Why Defying Gravity Needs to Not Get Canceled

When I first heard about Defying Gravity, I was surprised to see another space show, following the dead-in-the-water Virtuality which went from pilot to TV-movie backdoor pilot to TV-movie that everyone knew wasn’t going to become a series.

Defying Gravity had a number of similarities to Virtuality — ensemble-sized crew on multi-year mission deep into space, their efforts being made into a reality show for people back on Earth, driving off of interpersonal conflict exacerbated by the enclosed space and mission stress.

However, Defying Gravity has a far milder version of the ‘reality show’ aspect, and lacks the virtual reality material featured in Virtuality.  As a result, the show is much more focused — it’s serial SF with episodic interpersonal plot — originally pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in space” — the show released on ABC over the late summer, but was only aired for episodes before it dropped off of the schedule — ABC has stated that they they are looking for the best time to air the remaining episodes — meanwhile, the episodes have been airing elsewhere, due to the show’s status as a multi-country, multi-network production.

I hope to see the remainder of the season on television, but I have doubts about the show getting picked up.  It’s likely rather expensive given the sets and FX required, and the show’s ratings were lukewarm when aired — though that’s far from unexpected from a relatively un-advertised mid-summer show with a high concept.  Depending on how its ratings fare elsewhere, it’s possible that even if ABC drops its support, it might continue on.

Here’s why Defying Gravity is cool, for me:  It’s probably the best new straight-up SF show (recently) on television.  The show addresses advanced speculative elements (deep-space missions, plus other SF-inal spoilery things that are very intriguing).  It also sustains and develops strong interpersonal drama, throws in good doses of comedy, and includes the best use of flashbacks since LOST, using a parallel structure depicting the mission crew and other personnel in the years-long training that served as the characters’ introduction to one another and informs their relationship with one another in the ‘now’ segments.

Unlike LOST, the characters are deeply interconnected with one another throughut their flashbacks, meaning that instead of revealing a ‘small world’ setting where disparate characters were more connected than they suspected, the crew of Defying Gravity are shown working through years of interpersonal relationships — it’s two stories that are one and would theoretically come together by the end of the series, when the flashbacks lead up to the start of the ‘now’ part of the show and provide (10-11) years of contiguous storyline.

Back to the title of my post:  Why this show needs to not get canceled — Defying Gravity depicts a future where space exploration brings us into a larger universe, valuing both science for science’s sake; also the love of exploration.  It also introduces and explains SF-inal elements unseen in television, if well established in SF literature.  The SF writing world talks about how film/TV is two decades behind prose.  The ideas get investigated in prose, and go from brilliant innovation to discussed and debated trope, and once well known enough, if the materials that lead into the trope are established in the popular imagination, then it can reach a broad audience to be digested.  Shows like LOST took several years to build up to and introduce SF elements, and Fringe is popularizing parallel/alternate universe theory.  Dollhouse is a possibly-too-complex-for-tv meditation on the possibilities of interfacing with and modifying memories through technology.

It’s all well and good for the SF community to investigate ideas and develop discussion, but it’s a small world, and for those ideas to reach the majority of the populace, either you need a massively popular novel on the level of Stephen King or Dan Brown, or you probably need to make a movie/TV show.   And if shows that further the collective understanding of the culture-shaping ideas that SF produces keep getting canceled, it serves as a barrier to that dissemination of ideas.

For these reasons and because I think it’s engaging on an interpersonal level with strong performances by a fairly-ethnically diverse cast, I would really like Defying Gravity to continue long enough to tell its story, to convey its speculation about a possible future.

6 thoughts on “Why Defying Gravity Needs to Not Get Canceled

  1. Lina Kirkwood

    I saw the pilot for Defying Gravity, and though I am partial to shows/books/other media *in space*, it was excruciating. As opposed to science or discovery/exploration, it seemed to be all drama/Grey’s Anatomy/we’re getting our sex on — which I can find entertaining — but if it’s going to be a sex, er soap opera, it could be anywhere.

    I just couldn’t get excited about the character stereotypes/tropes I was seeing written (the uptight religious one/the slacker lackadasical comical guy/etc.). I understand a pilot has a lot to communicate in far too short a space, but it underwhelmed me. I also had just read Joe Haldeman’s wonderfully complex and detailed short novel about early space travel to Mars (Marsbound) and the contrast between the two was not flattering to the tv show.

    It may be worthwhile to check out the 2nd or 3rd episode, just to see if it improved, but … I’m not holding my breath.

    Do you have any thoughts about V? I’m intrigued by the trailers, but I understand it’s a remake … (and hope you’re feeling a bit better)

    • DaveA

      Maybe Defying Gravity is beyond you? I say this as V is stock repeat of evil alien visitor versus a resistance. A repeat of the original series with nothing new, and mimics many movies.

      I don’t understand peoples facination that all aliens are evil and look like us. I suspect that like humans, to graduate to the interstellar travel requires a culture of rationality, wisdom, true intelligence with benevolance. As a warring selfish myopic species like humans, will learn to destroy themselves with technolgy long before reaching the starts. Maybe nuclear bombs, or biological warfare or just up and up wars from over population, it is not looking promising for mankind to make the stars.

      Give me Defying Gravity so I can fantisize about it being different than reality. That the human nature sub plot of dealing with past transgressions and that aliens are not necessarily evil flame throwing lizards.

  2. The ‘real’ reason for the space mission is revealed a bit later, several episodes in–which takes things to a whole new level of ‘wow’ in the ‘Senseawunda’ kind of way.

    The show is very much a slow burn approach, with the lengthy flashbacks and extended mission. I was initially drawn in by the fact that it was far better executed than Virtuality in most of the ways possible, and dropped enough mystery in right away to pull me along for a while (especially the Donner/Zoe plot and the fact that Donner is the guy from Office Space). If you watch through the episode titled “H2IK” and still don’t like it, it may not be for you.

    As for V, I am keeping a close eye on it and will be watching the November sweeps episodes. It’s amusing that bringing the show back now invites a Visitors = Obama & Co. reading — but that’s another blog post.

  3. Killiandros

    Another disappointed international fan of Defying Gravity here – an intelligent and engrossing story, likeable and talented actors with seemingly genuine on-screen chemistry and deep character progression.

    It was definitely a winner that suffered due to no promotion and poor scheduling in the US it appears.

    How can we lend support to / revive this show ?

  4. DaveA

    V, Sanctuary and Startgate Universe all being sub-par efforts, it shaters me they cancel the most innovate realistic SciFi we have seen in over 20 years. This could have been an epic program.

  5. Wilf

    One of the best sci-fi shows I have seen in years! It would be great if it were resurrected but I doubt if it will be. We can only hope that James Parriott will write the book(s) and soon.

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