EPISODE ONE: Pilot.
A new series on the SYFY channel, so we decided to take a look at the 2-hour pilot. It seems we are to learn most of the back story piecemeal, as only a little here and there was revealed in this episode. That’s cool, no need for huge expository lumps (though we do get one). But the Wikipedia article has an EXTENSIVE summary of What Came Before, and I read that. It’s interesting. We were engaged enough by the pilot that we agreed we would look at another episode.
It’s in the not-to-distant future. A binary star system that had seven races evolved on various planets and moons was destroyed by something, but before that the races got together and built a vast fleet of space arks. In suspended animation, they took 500 years to get to our system, where understandably enough humanity was not so sure what to do with all these refugees. Leaving out a lot here … the arks were destroyed, and are still raining down on Earth, where the inhabitants raid them for salvage stuff. The races had intended to terraform their new planet, and brought along biological and chemical agents (nano-tech?) to do that. The stuff gets loose, and begins working. Mutations abound, and even the geology of Earth is reshaped. There was a long time of warfare, and then an uneasy peace between all the combatants, and now the few survivors think of themselves as the Eight Races. The story is set in the little town in the ruins called Defiance, which used to be St. Louis. (The Gateway Arch survived, to make a picturesque backdrop to the town.) But there are many threats still to face from outside, and for our main protagonist Nolan, and his adopted alien daughter, Irisa.
There are some odd contrasts here. The SFX are quite good, as they can be even in budget television these days, including a lot of CGI creatures, and a reasonable CGI set that overlays the one dingy street they built. Wiki has extensive rundowns on each of the eight races, including the political machinations, rivalries, and hatreds among them.
But not a lot of attention or creativity has been devoted to the aliens themselves. All of them are humanoid, and some are distinguishable from humans only by white hair and golden eyes. We still haven’t seen all of them close up, but at least one race bears a lame resemblance to a Wookie. Another race looks like someone skinned a football, painted it white, and stretched it over an actress’s face. I guess there wasn’t much budget for a huge crew of make-up artists to work on a hundred people every day.
The most annoying one, to me, is Irisa the Irathient warrior girl. Her only vaguely un-human feature is a nose that is a bit too broad between the eyes. And in many shots it looks like someone just slapped a patch of silly putty between her eyebrows. It looks too glossy, it’s obviously some sort of rubber. Now, it’s MILES better than even the best make-up in the old Star Trek TV series, back in the ‘60s, but with today’s tech you’d think they could do better with such a central character. I can only hope it doesn’t bug me too much next episode, because I like the character and the actress.
EPISODE TWO: Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go.
Well, Irisa’s nose doesn’t look any more real. We learn some more about the back story. There is a deep rivalry between the McCawley family of miners, headed by patriarch Graham Greene, and the head Castithan family. The leader is impulsive and not very bright, but he is guided by his Lady MacBeth wife. The current mayor of only three weeks, Julie Benz, isn’t aware that her predecessor, Fionulla Flanagan, is betraying the town for some reason of her own. She seems to think it’s for everyone’s good, which is the way fascists typically see things. Maybe her reasons are more valid. We’ll see. An oddity is that they have gone so far as to cobble together several “native” languages (not a very good thing to call them, since humans are the natives, and these others are all immigrants). And sometimes when the aliens speak, there are subtitles … and sometimes not. If you’re going to subtitle, why not all of them?
EPISODE THREE: The Devil in the Dark.
It just seemed to be going over the same ground. Plus, there is a video game associated with it—and, I guess, most action movies these days, but I never see them—and the commercials for it were so mindless that it reminded us of how mindless the show was getting. So we expurgated it from our TiVo list. So we will not be seeing episodes 4 through 12.