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November 2, 2009

Defying Gravity, First Impressions

Defying Gravity is now being shown on BBC2, and after three episodes, I like it.

The story is about a round the solar-system trip, following the crew of eight and their back-story. Although there’s clearly more to it than that, something else is going on, something probably alien that hasn’t been shown yet.

The back-story flashbacks blend seamlessly into the present time plot. Sometimes with flashbacks and back story there’s a jarring effect, but Lost set the standard higher, and Defying Gravity follows in that vein. Each episode so far has felt like one story, not a story with infodumps.

There’s a lot of focus on the characters and their relationships, both in the present and throughout their training. It’s all handled well, and the acting is pretty good. I like the interplay between the characters.

The visuals for the spacecraft Antares are quite nice too, they look like CGI but manage to capture the sense of scale of the ship, something which I feel is lacking from SGU.

The main annoyance is the voiceover, which feels lazy and unnecessary. Pandering to the TV stations?

Overall I like it. I know the show has been cancelled but I’m going to watch all of it and hopefully continue to enjoy the psychological investigation of the characters.

(On a side note, it really annoys me how US shows get cancelled before a series is finished. I much prefer the UK way of doing things where we get shorter series (== seasons), some times as few as six episodes, but at least we get a complete arc. Production is complete before the episodes are shown, and then if it’s successful another series gets commissioned. Rather than the guillotine of cancellation hanging over the show.)

1 Comment

It was a good show, alas.

I think I'd prefer the British way of doing seasons, too. For the record, American shows are deliberately open-ended, unlike most British shows I've seen. Our seasons generally run 22 episodes, and when a network picks up a show, they generally actually just agree to 13 episodes. If the show is getting good ratings by the second half of that 13-episode block, they'll generally cut a check to pick up "The Back 9" episodes, and then if ratings are still good by the end of that batch, it gets picked up for another season.

If it's a big boffo hit, it gets renewed for 22 from then on out, but more modest shows still have to dork around with the 13/9 business.

Back in the 70s/80s when this process evolved, it made perfect sense, but with the shifting TV environment in the 'States, I don't think it really fits anymore. Situations like "Amazing Stories" and "Seaquest: DSV" and "Star Trek: Voyager" - where they get a multi-season deal up front are really rare, and as often as not, an utter disaster. (NBC blew hundreds of millions on the shows they greenlit for Spielberg), and the word is that if Paramount could have backed out of "Voyager" early, they would have, but I dunno if that's true or not.

On the bright side, producers of the more high-concept shows seem to be grasping that this is the way things are, and so they're building shows that have at least a little bit of a sense of closure at the end of 13. Thus, "Kings" didn't feel done, but it did feel like a good stopping point, and the same is true of "Defying Gravity."