Television & Film

DEFIANCE Doesn’t Resurrect Good Writing Yet

Episode 107 “Goodbye Blue Sky”


Yeah, I skipped a week. Because frankly, “Brothers in Arms” was filled with all sorts of tropes and cliches, and I just had my fill of this show not trying. This episode wasn’t as bad; at least it had a couple of interesting ideas. But it’s mostly still a B-movie production cribbing from other movies and TV shows.

I’m going to treat “Goodbye Blue Sky” and “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” as a two-part episode, because that’s basically the way they play out. But I’m not going to get overly detailed with either one.

The first half deals with the death of Sukar during “razor rain” — a bunch of battle debris falling from orbit (wouldn’t the small tiny pieces burn up on re-entry?) — and at the same time Sukar is learning to eat dirt, Irisa has another Force vision which makes her go all Luke Skywalker on Nolan. She can’t keep the vision out of her head, got to go… etc.

Turns out Sukar comes back from the grave with a holy mission to do something … Irisa isn’t clear what, but Sukar says the spirit of their god flows through them both, so she tags along mainly to make sure he doesn’t cause a lot of trouble. Of course, she doesn’t stop him when he knifes a guy while robbing his store. Nor does she stop him when he breaks into the infirmary to steal a transmooker device. Nor does she stop him when he breaks into the radio station to build a transmitter to bring down a broken spaceship and plant it right on top of Defiance.

Yeah… that “keep him from causing trouble” thing… not working.

On the face of it, Sukar’s transmitter has the potential to crash the falling ship right into the town, so Nolan has to stop him. Because he doesn’t know what nobody else knows — that Sukar is actually sending a signal to activate systems on the ship to fire the thrusters and avoid the town — because there are aliens living there. (wonder if it would have mattered if Defiance was just a human town?) So the ship crashes near the town, not on top of it, and we find out Sukar really is dead (dying, rather) and his Wolverine healing properties were the result of Wesley Crusher’s nanites getting into his system long enough for them to communicate with the ship and alter its trajectory.

In the end, we have a half-not-bad episode that creates some tension, but it does it using a secondary character. This has become known as the “Mary Sue” problem, in which the bulk of the story is driven by a character who’s not part of the principle cast. Those few main characters who get to play in this ep are all just reacting to Sukar. And Sukar is just a one-dimensional character to begin with, so that’s not saying a lot.

The b-story on this has to do with the Tarrs clan. Stahma wants her boy’s marriage to go well, given that he’s fallen for a human girl. So she wants to hire Kenya to make him a man before the wedding. Of course, Kenya thinks it’s foolishness, because girly won’t ever tell her father Rafe about anything going on in the bedroom. Something Stahma doesn’t understand because she’s not a human. And Girl McCauley — see, I don’t even make the effort to remember her name at this point, she’s so memorable — is freaked out over the communal bath ceremony she’s expected to participate in with the Tarrs babies.

Instead, Kenya seduces Stahma. What the what?

And Tommy is still alive, despite getting hit by razor rain. Just nicked him.


Episode 108 “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”

The second half focuses on the aftermath of the crash and the razor rain. Not-Really-Mayor Amanda’s old boyfriend comes back to town to convince her a move to New York would be in her best interests. Ostensibly, he’s trying to get her to come back to being an e-rep again, but she’s not having any. Turns out the big reveal at the end of the episode is that the Earth Republic sees her as an obstacle to getting the mineral rights so they can take what’s in the mines.

And Irisa is still angry at Nolan for killing Sukar, who was already a corpse animated by nanites…  she’s got issues.

Nolan and Tommy go out to the wreck and find a lot of old Earth space hardware — including what looks like a command module from the Apollo days. How long have they been observing us? Along with that, they also find a bunch of dead humans — test subjects? — and one very much alive waking up at just the right time. Commander McClintock, one of the “Bravery 9” from the International Space Station Bravery.

Wait. What the what, Defiance?

