Thursday, May 09, 2013

Is "Defiance" the Next "Firefly"?: My Initial Thoughts About the Show

Four episodes into Syfy’s Defiance and I admit that I’m already hooked with the show.  It has become one of the four TV series I’m currently closely following each week (the rest being Castle, Psych, and Elementary).  The first impression one will have of the show is of being a Firefly rip-off because of the sci-fi western flavor and the “rugged frontier”-like setting.  It also borrowed several of the elements and tropes from other past sci-fi TV shows like Farscape, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Battlestar: Galactica (there could be more but these are all Defiance has reminded me of).  But, yeah, most of the parallels are Firefly’s.       

Defiance, as of time being, is far from Firefly-esque awesomeness, but it has the potential of getting there.  That’s why I’m watching it.  That’s why I’m looking forward to each new episode. 


The greatest thing about this show is the premise.  I find it fresh and appealing, despite of being merely a smart juxtaposition of ideas from premises of past sci-fi properties.  

Here’s the background of the story…

Votans – the collective name of seven alien races from the Votanis star system – arrived at Earth in 2013.  They were surprised to discover that humans are already occupying it since they thought that the planet was uninhabited.  They intended to make Earth their new home after their system was destroyed by a stellar collision. 

The Votans and Humans were, at first, despite the tensions and hostilities, merely having negotiations for the settling of the aliens, whose majority was still in hypersleep aboard the Votan fleet orbiting the planet.  Then in 2023, an assassination of a Votan envoy sparked the war between Humans and Votans.  This was dubbed the “Pale Wars” and dragged on for seven years. 

Then in 2030, the apocalyptic event known as “Arkfall” happened, changing the face of the Earth.  It was ushered in by the mysterious explosion of the Votan fleet in orbit.  Votans blamed rogue human commanders for it while Humans believed it was the result of disastrous weapons experiments by the Votans.  The results was the death of the millions of Votans who were still in the ships, and the crashing Votan ships towards Earth accidentally activated and released Votan terraformer technology.  The unintended, uncontrolled terraforming caused severe, drastic and chaotic changes to the Earth’s biosphere and geology.  Votan plants and animals were introduced to the ecosystem, and some native plant and animal species were badly mutated by the unrestrained terraforming technology, creating disturbing hybrids or new species.  The considerable, traumatic change in the environment of Earth made it dangerous and unfamiliar to both Humans and Votans.   

The debris of the Votan ships formed an artificial belt around Earth which has been dubbed “Ark belt.”  Periodically, debris would drop – a sort of minor “Ark falls” – to the ground, which is both perilous and beneficiary to those survivors below, since there’s chance for salvaging valuable Votan technology from the wreckage to be sold or used.  

Because of Arkfall, the two sides were both greatly worn out, prompting an end to the Pale Wars.  There was a lack of remaining organized governments for both humans and aliens, thus, there was a rise of communities and factions of humans and aliens banding and cooperating together to survive in this new world (hence, the Western frontier-style setting).     

One of these said communities is the town of Defiance (hence, the name of the show), named after the legendary Battle of Defiance – where soldiers from both Human and Votan armies defied their commanders’ orders, stopped fighting, and banded together instead to save endangered civilians (the soldiers from this battle was given the venerable title of the Defiant Few, in which the main character, Joshua Nolan, is one of).   


One of the main reasons that made Firefly awesome was its lead character, Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds.  That character was so easy to get fond of, thanks largely to the portrayal of the charming Nathan Fillion.  The lead of Defiance, Joshua Nolan, has many strengths as lead character.  Though he seems unremarkable at first, liking the character steadily grew on me.  Nolan and Mal have some similar characteristics with each other like both being grittily but roguishly cowboyish, and both being former soldiers in a past significant war and had been participants in a legendary battle during the war – Nolan, one of the Defiant Few in the Battle of Defiance, and Mal, one of the Browncoats in the Battle of Serenity Valley.  However, unfortunately, despite these similarities, Nolan’s no Captain Mal.  Mal is more charismatic and easily lovable.  And since you won’t help comparing Defiance with Firefly, you will always compare Nolan with Mal and find the former paling in comparison with the latter.

My most favorite Defiance characters are the husband and wife duo of Datak Tarr and Stahma Tarr.  They are far the most fascinating and strongest characters in the series.  The depictions of the two – a large part attributed to the effective performances of the characters’ actors – have successfully portrayed the said characters’ depths and intriguing features.  In a way, these two and the emphatic entertainment they bring from their performances are reasons enough to watch the show.        

The weakest characters, in my opinion, are Alak Tarr and Christie McCawley.  I don’t like them.  I don’t dislike them either.  And that’s actually worse than disliking them, since it means the characters can’t get a reaction from me.  I find them unimportant, bland, and distracting.  Maybe because there’s an air of Twilight in their romance.  Then again, to be fair, the show is still early though and there’s a lot of room for improvement.   

To be honest, aside from Datak and Stahma, I find the others aren’t very exceptional.  Oh, they’re okay.  Joshua Nolan, Irisa Nyira, Mayor Amanda Rosewater, Kenya Rosewater and Rafe McCawley are fine and have their moments.  But the tang of being “stock characters” can’t be removed from them yet.  As for the other minor characters – with the exception of Alak and Christie – I find them essential and relevant in the flow of the show. 

Nonetheless, the show is at its early stage and the characters are still developing, thus, it’s necessary to reserve most judgment regarding the characters.


Aliens would converse.  They would start their conversation in an alien tongue.  Halfway through the conversation, they would switch to English.  And that bugs me greatly.  To be fair, this happens in a lot of other sci-fi shows.

Also, the CGI could be better.  But it’s not a major complain from me.  As long as the amount of interest and thrill that the plot and the characters can generate overweigh the mediocre CGI quality, that’s fine with me.   And, so far, that is what is exactly happening in the series.  


Defiance has been so far promising and entertaining.  If we don’t compare it to Firefly or any other shows, it stands on its own as a pretty solid show worth watching.       

I said in the opening that I’m sticking around with Defiance because of its potential.  And as long as I feel that the potential is still there, I will be following the show.   In fact, I think that even if the show fail to achieve that level of awesomeness I’m hoping it would become, as long as that feeling of potential – just this – remains present, I’ll actually take it.  I’m willing to continue watching it for that.       

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