I very much want to like SyFy’s Defiance, its new alien-invasion story, which is set to arrive on the network in April of next year, but this initial trailer has me feeling somewhat uncertain:
On the plus side, I appreciate that SyFy is selling that what happens when an alien and human culture meld is one of the things that makes the show distinct and worth watching. I want to know what it means that “It wasn’t exactly Earth anymore. Something new had been created.” That sense of our planet not being precisely Earth anymore, and that question of how humans and aliens will deal with each other once the possibility of staying separated is gone, was what made District 9 such a fantastic movie. Defiance could be an opportunity to move closer to those points of conversion than District 9 was. In District 9, the people who had commercial and sexual relationships with aliens were black Africans, rather than people like our white protagonist, immigrants rather than South Africans, criminals rather than citizens. It would be interesting to have a show that interrogates what it’s like to cross over those boundaries, to feel friendship, or attraction, or love for someone who is profoundly other, to have a show grant the other that humanity at all, rather than to keep those interactions, that mingling of worlds, at a distance.
But on the other hand, Defiance is being released in conjunction with a video game, and from this footage, looks it. These are some very cheesy-looking alien invaders. And the fact that Defiance isn’t just comfortable telling a society-building story and is continuing the invasion is worrisome. If you feel like the world you’re placing your characters in isn’t interesting enough without posing holdouts on Helm’s Deep-like battlements, that the conversations your characters will have are less engaging than CGI-shootouts, you have a problem.