It's a well known fact that only good looking people go to space. Even the comedic relief, the bumbling "fat"
guy, is still slim by most standards. Welcome to the international spaceship Antares
, the centerpiece for the sadly departed ABC series "Defying Gravity"
, where hotties in spacesuits flirt with each other and flashbacks to the preparation program reveal the motivations behind their flirting and injured glances at each other. Okay, I'm just having fun here because truth be told, and certainly despite expectations, "Defying Gravity"
was...well okay, there was some of that, but it was also MUCH, much more. Even though the program was pitched as "Grey's Anatomy"
in space (shudder) it seems like the sci-fi fans in the writing room won out in the end creating a show intelligent and involving enough that it easily makes my top ten list of shows cut down before their time.
Now, I know, most of you right now are saying exactly what I was saying when a friend bemoaned to me the cancellation of the program..."When the hell did that come on? I never even heard of it." Exactly
. ABC, for reasons that defy understanding, pretty much dumped this show on the air without fanfare of any kind, and then unceremoniously removed it eight episodes later. Advertising, such as it was, only began a week before the premiere, I'm told. Naturally, the ratings were extremely low when even the target audience, the sci-fi crowd and the "Lost"
crowd, didn't even know what it was or when it was on. Even though it was being produced by the BBC, Fox Television Studios, and Omni Film Productions in association with Canadian broadcasters CTV Television Network, SPACE, and German broadcaster ProSieben, it seemed like it was ABC's decision to more or less ignore it that caused every other investor to snub it as well. If it had been the crappy thing it was pitched as, I wouldn't care. Perhaps it was because
of the show's strong science fiction element and high concept writing, that some of the suits, expecting a dumbed-down housewife-accessible sex-a-thon in space, threw it into the bin.
) is the core character and narrator of the show in the ensemble cast. He's an experienced astronaut who had been on a tragic mission to Mars where he was forced to blast off from the planet leaving two crew mates behind to die on the dusty red planet, one of whom was his lover. The show takes place both five years later, at the beginning of and during training for a new interplanetary mission to six planets (this is in the future so ostensibly, they can get there and back faster than it would be possible now), and five years after that during the actual mission. Maddux
, originally blacklisted off the new mission despite his status as a trainer at mission control, ends up being added to the crew anyway when two of the crew develop mysterious last-minute heart conditions. This is the least of the odd things that are going on, as the boss down at mission control (Andrew Airlie
) seems to be answering to a mysterious force called only 'Beta'
, some kind of alien intelligence that talks through Eve
), the wife of the captain of the spacecraft, Ted
) who appears to have been chosen as well for messages from...whatever it is.
I could get more into the love triangles going on, like Maddux
's affection for Zoe
), the ship's geologist who had a one night stand with him on Earth but now spurns even his friendship for reasons eventually revealed, while Maddux
gets some friends-with-benefits action from German sex-pot Nadia (Florentine Lahme
). Or maybe the tension inherent in the situation with the ship's biologist Jen (Christina Cox
) who is married to former ship mate Rollie
) but who was replaced, seemingly by interference from 'Beta'
, by Ted
who was Jen
's boy-toy before she hooked up with Rollie
. The close quarters make Ted
's wife Eve
none-too-happy either. Fact is, everybody's got a past or a current infatuation that makes the flight emotionally difficult, even with the libido suppressors they have to wear. The good news is, these stories are actually dealt with in a mature fashion, these aren't the scheming, jack-assy, sex-crazed children you'd expect from another show and neither should they be. They're ASTRONAUTS
's sake, and presumably have better things to do than act like, well, apparently doctors do (if you believe TV).
The intertwined emotional content serves mainly to create a depth for these folks of which there are a LOT of. It's almost necessary to detail who's screwing who and who used to screw who just to help keep everyone straight. Even while "Defying Gravity"
succeeds as a character drama, it's the mystery that keeps you up late telling yourself, "Okay, ONE more episode and then I'll go to bed, this time I mean it."
In fact, the stories of the crew members of the Antares are tied into the mystery. "Beta"
causes the crew to hallucinate images or sound from their past that they have unresolved feelings or guilt about. For instance, Maddux
keeps seeing the Mars astronauts he had to leave behind or red dirt over everything. As the "Beta"
mystery begins to unfold, so do the personal depths of each member of the crew creating a balance that works almost perfectly as a story telling device.
was the high point in the career of show runner James D. Parriott
who brought us such quality fare in the eighties as "Misfits of Science"
and "Forever Knight"
in the nineties. This was a huge step forward and perhaps too much of one for the guys who decide what to spend money on. Even though the 13 episodes in the DVD release (5 more than ever made it to the air) wrap up one arc of the story, the tale is most definitely unfinished. Thankfully, Parriott
revealed how many of the plot threads would have played out in an interview with cliqueclack.com
. Why there's not a special feature on the disc with this information is another mystery. Despite the inconclusive ending, "Defying Gravity"
was an enormously satisfying watch, and one that I give an enthusiastic BUY
rating to. I only wish I'd known in time to try to help save a TV show this good.
Click Here to Buy Defying Gravity: The Complete First Season