The success of Lost and Battlestar Galactica has inspired the search for the next mainstream SF hit. As a result, the summer has seen two remarkably similar shows/tv movies, Virtuality and Defying Gravity. Both feature characters out of reality tv as astronauts in the near future discovering that something’s not as it appears to be in space– when they’re not having sex, experiencing flashbacks/dreams, or recording stylishly low-tech-looking vlogs.

Cast and Crew

Director: Peter Howitt.
Writer: James D. Parriott

Andrew Airlie as Mike Goss
Laura Harris as Zoe Barnes
Christina Cox as Jen Crane
Eyal Podell as Evram Mintz
Peter Howitt as Trevor Williams
Ty Olsson as Rollie Crane
Ron Livingston as Maddux Donner
Malik Yoba as Ted Shaw
Florentine Lahme as Nadia Schilling
Paula Garcés as Paula Morales
Dylan Taylor as Steve Wassenfelder
Karen LeBlanc as Eve Shaw
Zahf Paroo as Ajay Sharma
Maxim Roy as Claire Dereux
William C. Vaughan as Arnel Poe
Ron Livingstone as Maddux Donner

Full cast and crew available at the imdb.

Titles: “Pilot”/”Natural Selection”

Synopsis

In the middle of the current century, a crew of eight leave on a six-year mission to explore the solar system. As they head into space, however, crewmembers start hearing and seeing things and behaving strangely.

High Points

The show features impressive visuals, and the basic premise shows potential. People set out to explore space, and for reasons as yet unexplained begin acting strangely in the face of the unknown….

Low Points

….Given that the premise involves people suddenly acting in atypical and (given that they are in space) dangerous ways, the failings discussed under “Story” and “Acting” grow in significance. Why not show us stable, trained astronauts who suddenly become unhinged, instead of people who don’t seem qualified to be in space in the first place?

Nit

Most of the tech looks great and seems plausible. I don’t buy, however, their method of creating artificial gravity. I suppose one could develop nanotech clothing that pulls towards the deck, but it would create a number of problems over a long-term (six years) voyage, and it likely would result in different interiors than the standard “spaceship with artificial gravity”-style sets and shots used here.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6.

Effects: 6/6. Defying Gravity features impressive effects, realistic-looking ships and NASA-worthy views of the earth from space.

Story: 4/6. The premise has potential, but since this may be all we see of Defying Gravity, the mystery lingers, unexplained. This could work as a pilot for a longer series, but not as a stand-alone, and I don’t think this one’s going to last. Note to writers: flashbacks only work as a dramatic way to reveal character if you have actual characters to reveal.

Acting: 4/6. Some of the actors stand out: notably, Zahf Paroo as Sharma. For the most part, we’re seeing passable performances of the type of characters we encounter in Reality-tv: the promiscuous girl, the insecure girl, the comic-relief nerd, the leadership-minded jock, and so forth. I know a series demands drama, but (as in Virtuality) these people are far too high-strung and unstable to be near-future astronauts, especially ones out on a six-year mission.

Production: 6/6. Once again, we see how far television effects and visuals have come. SF in the old days had to get by on clever premises and engaging characters. However, I recommend they fire the people in charge of music, along with whoever thought it was a good idea to include music video sequences.

Emotional response: 3/6. The first hour/episode held my attention, mostly, but the second half, despite a potentially dramatic central incident…. Hey, did you hear about that survey saying one in five people pee in swimming pools?

Overall: 4/6.

“Defying Gravity” receives 30/42.