TV Review: Defiance

TV Review: Defiance

A post-apocalyptic sci-fi graces our screen with a new message

By Mark HadleyThursday 6 Mar 2014TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

Defiance is another post-apocalyptic science fiction series that builds its drama around the human drive to survive. But does it suggest that we need to do more than just live, and that we might have help from a higher power to do so?

Mark Hadley reviews 'Defiance'.

From the producers of several Battlestar Galactica spin-offs and the much vaunted US series Warehouse 13 comes a new show that is in some respects already all too familiar – an alien invasion, a technological disaster, a devastated world … a lone hero. In 2016 terra-forming spacecraft arrive to transform our world so that it will be more habitable to alien species. The war that ensures leaves much of human civilization devastated and our planet’s environment irrevocably altered. Thirty years pass in the blink of an eye and we pick up the story riding shotgun with Joshua Nolan, an ex-Marine who was one of the ‘defiant few’ who decided his world had had enough of fighting. Instead he helped instigate a peace that now sees humans and various alien species – the ‘Votan races’ – living side by side. When push comes to shove Nolan grudgingly accepts the position of Chief Lawkeeper in the town of Defiance. But will his ‘practical’ approach to law and order provide a lasting foundation for peace?

Famously when the producers of Star Trek were selling the idea of their series they referred to it as ‘Bonanza in space’ – a classic cowboy drama that brought both western ideals, alien Indians and a lawless frontier into close proximity. Defiance fits the model perfectly, though instead of a wagon train format we’re looking at a science fiction version of Deadwood. Nolan is your classic sheriff, accompanied by his ‘savage’ alien daughter Irisa. There’s also the fair-minded mayor Amanda Rosewater, a gangster alien called Datak Tar, Rafe McCawley the head of the local mine and Kenya, a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold who runs the local saloon. The latter is worth noting because of the sexual content, little more than suggestion and rolling around but is present nonetheless.

Defiance is a thematic title. Not content with simply surviving, the characters are generally determined to preserve a way of life that embraces the best their races have to offer. Unsurprisingly the moral foundation for their peace is tolerance. As Mayor Rosewater rallies her citizens to defend their homes against a barbarian horde she intones,

“We live in a great place, a town where human and Votan races live together as equals. We stay, we fight because this town is worth fighting for. And if necessary, it’s worth dying for.”

But unlike many of its more recent community-based sci-fi predecessors – Terra Nova, Under the Dome and the upcoming Helix Defiance has set aside is strictly scientific worldview early on. Irisa describes her adopted father Nolan’s approach this way:

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“My people have a god called Urzu. He has a path for each of us. Where it takes us is not always where we imagined. But there is a reason. Nolan’s people call it fate.”

Of course Defiance is not the first TV series to introduce the idea that advanced alien species believe in God or an overriding force that directs our lives. But it will be interesting to see where the series progresses and how these beliefs take shape. One thing’s for sure, though: even our late night TV dreams indicate that Western audiences are waking up from the Enlightenment. We’re no longer satisfied with a perspective that restricts our worldview to things that can be found in test tubes.


Rating: M
Distributor: Seven Network

Release Date: Wednesdays, 10:45 PM