Maddux Donner -
Zoe Barnes -
Ted Shaw -
Jen Crane -
Nadia Schilling -
Evram Mintz -
Paula Morales -
Steve Wassenfelder -
Mike Goss -
Eve Weller-Shaw -
Ajay Sharma -
Rollie Crane -
Claire Dereux -
Trevor Williams -
Arnell Poe -
OTHER TREKS THROUGH SPACE
The Next Generation
A multinational crew of astronauts is gathered together aboard the space ship Antares for the first manned flight planned to visit all of the planets of the solar system in one grand cruise. Back on Earth, they are supported by a team of hand-picked experts. There is more to the mission, however, than anyone letting on, something that is altering the crew at the very basic genetic level, something that the select few who know about it are desperate to keep a secret.
DEFYING GRAVITY is an attempt at a fully grown-up science fiction drama with rounded characters, complex personal lives and detailed backstory. Unfortunately, drama is what happens when you take the dull bits out of life and in this show they forgot to take out the dull bits all too often.
The Grand Tour concept was clearly aimed at getting a multi-series arc going with one or two planets visited each season, but it is unlikely that the story will go any further than Venus. It takes far too long for the crew to get there and for the mystery of why they are really there to be revealed, which is a shame because there are some really good ideas on display here that get lost in the welter of soap opera personal storylines.
The cast is filled with good quality actors and the performances are as polished as one would then expect, but the lead character is saddled with a terrible voiceover so that you know what you should be thinking about or feeling during each episode and the rest of the characters aren't really all that interesting.
The special effects, however, vary from excellent to even better. The ship settings are brilliantly realised, looking every part the real spaceship whilst the exterior shots are crisp and clear and everything looks just as it ought to.
It is unlikely that the six year mission envisaged will happen after the slow crawl of this opening season and that's perhaps for the best, but we can only hope that DEFYING GRAVITY doesn't put anyone else off trying a proper grown up science fiction drama anytime soon.Top
The spaceship Antares is about to go on a grand tour of the solar system, a manned mission to seven planets in six years as they line up in a fortuitous, and rare, pattern. A multi-ethnic crew is picked from a huge number of applicants to take part in this historic mission, but on the eve of the launch, two of the pivotal crewmembers are discovered to have undetected heart problems.
DEFYING GRAVITY aims to be an ensemble character drama set in space, an extra-terrestrial ER or GRAY'S ANATOMY. Unfortunately, where they are slick and stylish and smooth and polished, this opening episode is lumpy and uneven, much as you might expect from a show with an eye on offsetting its large budget by selling to every TV region and thus covering every ethic base possible in the choice of crew and the coverage of those characters.
It's a big cast to be getting on with as well and not that many stand out from the crowd. John LIvingstone's Donner is clearly the focal point, but he proves to be a bland and less than interesting centre and is saddled with a truly dire voiceover that really could have been dispensed with. Others that make an impact (though don't necessarily convince) are Zahf Paroo's Ajay, Andrew Airlie's mission commander Mike Goss and Laura Harris's clearly off her rocker Zoe.
We're told that the crew have been picked for their skills, compatibility and stability in the face of such a long mission in close proximity, but so many of them have issues (hearing babies where there aren't any, having lost colleagues on a mars mission, not taking being bumped at the last minute well, failed vasectomy) that it's more obvious that they have been picked to conflict at the earlies possible moment.
Soap operatics aside, the plot is too dull to be a successful launch pad for the show. It's the start so we have to be introduced to everyone through a series of flashbacks to the training exercises, but the central problem to be solved (mad hindu sat on the front of a spaceship about to launch into the far ends of the solar system) is so ridiculous, and short, that it derails everything. There are hints of sabotage that may liven things up later, but this is a show that is going to need livening up, and fast, or it's going to feel every inch of its six year mission.Top
Zoe was pregnant and got rid of the baby so that she could go on the mission. Now she has bigger issues as the Venus exploration suit test she is involved in has gone horribly wrong and she is stranded on the end of a lifeline with her oxygen running out.
