In the fourth of my guest reviews, Martin Mulrooney (@altmagonline on Twitter) the chap behind the top notch Alternative Magazine Online, pulls no punches in his review of Defying Gravity. So, lighter than air or weighed down? Read on to find out …
Defying Gravity is a new sci-fi drama that first aired last month in the US, and has now finally made its way to British shores when the first 2 episodes aired on BBC2 last night. (Slightly unfair considering that the BBC was a co-producer of the show!)
Pitched to the networks as “Grey’s Anatomy in space” I decided to give the show a chance and approach it with an open mind. The trailers for the show seemed a little dodgy to me; sadly, they were largely accurate of what I have seen on the show so far.
I only managed to watch the first episode so please bear in mind that these are my initial impressions:
Part one of the review (the longest part) is… the list of negatives! (Warning, contains spoilers.)
- Stereotypes. Ron Livingston is a great actor who always seems to give a good performance (Band of Brothers was a highlight.) To see him here, reduced to a stubbly chinned, inner-demons dealing astronaut with an alcoholic father… was depressing. There was little to no depth to his character shown at all.
- More stereotypes. Character Ajay Sharma, who goes slightly nuts in the pilot, keeps talking about fate and random Hindu teachings. When he eventually goes gaga (about 5 minutes into the mission) I couldn’t believe the mission commander saying that he was surprised because he had tested as the most stable. Most stable? There was a flashback to 5 years earlier in the staff bar and even then I thought the character seemed odd and detached! So it is either bad acting or deliberate oddness… either way I think it was poorly portrayed.
- Oh and let us not forget the ship’s physicist who is hacking into the mainframe of the ship to access all his porn!
- Talking of flashbacks… why?! It is such an overdone plot device, LOST literally ran it into the ground. Then again, at least LOST told us new, interesting things most of the time. Here, the flashbacks do little other than pad out the running time. There was literally only one flashback that was worth seeing, and even that seemed stupid. Ron Livingstone’s character leaves two people behind on Mars… and his Dad is the messed up one! (Because Ronnie didn’t play baseball…aww!) Ron seems fine though overall… he just wants to tap some ass!
- Ass. Oh yeah, that reminds me… the women in this show… well, it’s ridiculous! Everyone in space is now some kind of model, and trust me; I bet by the end of the series we see ALL of them naked. They also have amazingly futuristic haircuts… basically short bobs. (Yes, I googled the correct style!)
- Talking of naked… in the very first episode we have sexual innuendo, half the crew sleeping together at some point in the past, and then to top it off a zero-g shag-fest IN THE SPACESHIP’S MAIN CONTROL ROOM! Between the Mission Commander and his wife no less. It’s okay though… the flight director tells the ground team to turn off the camera and give them privacy. What a nice guy!
- Oh wait a minute, he isn’t. He tells Ron (Maddux in the show, what a cool name!) that he is to be fired soon for an outburst. Later, Ron punches him in the face… before being allowed to go up as a replacement on the ship! This is such a great dramatic storyline!
- Pacing is completely off. I would have preferred less flashbacks, less scenes… just everything slowed down. I mean really, dramatic moments are reduced to 30-second quick cuts, while the longest shots are of the ship and the zero-g sex scene. It is hard to care when you are being rushed through the motions at breakneck speed.
- The science fiction itself. Future 2051 looks surprising similar to… present day 2009. Oops. There was nothing futuristic I could see at all… everything looked the same. They even used stock footage for the shuttle take off… very lame. Even the explanation for gravity in the ship sucks. There is normal earth gravity, otherwise everyone and anything not wearing a space suits would be floating, which it isn’t. Logical!
- Speaking of which, the future of the show also shows how pregnancy tests, and abortions, are illegal. But luckily, one of the crew in a flashback tells us how she ‘knows a guy.’ Thank goodness! Business must be booming for ‘the guy’, with the amount of sex everyone is having!
- Oh yeah, and everything is bathed in overexposed light because that looks really cool as well! But not as cool as the constant soft rock that accompanies several montage scenes. Yuck.
Okay now, onto the good stuff…
- The effects of the ship itself in space are not too bad. (Although by no means do they look real.)
- Ron Livingston is STILL fun to watch even if his role isn’t that great.
- The women are good looking, but really that is a shallow point and doesn’t bode well for the script.
- There are hints that the story will get deeper… shame it usually results in characters looking shifty and ominous music playing. Regardless, the aim of their mission seems intriguing enough as long as they expand on it soon.
- The space suits look pretty good as well! (Sorry, I am kinda clutching at straws here…)
To say I was disappointed with this show is an understatement. Then again, perhaps it isn’t even really aimed at sci-fi fans. Take away the space theme and you have a pretty bog-standard chick-flick style show, with plenty of sex and good looking people, and little actual drama or sci-fi goodness.
Am I overly harsh? Perhaps, but shows like The Sopranos, The Shield and The Wire raised the bar for TV series as far as I am concerned. I have also heard amazing things about Battlestar Galactica, which I am sure far surpasses this show (I mention that show due to the sci-fi link).
So who exactly is going to watch Defying Gravity? Sadly, not moi, unless you all love me nitpicking and moaning about it every episode!
I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the second part because I was tired, and there was nothing holding my interest. A missed opportunity.