Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defiance, not so much


If you've been waiting for a TV series that looks like the redheaded stepchild of a trist between Babylon 5 and Halo then I may have something that fits the bill.

Monday April 15th saw the premiere of Defiance on the SYFY network following on the heels of the companion video game of the same name that launched 2 weeks earlier.  It's set in a near future where the Earth is besieged by bad guy aliens plunging the world into a Mad Max style post apocalyptic landscape with a few familiar features like a battered St. Louis' gateway arch thrown in for realism.

There's a few other alien races besides the big ugly bad guy aliens that live alongside the human survivors in a somewhat tenuous allegiance.  After all, the old adage of the enemy of my enemy and such and such applies here.  Thus we're presented with yet another Sci-Fi story using aliens and a post apocalyptic world as a metaphor for the human condition.

The video game is supposed to follow the storyline of the television series albeit in another location and is designed from the onset to be an MMO.  That means graphics are passable at best but acceptable if you buy into the whole media convergence thing that SYFY is trying to push with Defiance.

From the 2 hour pilot it appears we're going to spend a lot of time watching a multitude of antagonists scheming toward their own ends.  Somewhere toward the end of the episode, however, everyone will put aside their differences and come together in one giant Kumbaya  moment .  The result of which will be to repel yet another invasion by the big, ugly bad guy aliens that look like escapees from MechWarrior and an fantasy RPG.

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During scenes depicting vistas in space or Aliens on the march the trademark SYFY production values shone through.  By that I mean cheap.  They looked like scenes out of a video game and considering the tie-in with Trion's game it's really no surprise that there's some cross-pollination. 

The most interesting thing about the whole franchise is trying to figure out whether the game supports the television series or vice versa.  From what I see it's the latter as the whole premise is tired and has been done better.  The only thing that makes Defiance different is the overt tie in with a video game.

The characters have no more depth than any other NPC in a video game in spite of how hard the writers try to make us care about them.  There's not a lot of room for plot development either unless they start getting wonky and unearth the Starship Enterprise under the Lincoln Memorial or something like that. 

I mean c'mon, let's face it, your plot is going to boil down to 4 things.

1. Racial tension (Babylon 5 copycat)
2. Exploring relationships between characters (kinda tough when they're basically just NPC's)
2. Finding the big super uber weapon to get rid of all those pesky big bad guy aliens 
3. Beating up on the big bad ugly aliens

MiniInTheBoxI sincerely hope that Syfy isn't pinning their hopes on the fact that the series has a companion video game.  Cable stations have been doing companion web apps for a few years with series like Breaking Bad.  Thing is, apps don't make a bad series good and neither will a video game. 

By this time next year I doubt we'll remember Defiance in the same way we remember Babylon 5 or  Star Trek the Next Generation if we remember it at all.