Defiance: Season One (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios / 2013 / 559 mins / NR
In a TV climate where most science fiction likes to go easy on the sci-fi elements, Defiance is unapologetic for the genre. There are plenty of detailed alien designs and futuristic technologies peppered into this production to really make it stand out from the fray. I'm not saying that this is the mark of great science fiction for television, but it sure is nice to finally see a show with the courage to develop a much more detailed universe.
The story itself is actually quite layered with several different plotlines that cross paths in the town of Defiance, once known as St. Louis 33 years ago before the war with aliens ravaged the Earth. The new strangers in town are former marine Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted Irathient daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). What started as an initial stop in town to stock up after being robbed turns into Nolan being the new sheriff when the independent town is threatened by violent outside forces including the Earth Republic and giant warlords known as the Vorge.
While Nolan is successful in forcing back a massive army of Vorge, there are plenty of problems within the town that he has to deal with as well. Tensions rise between the humans and pale-skinned Voltan races occupying Defiance. In particular, the human mine-owning McCawley family and the business-oriented Tarr family (Voltan) have a bitter feud between them. It's only made all the more complicated by a romance between their offspring. And as if that weren't enough, there is also a young new mayor, a cultural secret to Irisa and a covert operation to obtain an important secret buried within the mines.
As you can see, there is quite a bit going on in this series from the wild west tone to the epic alien intrigue. This works to be both the biggest strength and weakness of the show. Although the plots are plentiful and very fun to follow, it doesn't leave as much room to develop the massive amount of characters being juggled. They need to grow on you a while, but there is plenty for them to do in these 12 episodes that you get used to them.
What I admire most about the series is how quickly it plops you into this world. We're given a brief introduction that Earth has seriously changed over the past 33 years and then transition right into Nolan and Irisa traveling the land. Within the first double-length episode we get to see the strangers arrive in town, the new governor sworn in, the feuding families draw blood and close out with a grand-scale assault on Defiance by giant aliens. The whole series moves at a fairly brisk pace with plenty of creative ideas and exceptional storytelling. Maybe even a little too quick as the season finale ends so abruptly with so much going on.
Defiance was developed by (among others) Rockne O'Bannon who previously created the classic SyFy Channel original, Farscape. Much like that program, O'Bannon has created a fearless show filled with loads of creatures, sex, blood and guns. It may be a little overstuffed, but what's crammed in here is incredibly enthralling and a lot fun. I haven't had this much fun watching a SyFy original series in a long time and it's great to once again have some well-produced science fiction on television worth following.
Despite the budget showing in a few of the CGI shots, this is a gorgeous looking 1080p transfer from Universal. Certain scenes like the battle on the cliffs for Defiance and the underground remnants of old St. Louis are fantastic shots well-suited for Blu-ray. The 5.1 audio is exceptionally mixed to perfectly balance the dialogue and epic music with plenty of laser fire and thunderous explosions.
"Defiance: A Transmedia Revolution" takes a unique look at the video game tie-in with the series.
"Making Defiance" is a detailed featurette on the production and conception of the show while "Behind the Scenes with Jesse Rath" provides a few additional interviews.
Also included are deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Defiance may not yet be on the level of Farscape or Battlestar Galactica on its maiden voyage, but there is plenty of potential here for it to easily be the next big series for SyFy. The performances are solid, the story plenty engaging and the visuals in character and set design are gorgeous. I'm not ready to call it a must-see, but I'm very interested to see where it goes from here. Highly recommend if nothing else because it's the most original sci-fi series out there with a well-defined universe you just don't see out of most television productions for this genre.