Invading Earth has been done to death, literally, by sci-fi showrunners. What’s new with Defiance is that it’s being done by seven alien races at once – refugees of a dying solar system – who wind up with no choice but to seek an armistice to live alongside human survivors on what remains of the old terra firma. And what remains isn’t pretty.
The Syfy network’s president David Howe hails Defiance as a world first and “the biggest and most ambitious undertaking in Syfy’s 20-year history”, as it combines a television series with an online game, in partnership with Trion Worlds, Inc.
“The Trion game has its own narrative. It has its own storylines,” adds the executive producer Kevin Murphy. “Our show has its own dramatic storytelling needs, its own storylines. But if you choose to partake of both, because we exist in a shared universe with dual portals or entrances, you get a richer, fuller, more nuanced experience.”
In the year 2046, it’s a new Earth – with new rules. With our landscape terraformed nearly beyond recognition, it has been more than 30 years since the aliens came to Earth. To the town of Defiance, under the battle-scarred arch of what used to be St Louis, comes the mysterious Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted alien charge, the red-headed scrapper Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).
As they settle into the town – overseen by the mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), and filled with folks such as the powerful Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene), the enterprising lounge owner Kenya (Mia Kirshner) and the ambitious albino-faced aliens, the Tarrs (Tony Curran and Jaime Murray) – a fragile peace falls into jeopardy.
Says Bowler, whose Nolan becomes the “law” in this wild enclave: “If Defiance were the real world, I’d be cowering somewhere in the corner, clutching a rattle.”
In the pilot, however, he’s front and centre and forced into a bar fight with a “bioman”, a hugely muscled weapon bred in wartime to receive and inflict massive damage.
“The bioman fight took 15 hours to shoot; it was the most physically demanding scene,” says Bowler. “That bloke was enormous; there wasn’t a lot of CGI or special effects in that. He was 320 pounds and he was six-foot-six. So, he hurt me. I couldn’t get out of bed the next morning. If you’re watching it at home, I hope you enjoy it – I certainly didn’t.”
As Defiance unfolds on the television, its residents’ struggles impact the multi-platform online game and vice versa. Players take on the role of Ark Hunters – survival, combat and tracking experts who retrieve lost relics of advanced or alien origin for money. (The Arks are the ships that brought the aliens to Earth.)
“It’s strange, man,” says the New Zealand-born Bowler. “I’ve been watching myself on screen for 20 years and bored to death with myself. And the whole thing of being 3-D-rendered into a game was like seeing yourself on camera again for the very first time, and really, really odd. I love the game aspect.”
In describing the dealings between the alien races, the producer Murphy adds: “Their solar system was going to be destroyed. Their sun was going to explode, and different alien species lived on different planets within this system. So what’s kind of cool about this is Castithans and Irathients, who are two of the races, they don’t particularly like each other. It’s a marriage of convenience. Everybody can agree they all hate the Vulge, who are sort of the villains, and they’re one of the races.
“This is eight different races who are now forced to share one planet - and not everybody quite gets along.”
Syfy has renewed Defiance for a second season to be broadcast next year.
• Defiance premieres at 11pm on June 30 on OSN First HD. For the online game, visit www.defiance.com
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