McClintock is supposed to have died when the Bravery exploded in 2013. Uhm… writers, this is just lazy. As far as I know, it’s 2013. Last time I checked — which was in the midst of writing this — there is no International Space Station Bravery. And while I’m at it, let’s look at the current 2013 flight suits for the astronauts going to the ISS:

Not the red one!

They’re blue. Not red. And NASA’s logo hasn’t changed, has it?


Den of Geek rightly points out that this “man out of time” scenario has been played out before — Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and even Rockne O’Bannon’s own Farscape — so we go back to the well for that again.

Naturally, all is not as it seems. Turns out McClintock (played by Robert Pattinson in the Bravery 9 movie… really?) is not really McClintock, but a clone who bleeds silver. Designed by the Indogenes to infiltrate and assassinate, the clones were never successful. So explains Doc, who apparently was part of the program way back when. McClintock is now dealing with culture shock of being flung into the future, but now also with the idea that he’s a fake. He’s a poor copy of the original, so he doesn’t even have a claim on his memories.

Of course, we know going into it, that McClintock isn’t what he seems, because he’s the guest star to which the main cast must react. So yeah… reasons.

We learn about McClintock’s programming when he tries to kill Amanda. Turns out the Indogenes wanted to do the whole Manchurian Candidate bit, replacing highly-placed citizens with replicas who could then assassinate top-level dignitaries.

In the end, McClintock’s conscience has him fighting his own programming enough to go down in the tunnels to kill himself. Rafe follows him down, and they have a little heart-to-heart about nature vs. nurture, and Rafe lets everyone think McClintock committed suicide, when he actually left town to get back to Alabama, where his wife — now in her sixties — lives on the Kent farm.

OK. So the ex-soldier Nolan lets this slide? An alien clone programmed to assassinate high ranking officials, and he just gets to walk off into the sunset? Really? No notification to any authority (because that would be bad for human-Votan relations now?), and the whole town of Defiance gets to think… what? That a national hero just went into the mines and offed himself because he couldn’t adjust? Are astronauts that mentally unstable?

And speaking of the whole hero thing, did anyone else notice that all the people taking pictures of McClintock were using film cameras? Where, in 2041 or whenever this is, are they getting film stock, since pretty much nobody makes it anymore? Kodak’s done with it. Is Fuji able to deliver all the way from Japan? Since there aren’t any aircraft anymore. No one can fly over 400 feet in the air or they get zapped by radiation and space debris… uhm… what was in the cameras?

Stahma Drama: she knows her husband frequents the Need Want, and when he comes home angry because Kenya passed him off to another girl… well, she’s just got to say something to Kenya about that. So, are Kenya and Stahm an item now? Kenya seems to think so. What about Nolan? Does this open the door for the obvious pairing of Nolan and Amanda? And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that Stahma is playing Kenya for some nefarious reason yet to be revealed. Because that’s who she is.

Both episodes have the obligatory music-montage-to-fill-time segments. Seriously, this is just annoying. It’s just a way to plug a music artist, at the same time giving us slowing tracking shots of characters having an “emotional moment” and looking like they just stepped out of the “hold for commercial” reaction shot in a soap opera. Enough, already. Use this time to tell me a story.

And Tommy’s still alive.

Now, on to the plague episodes, which I’m predicting now: they’ll be full of things we’ve seen before — people fighting over limited resources, the aliens getting blamed for it, questions about any of the main cast dying from said plague (none will — unless Tommy buys it), town rallies together and huzzah! There’s a cure found just in the nick of time.

Because we already know there’s going to be a second season to continue hawking the video game with these very expensive one-hour commercials…

[Defiance web site at Syfy]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “DEFIANCE Doesn’t Resurrect Good Writing Yet

  • I don’t know anyone personally who is watching this, so it’s nice to read someone’s opinions on it. Personally, I hated last week’s episode… I’m not a fan of the mystical crap in my sci-fi, although at least it had a scientific reason for it in the end, even if I thought that reason was garbage.

    I actually enjoyed this week’s episode. Some decent performances, especially by the guy playing McClintock and Graham Greene. I’m actually starting to dig Nolan, as a character, but I don’t think I’m going to stick around for Season 2.


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