed of alien called the Volge and stick around to help protect what could make a tolerable home for the anti-social wanderers. The new mayor (Julie Benz, Dexter, Angel) and her sister, the madam (Mia Kirshner, The L Word) of the local — and fully legal — brothel certainly make the prospect of settling more appealing to Nolan, with both developing different sorts of friendships with the ruggedly handsome drifter.
Town politics are a big part of the series, and a power struggle between two families — with mine owner Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) representing the humans and the rich, arrogant Datak Tar (Tony Curran) pushing the alien agenda — often takes centre stage, or at least emits ripples of influence on whatever else is transpiring. Throughout the season, the writers do an admirable job of advancing a larger plot involving questions of technology and spirituality — the likes of which haven't been seen since Battlestar Gallactica — while handling terrestrial issues and developing the characters and environment each episode. Should Defiance be given the chance to continue improving at this rate, it should garner a cult following at least on par with Farscape, with which it shares key creative personality Rockne S. O'Bannon.
The special features — included with one of the best first seasons of a genre show this reviewer has ever seen — goes into great detail on the design of the show and emphasise how unique the larger Defiance project is in "A Transmedia Revolution." Defiance is also an MMO game, but it's not a matter of licensing a property; it's all canon; the game and show were, and continue to be, developed in tandem. "Making Defiance" is a fairly standard production feature on the nuts and bolts of the TV show with a focus on the elaborate alien makeup much of the cast has to wear and modeling the look of the town after the already-constructed game environment to ensure maximum synchronicity. Additionally, Jesse Rath — who plays wimpy second-generation alien and town DJ, Alak Tarr — takes a video camera around for a day of being painted the colour of David Bowie's toilet (his shitter must glitter silver, no?) and recording a little ADR. Finally, there is the usual collection of deleted scenes and funnier-than-average bloopers.
This Blu-ray is a must-own for fans of intelligent and entertaining science fiction. (Universal)