The first proper episode of the show sets out what we can expect from the show. The science will be fairly real, the soap opera relationships will be obvious and there will be hints of something darker that will lurk in the background to be revealed at a later date. Who is Beta, what is Beta and why is it getting to choose people who are clearly not suitable for the mission?
The setting of the Antares is impeccable and impressive and the special effects over the first two episodes have been impressive for a TV budget, but the reliance of real science has proven to be more dull than inspirational. The script is far too obvious to reach for the subtleties that it would like to have in its characters and the actors are floundering a bit as a result.
For a show entitled DEFYING GRAVITY, this remains far from airborne.Top
After encountering something that looks like Mars in one of the pods, Ted takes to his room and won't come out. Neither will Paula who is vomiting all the time. Donner and Zoe discover a glitch in the Venus lander that Ground Control are far too cagey about.
The mystery as to what is actually going on behind the mission of the Antares deepens. People are being systematically lied to and their genetic makeup is being altered, though by whom or why is known only to a select few who haven't chosen to enlighten the audience at this point. This is, actually, more intriguing than it first appeared likely to be.
The training flashback centres around libido inhibitors and allows for a deeper examination of the ongoing relationship issues amongst the team, or at least more extensive because none of the soap operatics are exactly deep, including the annoying voiceover.Top
After his freak out in space, Ajay is off the mission, but when a power short that cuts out the entire power supply to a good part of the ship, his expertise as one of the designing engineers might be the only thing that can save the crew.
Wow the main flight of the Antares is turning out to be something of a comedy of errors. First people get sick, then airlock doors malfunction, then the landing pod goes wrong and now the power supply goes AWOL. How did this ship ever get a clean bill of health?
And the same can be asked of the crew as they go through a slow process of coming apart at the emotional and psychological seams. All of this is so unbelievable that it totally undermines the good work of the special effects and design teams who have come up with a very impressive setting for the far less impressive nonsense that is going on in front of it. I mean the resolution to the power drain problem just goes further to highlighting a general level of incompetence.
And in case you're wondering what H2IK stands for it's 'Hell if I know'.Top
The Antares is approaching the Rubicon point, the point at which it is no longer possible to turn around and take the short route home. A check of all the systems is required and when a fault shows up, but can't be tracked down, the crew have to search manually. They also have to look for an item of importance to place in a time capsule to be ejected into space at the appropriate moment.
This is another episode in which the crew navel-gaze at the exact same problems they were navel-gazing at last time, and the time before that and, well you get the point. There are more unexplained hallucinations and the crew show more signs of just why they should never have been picked in the first place. The pace is a crawl and the characters are not sufficiently deep or real to carry off the absence of a driving plot.
The show may be DEFYING GRAVITY, but then so are balloons and they also are usually just drifting.Top
An accident leaves Paula, the venus lander pilot, missing part of her thumb and with internal injuries. Mintz, the doctor is suffering from hallucinations that don't allow him to carry out the operation to save her life and Jen is growing an illegal rabbit foetus in her lab.
At last, an episode with a bit of narrative drive to it. The accident raises scientific issues (how do you deal with blood floating all over the place being the most obvious) whilst the truth about Mintz's condition brings the hallucinations a bit more out into the open.
Even the flashbacks to training have more point and relevance, even if it's mainly about Zoe finally getting to do the thing that we knew she'd done all along.Top
It's Hallowe'en and the crew of the ship have been lined up for a stunt that will see them all Trick or Treating outside the ship for a live TV commercial as part of a $10 billion advertising deal. When hallucinations strike every member of the crew simultaneously, the plan is put in jeopardy.
This episode has to concentrate on the flashback portion of the story since the spaceborne section is merely everyone not doing anything and making sure that nobody else knows why they're not doing anything. Dull doesn't even begin to cover it. Unfortunately, the flashbacks are pretty much the same things that we've been seeing all along and don't illuminate anything much at all.
The budget that makes the whole thing look so good ought to have carried a portion to make sure that the story could live up to the visuals. Pity it didn't.Top
Nobody on board the Antares believes the story that the libido-dampening drugs were responsible for the hallucinations that the whole crew were hit by. Donner and Zoe track down the source to Pod 4, leaving mission leader Ted with a hard task to keep Mission Control's secrets. That's when the solar flare hits.
