I just finished watching the pilot episode of the new SyFy series Defiance. It feels like this is the first truly original science fiction series for ages. I honestly can’t remember which was the last one. Firefly maybe.
So, what was the first episode like? Unfortunately, it was not very promising.
Thematically it’s a combination of futuristic western (like Firefly but without any space travel) and a character-driven end-of-the-world drama like Jeremiah. This by itself is not bad. The actors do a decent job of portraying their characters, the direction, sound, lighting and visual effects are competent and the music score complements the mood well.
The problem is, we’ve seen all this before. The script feels like a meal made from yesterdays leftovers.
Every generic western drama cliché seems to have been tossed in the pot:
- The (reluctant of course) hero is the town sheriff who also happens to be a Civil War veteran (just substitute Civil War with Alien War)
- He has a (rebellious, naturally) teenage daughter, who may develop a crush on the sheriff’s deputy
- There’s a love triangle developing between the sheriff, the town mayor and her sister who runs the local saloon/brothel
- There are two competing families in the town, who plot against each other
- There’s a Romeo-Juliet-type romance between the children of the two families
- There’s a Bad Guy (actually a woman, who’s the previous mayor) who wants to force all the people out of town, because there’s a precious McGuffin hidden somewhere underneath it.
In another time, a TV series so banal would not merit a second glance. Yes, it has some similarities to the excellent Firefly but it is so predictable in form and execution that’s no fun to watch. The obvious happens with distressing regularity. Of course the hero would end up saving the town from the “Indians” (played by CG aliens) by sacrificing his treasure. Of course there would be an affair between him and the sexy saloon owner. Of course there’s going to be a love triangle in future episodes. And of course it’s going to bore us to death.
Yet we’ll still watch it, because for the starved science fiction fan there’s nothing much else to watch (excepting Doctor Who). Oh, how I long for the days of Babylon 5, Star Trek, and Farscape.
Here’s hoping that the scripts of rest of the episodes of the first season will be more original.