The SyFy Channel debuted Defiance on Monday, a new science-fiction series, and for once Sharktopus and the ghost hunters were nowhere to be found. Could it be possible that the channel devoted to science-fiction actually has some, well, science-fiction to broadcast for a change?

And the answer is yes, sort of. The two-hour debut, to rely on an affectionate term used to describe something you want to like but that didn’t quite work, was a bit of a “sprawling mess.” Which is not to completely discount it. Parts of it were quite good, and I plan to continue watching to see how it develops.

And by “sprawling mess,” I mean that they really threw a lot of elements against the wall to see what would stick. The premiere opens with giant invading spaceships and then quickly shifts to 33 years later, where the ships are floating debris in orbit, a variety of aliens live among us, and the earth has been “terraformed” into a nearly unrecognizable planet. The city of Defiance is built in the ruins of St. Louis, and it is here that the fractious groups attempt to co-exist.

In style, influences from every corner of the SF universe abound. There are clear elements of Firefly in the old-West space mercenary feel of the thing, but then you get a scene that could have come straight from The Road Warrior. Look in the background and you’ll spy costumes that look like they were stolen from the cloak room at a Steampunk convention. There are laser battles against giant alien bug animals, battle cyborgs of some sort that attack the city, and human-like aliens fulfilling the roles of various archetypes.

Grant Bowler, last seen standing up to collectivist goons as Hank Reardon in Atlas Shrugged Part 1, plays the part of a nomad dragooned into being the Chief Lawkeeper of Defiance. Stephanie Leonidas is his adopted alien daughter who, naturally, is an ass-kicking fighter, as all 100-lb alien females must be, lest anyone involved be accused of being insufficiently enlightened.

There are a lot of characters and subplots introduced in the first episode, and a lot of background left unexplained. It’s a pretty bold move by the producers, leaving so much to be teased out later, counting on the audience to stay with you long enough to get the full story. Still, the show delivered a lot too, with plenty of action and cgi eye-candy to make it fun. The show sank just enough of its hooks in me to watch some more and see where it leads.

But if Sharktopus ever attacks Defiance, I’m outta here.


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