Syfy is hoping to break new ground with its ambitious sci-fi drama series Defiance. Although the plot interplay between the linear series and its accompanying massive multiplayer video game is indeed unique, the series itself doesn’t seem overly extraordinary.
The series begins in 2046, 33 years after an alien invasion that completely altered Earth’s landscape into a dark, desolate and unrecognizable form. It is here that various alien races and humans forge an uneasy existence with one another. The town of Defiance, located in what was St. Louis (it still features the city’s famous Gateway Arch), serves as home to an eclectic mix of aliens and humans led by human Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz).
Series star Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), along with his adopted alien daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), make ends meet by scavenging materials from crashed spaceships. In the pilot the two come across a valuable but unstable power source that they hope to sell on the open market. But when competing scavengers attempt to steal the item, the two are chased into beast-infested woods before being rescued by residents from Defiance.
Looking to replace stolen resources before continuing their journey, Nolan and Irisa get caught up in an interrace skirmish between a proud human family led by Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) and a connected alien family headed by Datak Tarr (Tony Curran).
Things take a turn for t he worse when a hostile alien race seeks to destroy Defiance, forcing Nolan and Irisa to decide whether to leave town or to stay and help the townspeople fight for their survival.
Defiance does an adequate job of providing context for an unyielding number of characters — many of them alien in nature — as well as laying the groundwork for an intricate plot that has several storylines that will be developed over the course of the season. The special effects are decent and the actors are charming.
But the series’ lead father/daughter duo, the city of Defiance’s somewhat isolated environment and its collection of quirky characters may initially remind viewers of Syfy’s late series, Eureka. Hopefully as the plot develops over future episodes the series will begin to distinguish itself from other genre-based shows and deliver intrigue, drama and excitement worthy of all the hype.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.