We're getting closer to the truth about what is really going on aboard the ship as the science fiction starts to take over from the science and the show is starting to show definite signs of livening up as a result. The solar flare alert is exciting and tense whilst the slow breakdown of the ship's authority structure is more interesting than the repetitive hallucinations have been.
The flashbacks to training remain problematic. They have more relevance this time around, but it is hard to believe that the nonsensical electric shock therapy on view here would ever be used to test mission obedience or that unquestioning obedience wouuld ever be a desirable trait in an astronaut.
The stuff with the tomatoes, though, that is the stuff of wonder.Top
At last the crew of the Antares and their ground control compatriots learn the truth about the mission and meet Beta, the strange alien life that has been designated Beta.
Apart from learning about the fractal-based lifeform that was found on the Nazca Plains (Von Daniken would be proud) and how mission controller Eve first encountered it, absolutely nothing happens in this episode. It's a big announcement to be sure that there is alien life and that it is sitting in pod 4 of the spaceship, but there's only so much watching people with astonished expressions that you can watch before wanting a bit more.
The special effects remain excellent and the realisation of Beta, a truly alien life form, is really well done, though it takes a few minutes to realise that it doesn't really keep disappearing it's just that Jen, for some reason, can't actually see it.
So the alien's out of the bag now, perhaps the show will pick up the pace a bit.Top
Following the revelations of the presence of alien being Beta on the ship and its real mission to pick up all of Beta's friends, the crew of the Antares struggle to come to terms with their new status. On Earth, the press are trying to find out what's going on and things are starting to unravel.
Whilst we have always been strong advocates of reality in our science fiction here at the SCI FI FREAK SITE, we've also always wanted that reality to be interesting. Watching this crew think about things isn't all that interesting. Jen and her husband fighting isn't that enlightening and Paula freaking out live to camera isn't anything near as powerful as it ought to be. In fact, the whole episode is just plain dull.
As for the sudden earthbound cliffhanger - that comes out of nowhere and seems utterly irrelevant.Top
Rollie is in prison after knocking down a cyclist whilst reading texts on his mobile phone. This triggers flashbacks to the isolation tank experiences of the crew during training. With the Venus drop only days away, nobody can accurately pilot the lander, it would seem.
DEFYING GRAVITY clearly didn't have enough plot to fill its full order because this is pure filler. Rollie's experience in prison and the isolation tank flashbacks have no relevance to anything that is going on aboard the ship (yes, the crew feel isolated, we get that we don't need the metaphor).
The struggles to pilot the lander in simulations is as interesting as watching someone else play a video game. A bad video game.Top
The Antares has finally reached Venus, one of the most inhospitable planets in the solar system with enormous pressure and where it rains acid. Even with the most modern technology, Zoe is only going to have 20 mins on the surface and can only go about 100 metres, so it's up to Donner to make sure that he lands close by the object known as Gamma.
It's taken a full series to get here, but the ship has finally reached it first objective, Venus. When the story concentrates on the task getting the lander down to the planet and Zoe onto the surface, then it's pretty good, but the flashbacks to the tangled love lives of the astronauts in training continue to be a distraction rather than reinforcing what is happening on the ship.
The special effects remain excellent, although the depiction of Venus is far less hellish than expected. It just seems a bit like a desert in a heat haze, but the flight down in the lander is well executed.Top
Donner has missed his landing window and Zoe can't reach the lifeform known as Gamma in the 20 minutes that her suit will hold up. When she hears the baby, however, she goes anyway and as the crew fight to persuade her to return her suit starts to fail.
This entire episode is taken up with one woman trying to walk 500 metres. It sounds as dull as many of the other episodes have been, but since this is the surface of Venus and the pressure suit is failing, an alien life form is in the balance and Donner just found out that Zoe aborted his baby and is refusing to leave her even as the lander weakens around him, the running time flies by and, though it works out just as expected, the climax is suitably edge-of-the-seat tense.
If only the rest of the show could have been this good.Top
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