Sci Fi TV Genre Gems: Forgotten magic and hidden treasures from the worlds of sci fi TV
What Is It? This short-lived 2009 TV series followed the crew of the spaceship Antares on its near future mission to explore our solar system. The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks covering the training period for the mission as well as the present day activities (from the perspective of the show) of the crew as they leave Earth for their first destination, Venus. And the space mission is filmed as part of a reality show that is beamed back to Earth so that planet-bound audiences can follow their progress. But a series of mishaps besets the crew which leads to a revelation that could jeopardize the mission.
Why It Stands Out: While some viewers quickly grew frustrated with this series because of the many soap opera subplots it worked into its stories, it still managed to deliver a well-made science fiction series and a realistic look at near future space travel as well as an interesting story arc that had just begun to hit its stride as the show was cancelled.
The Skinny: Defying Gravity, which creator James D. Parriott pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in space”, was one of those genre-splicing shows that the its network just could not quite figure out what to do with and it ended up getting cast into an unfavorable late Summer timeslot where it never had much chance of finding an audience. The show did give us a heavy dose of soap opera early on as it alternated between the space mission that provided the core story and flashbacks to the training program the astronauts participated in which led to the selection of the final eight crew members. However, the series focus began to shift as it progressed, and the writers began to work more science fiction elements into the mix. In fact, it really started to pick up steam right as ABC lost faith in it and pulled the show off the air. And the story from Episode 8 (the last aired in the United States) to the series finale gave us a truly excellent and at times thought-provoking piece of science fiction. It’s at this point that we find out that some of the threads introduced early on—that at first blush looked like just soap opera asides to justify throwing in some gratuitous sex scenes—actually provided an integral part of the bigger arc.
So yes, the writers threw in a lot of love interests and personal friction to spice of the story, and yes that was probably designed to boost the ratings (didn’t work, though), but ultimately they masterfully worked many of these into the over-arching storyline which leaned heavily toward science fiction (or you could even say speculative fiction) and delivered a genre-crossing show that sci fi fans should have had more patience with. You have to admit that they gave us a very believable look at how we might explore the solar system in the near future, both on a technological and personal level (if you are going to put men and women in confined quarters for an extended period of time, you have to address the implications of their biological urges). And if you think about it, we had very few television shows up to that point that gave us anything approaching a hard science take on space travel. It has since come out on DVD, and those who never saw the show or never saw the full run should definitely check it out. And series creator James Parriott later gave a detailed description of how the show would have progressed which provides at least some closure, though we would much rather have had at least one more season.
Notable Stars: Ron Livingston, Malik Yoba, Christina Cox, Andrew Airlie, Paula Garces
Did You Know? Defying Gravity was inspired by the BBC produced dramatized mockumentary Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets. That two episode series followed the five person crew of the Pegasus on its tour through the solar system.
Defying Gravity debuted on August 2, 2009, a month and a half after the TV movie Virtuality aired on FOX. The latter film, developed by BSG veteran Ronald D. Moore, had a similar premise of giving a believable look at near future space travel and was intended as a pilot for a television series that never materialized.
Sci Fi Genre Gems: Forgotten magic and hidden treasures from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
Sure, everybody knows Star Trek and Star Wars and Harry Potter and the other “big name” sci fi / fantasy franchises, but there’s so much more to the genre than just those juggernauts. Anybody remember Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski’s other TV series, the post-apocalyptic Jeremiah? What about the Kick-Ass-like Defendor which starred Woody Harrelson and actually beat Kick-Ass to the punch (so to speak)? Ever read the Pelman the Powershaper fantasy book series that pitted an actor/wizard/prophet against a two-headed dragon and a sentient castle (two, actually)? What about that PBS television adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven? Anybody want to play the Nuclear War card game?
Never heard about of those properties mentioned above? Then Sci Fi Genre Gems is here to enlighten you as it takes a look at the nuggets, the upstarts, the dark horses, the gems of science fiction and fantasy.
Delivering a journey through the obscure, the forgotten, and the over-looked, Sci Fi Genre Gems seeks out those hidden treasures to reveal to the wider sci fi fanbase what they have been missing. So prepare to discover some lost nuggets of the genre that may have been previously unknown or that you may have just heard about in passing references. Also get ready to revisit some buried classics (or semi-classics) as this book goes beyond the big names and uncovers some of the less-renown entries of the genre while offering up a fun read that will expand your sci fi horizons.