Friday, 6 November 2009

Defying Gravity

I caught the double-bill of Defying Gravity by chance a couple of weeks ago and couldn't believe my luck that a brand new sci-fi show was starting on the BBC. What's more, I saw it was a 13 episode-long series (the maximum length to get the most out of any TV show) and looked like it could be a fantastic serious addition to the sci-fi genre.

Three episodes in (I'll catch last night's episode later on iPlayer) and I still can't make my mind up. It's not bad, but I can't say I'm enjoying it. I'm sticking with it partly because I'm hoping it will take a few episodes to pick up speed - like The Wire. But I think I'm mainly sticking with it out of mad, stoic, sci-fi solidarity.

Though sci-fi literature is still fairly cult, sci-fi cinema and TV are phenomenally popular. What with the recent influx of American TV shows, a fair few have been sci-fi. The two biggest, Lost and Heroes, have been enjoyable yet undoubtedly nonsensical. Heroes I found particularly disappointing and gave up after series 1. Lost I'm still battling along with. Then there was Eureka! which was pretty entertaining but for all the wrong reasons. The mini-series The Lost Room has been the only sci-fi series of recent that has really blown me away. I'm beginning to doubt that Defying Gravity shall be the next.

Defying Gravity's first problem is that it's far too slow-moving for its own good. There's just not enough focus on the majesty of space. Instead there's too much concentration on characters' libidos and a few piss-poor attempts at tension. Were we ever likely to believe they'd kill off the female lead in episode 2?

Defying Gravity's second problem is it's Lost-like mystery. Something in Pod 4 aboard the craft is somehow controlling the events of the crew's voyage. It's surely some kind of extraterrestrial being or god. Now I think religion and sci-fi are a perfect marriage - both are about discovering the secrets to life and the universe. But in Defying Gravity the pairing seems jarring. I've checked the episode outlines on Wikipedia and apparently the crew find out in episode 9 what the thing is. I hope we find out too. I can't be bothered getting into another series, waiting for series upon series for a revelation that could never live up to the hype. Of course the flip side of the coin is that 9 episodes in, Defying Gravity could well lose the only thing keeping me interested...

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