Review: Defying Gravity (Pilot through H2IK)

The 2009 series Defying Gravity is notable for several reasons, first among these being the fact that it is a multinational production, a collaboration between BBC, Fox Television Studios, SPACE, and others.

It’s also being simultaneously broadcast in first-run in Canada, the UK, Germany and Canada. In the US, it’s being broadcast by ABC, and is available on Hulu.com

The show is centered on a 6-year space exploration mission on board the Antares. The eight-person crew includes 4 men and 4 women. The primary POV character is Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston), who appears to be the primary POV character. Donner, along with antagonistic Mike Goss (Andrew Airlie) and Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba) were part of a Mars mission which lost two members.

Defying Gravity was originally pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in space,” given a relationship-focus to ground (heh) the space exploration elements. In the first four episodes aired thusfar, the space plots tend to combine/resonate with the interpersonal stories, adding to each. The show also includes several elements reminiscent of LOST, with flashbacks to the crew throughout their training process and also to the Mars mission with Donner, Goss and Shaw, as well as a mystery that shows that the Antares mission may be more than originally advertised. It’s also easily compared to the backdoor pilot-turned-tv-movie Virtuality — though unlike Virtuality, by skipping the virtual reality element, I think Defying Gravity manages to not be conceptually over-stuffed. It’s showing a balance between ‘OMG something on the ship is broken!,’ ‘This person won’t sleep with me!’ and ‘What’s in pod 4?’ — There is a reality TV element to the show, as the crew is completely monitored, with the pilot also serving as the TV show producer/host, but that element has not been foregrounded as much in the first episodes.

So far, the show is not phenomenal, but it is promising, with indications of interpersonal plots unfolding over several years worth of stories. I’m excited to see more, though so far, its US ratings haven’t been terribly impressive. ABC may drop the series if the numbers don’t go up, but I can’t say if that would mean the show was entirely doomed, given its multi-national status.

Defying Gravity airs Sunday nights on ABC (with episodes appearing on Hulu.com the morning following).

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