×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Defiance’

The description of “Defiance” as a “transmedia” event arouses suspicion from the get-go. Strip away the jargon, and this Syfy series has been developed in concert with an online game, offering a modern variation on “He-Man” cartoons that pushed toys. The difference is that this caters to (young) adults, mashing up sci-fi concepts into a nondescript TV program whose visual effects are infinitely more enterprising than its characters. For all but the subset willing to buy in and participate on multiple levels, think of the “Star Wars” cantina scene stretched into a series, then perhaps think about watching something else.

A spoken prologue helps explain (not very well) the elaborate backstory, about eight alien races having descended on Earth and blasted the hell out of the place. The series picks up 15 years after an armistice was declared, leaving the disparate survivors trying to make a go of living together in harmony, albeit with a kind of “Road Warrior”-meets-“Star Trek” vibe.

The central character, Joshua (Grant Bowler, fresh off playing the perpetually drunk half of the Lifetime movie “Liz & Dick”), is an ex-Marine with an adopted alien daughter (Stephanie Leonidas). Their travels bring them to the outpost known as Defiance, a mining town set up on the remnants of what was St. Louis, which, frankly, never looked better.

Of course, it helps that almost all the aliens are humanoid in form, limiting the makeup requirements upon the poor actors. But there’s no obscuring the fact the first flurry of episodes introduce a bunch of characters the audience has little reason to care about, some of whom happen to have strange physiognomy and customs.

Like “Battlestar Galactica,” the show skirts profanity by coining new words that obviously connote better-known ones (“Promises are shtako“), and there are some big action sequences — which look at least as good as what Fox’s since-extinct “Terra Nova” conjured, on a likely bigger budget — to go with the soapy shenanigans.

The other residents include Julie Benz as the mayor, Graham Greene, and Tony Curran and Jaime Murray as an alien couple with shadowy motives. If only they had more to do in the premiere scripted by Rockne S. O’Bannon (“Farscape”), Kevin Murphy (a “Desperate Housewives” alum) and Michael Taylor, a veteran of “Galactica” and its spinoffs.

Granted, “Defiance” isn’t any worse than some of the so-so international imports Syfy has picked up to add original spice to its lineup, but the ingenuity that went into the process of conceiving the game and show together — as well as the nifty look, visual effects and makeup — simply aren’t matched by similar effort regarding story and plot.

Sure, the show might help push the game, but viewed strictly on its own, it’s pretty much just more of the same old shtako.

Defiance

(Series; Syfy, Mon. April 15, 9 p.m.)

Cast: Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene, Mia Kirshner.

Filmed in Toronto by Universal Cable Prods. Executive producers, Kevin Murphy, Michael Taylor, Rockne O’Bannon; co-executive producer, Norman Morrill; supervising producer, Michael Nankin; producers, Clara George, Anupam Nigam; director, Scott Stewart; writers, O’Bannon, Murphy, Taylor; camera, Attila Szalay, Tom Burstyn; production designer, Steve Geaghan; editor, Andy Seklir; music, Bear McCreary; casting, Junie Lowry-Johnson, Libby Goldstein. 60 MIN.

TV Review: 'Defiance'

More TV

  • CHAMBERS

    'Chambers' Canceled After One Season at Netflix

    Netflix has canceled the drama series “Chambers” after one season. The series followed a teenager who gets a heart transplant and becomes consumed with the mystery surrounding her donor. The series starred Uma Thurman, Tony Goldwyn, Sivan Alyra Rose, Lilliya Reid, Nicholas Galitzine, Kyanna Simone Simpson, Lilli Kay, Sarah Mezzanotte, and Griffin Powell-Arcand. Leah Rachel [...]

  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

    TV News Roundup: 'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' to Air Live After Democratic Debates

    In today’s roundup, Trevor Noah announces two live specials after the first Democratic debates and the new season of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” sets a premiere date. SPECIALS “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” will broadcast live following the Democratic Party’s first 2020 presidential primary debates on June 26 and 27 at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Samantha Bee Variety

    Samantha Bee Isn't Thrilled to Be the Last Woman Standing in Late Night

    Samantha Bee is now the only female host in late night, and that’s a stat she’s not happy about. “It’s a bit unsettling,” Bee recently told Variety. “It’s been a bad year to be a woman in this space. It’s not really a badge that I want to wear.” Shows that have been canceled over [...]

  • XXXTentacion

    Watch a Trailer for New XXXTentacion Documentary

    A year to the day after rapper XXXTentacion was murdered, his estate has released a trailer for an upcoming documentary on the artist, which the announcement says is “releasing soon.” The clip, which includes narration from X himself, captures quick flashes of him reuniting with family and friends, engaging with fans, and working on music. In the [...]

  • The-Saddest-Goal

    Fascism and Fútbol Feature in Chilean Series Project ‘The Saddest Goal’

    PAMPLONA, Spain – Chilean production company Manufactura de Películas pitched its unconventional Pinochet-era drama “The Saddest Goal” today at Spain’s Conecta Fiction TV co-production and networking TV event, held in Pamplona. Set during qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, a period of great political instability in Chile, “The Saddest Goal” kicks off as the [...]

  • Spain’s La Claqueta, Portugal’s SPi Ink

    Conecta Fiction: La Claqueta and SPi Ink Fiction Co-Production Pact

    Spain’s Seville-based shingle La Claqueta and Portugal’s SPi have clinched a co-development agreement for three fiction projects a year. Companies first made contact at last year’s Conecta Fiction, the annual co-production meet in Spain. The companies have also pacted to co-produce the animated feature-length docu “El viaje más largo” in collaboration with Portuguese pubcaster RTP [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content