The series premiered on ABC last Sunday night with a pilot and the first one hour follow-up, titled "Natural Selection."
Like Virtuality before it, Defying Gravity concerns a lengthy space mission. Here, the spaceship Antares embarks on a six year voyage to explore seven planets in our solar system, starting with Venus (a 43 day voyage...).
Based on the first two episodes, Defying Gravity is lively and bright, but also extremely schmaltzy. The writers opt for big, sentimental, even maudlin gestures in the melodramatic story lines; and position their astronaut leading characters as impulsive, romance-obsessed, top gun sorts. As a result, many individual story moments may leave the "reality based" sci-fi audience gasping in shock.
Defying Gravity looks like it wants to avoid that pitfall (if it is a legitimate pitfall...) at all costs, turning the series' astronauts into horny, quipping, broody, colorful, hormone cases. My advice: tone it down. Just a bit. Keep the sex restricted to off-duty astronauts. And keep it in crew quarters...not on the bridge.
Because, honestly, the science fiction touches in Defying Gravity aren't terrible. In fact, they're moderately intriguing. For instance, there's a strange force called "Beta" at work pulling the strings behind the Antares mission. This mysterious Beta -- an alien intelligence or perhaps a computer -- apparently chose the crew members, overriding NASA's choices in certain circumstances. Why? What are Beta's motives? In the last moments of "Natural Selection," the ship's captain boards the Antares pod that houses "Beta" (or perhaps just a link to Beta...) and seems to go mad...experiencing visions of a tragic mission to Mars.
This is a sturdy enough mystery on which to build the summer series; especially as Defying Gravity has promised that all will be revealed upon Antares' arrival at Venus. Another Space:1999 coincidence: the opening episode of that series ("Breakaway") involved a strange mystery involving not called Beta, but rather Meta. Hmmm...
Anyway, I was also tantalized here by the brief, cryptic references to life in the 2050s, the era of Defying Gravity. Apparently, Roe v Wade has been reversed, abortion is illegal, and now even over-the-counter pregnancy tests are against the law. The show doesn't go overboard with this political background, merely dropping a few hints that the United States -- and indeed the world -- are in for some big changes in the next few decades.
I have decided to put Defying Gravity to the same test I put all other fledgling sci-fi series. I'm going to watch five episodes and see if I'm hooked enough to stick around. This approach worked in the past for The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse. But I dropped Fringe and Supernatural.
I hate to sound like a prude, but I certainly hope Defying Gravity goes more into sci-fi and less into lusty space sex. I know the producers want to draw in big audiences, but the program doesn't seem calibrated quite right yet. Grey's Anatomy is a bad role model, I believe. It's a big, stupid, overwrought, inconsequential series -- the Ally McBeal of the 2000s. Maybe Defying Gravity could aim higher, aim for the stars...
How about defying convention?