Saturday, May 25, 2013

SyFy Channel Presents a Dud with Defiance

SyFy's Defiance
Defiance on SyFy

I wanted Defiance to be a winner. I really did. But for me, it flopped, for many reasons.

Defiance is SyFy channel's latest "original" television series. It is set in the future of Earth, after it was attacked by an alien race. There was a war. The result was a co-mingling of humans and aliens in an Earth city called Defiance, which is literally built on top of the former city of St. Louis, Missouri. You can even see the famous Arch. Thank you for salvaging the famous arch on a futuristic television series on SyFy.

Indogenes are like the Borg?

The Indogene aliens in Defiance are usually seen as servants to families, and an aid to the mayor, and the town doctor. The SyFy show page says that Indogenes are a partly cybernetic race, but there is no hint to this in the early episodes or obvious cybernetic external hardware on the characters.

If they are supposed to be like the borg, you could've fooled me.

The Doctor (Doc Yewll) on Defiance resembles a character from Farscape, named Zhaan. She was played by Virginia Hey, and she was a Delvian priest. Because of her extensive knowledge on herbal medicines, she was the doctor and healer aboard the living spaceship, Moya.

The makeup artists may argue that she has scales, but we really don't see her up close enough to see the small intricacies of her makeup. She just looks like a pale, alien with a bloated face. Her character is obnoxious, and has very bad attempts to be sarcastically funny. It is not funny. She is too similar to Zhaan on Farscape, except that Zhaan actually had purple in her makeup, which made the race more believable.

Lack of Moral Integrity
My biggest qualm with the show is that it lacks moral integrity. It is clearly not a family friendly show, and I actually find it offensive in different parts. The town has a public brothel, and happens to be ran by the sister of the mayor. She services the main character, Nolan, in the very first episode. This open and legal prostitution is supposedly accepted behavior in the future.  Episode 3 opens up with a sex scene in which Kenya pours grease on a man in a sexual way. I think it is just plain trashy.

Next is the Tarr Family. They are from the alien race, called the Castithans. Their custom is that they all bathe together. There are several scenes in each episode in their bath house or steam room. The matriarch, Stahma Tarr is only covered by very little in strategic places in these scenes. They even act offended in Episode three that Christie McCawley doesn't want to bath openly with their son, Alak Tarr. There is too much raunchiness on this show, and that is one of the main reasons I don't care for it.

The Makeup Could be Better

Out of all of the alien makeups, I would say that Irisa's is the best by far. I don't care for the other alien races presented because none of them seem original. The Bio-Human is probably the most original thing on the show.

Alak Tarr
Some of the Alien makeups in Defiance that are just shoddy. Alak Tarr's makeup, for example, is obviously not that great, because his tan skin shows through (see picture - he looks silvery, but is supposed to be pale white).

Just hire some of the fine folks that win on the SyFy show, Face-Off.

The Acting is Sub-par

For me, the acting is sub-par. I would say the best actor on the show is Nolan, played by Grant Bowler, and second best is Irisa, played by Stephanie Leonidas. If you see what Stephanie looks like before make-up, you would be surprised by the huge difference when she comes out.

The rest of the acting is pretty bad. What really bugs me is that several characters act as if their culture has Native American roots. The McCawley family is an integral part of the show. Graham Greene plays Rafe McCawley, the father of Christie McCawley (Nicole Munoz). He has much influence over the town because he owns the mines. His family gives off a Native American vibe, and that sort of works.

However, the Irathient aliens also have a strong spiritual heritage, and have the body painting going on, especially Irisa. It just doesn't work for me. The aliens are not alien enough, when we already have a family representing that Native American essence.

Some characters are simply not believable.

The ex-Mayor who wants to sell out the town to make a buck - not believable. The ex-Mayor's right hand man is also not convincing that he is a bad-guy. Amanda Rosewater is the new mayor, played by Julie Benz, and she just doesn't seem like a political type.

The McCawley Family as a whole just doesn't compell me. Their acting bores me. Defiance should have cast better overall, but especially for Christie McCawley and Alak Tarr. The Romeo and Juliet love story is really what pushes this show, because the whole plot revolved around them. Their characters are so boring that you forget they are even there!

Deputy Tommy LaSalle is not bad, but shouldn't there be more deputies? Where are the other law dogs?

Alien Rituals Are Disturbing

In Episode two, the Castithans wanted to pull one of their own apart, limb by limb, because he was too afraid to fight. Honestly, this was not a great episode. It was quite boring.

Irisa embracing her Irathient heritage
Who cares about this alien that we don't even know?

I surely don't.

In Episode three, the Irathient Spirit Riders leader wants to unlock Irisa's "psychic" abilities using a ritual where he has to cut himself. This is just disturbing, and is not needed.

Psychic abilities and cutting is not needed to make this a good show.

Good writers are needed to salvage this wreck.

The viewers do not want to see the Tarr family in their bath tub every other scene. Stop showing us the same sex scenes over and over.

Not only do viewers not care about these boring and disturbing rituals, but it does not add to the show.

If you don't believe me, just watch Stargate SG1 or Stargate Atlantis. They know how to make compelling alien races without showing us the mundane stuff that we don't care about.

Defiance is Not So Original

There is one alien race that was created as Defiance's version of a Wookie. This was sort of intentional. But then the Tarr family is Castithan, and they are remarkably reminiscent of the vampire alien race in Stargate: Atlantis called the Wraith. And then there are the Irathients. They have large eyebrow ridges, bigger eyes, and puffy faces. They are remarkably close to vampires (when they are in vamp form) in the show Angel (1999 - 2004). In fact, the Bio-Human has even been done. It's called Terminator.

What's original about this show? It's a mash-up of other shows from the past.

Then, you have the eerily similar feel to the past FOX show, Terra Nova (2011). Yes, Terra Nova was in the past, but they built their compound with high-tech gagdetry, and was in the middle of nowhere. Sounds just like Defiance, only Defiance is not family friendly, and Terra Nova was. Terra Nova's filming was much richer in colors. Defiance seems to be filmed in gray, and the gloominess is overwhelming.

Then you have Firefly, which was like a "space cowboys." The town of Defiance has a wild west grit to it, filled with lackluster alien races and a brothel for the miners. Firefly even had their own companion aboard the ship, but in Firefly, there wasn't an over-gratuitous helping of sex every episode. It was much more subtle and only hinted at in conversations.

Commentary on Defiance

I do want to say that I think it was a pretty good move to launch a video game and a show at the same time. That way, if the video game is good, the show can compliment it. But, if the show is no good, well, the video game better be pretty good to make up for it.

I think SyFy Executives probably got pretty excited about the Defiance television series because they were coming across a lot of losers, but the show honestly feels like it has no soul. It takes talent to act, to write, and to sell a show. I think SyFy has the marketing part of it down, but they seriously needed better actors and actresses (it doesn't necessarily have to be stars we've heard of), and they need some better writers.
It is an ambitious undertaking with such a large set built, but there are no great actors on this show. I just don't see the chemistry there, and it has lost me as a viewer for the other reasons mentioned.

My observation is that Defiance does not have longevity because the writers think that you have to shove sex in our faces, rather than be subtle. It makes the show trashy. Sex does not make a good show. The Tarr family sex scenes do not keep the story moving along. They actually slow it down.

The disturbing rituals that involve cutting to unlock psychic powers was the final straw. I am not going to watch a show that incorporates serious issues that real people face -- and struggle with.

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