Tv Review – Defying Gravity: Love, honour, obey

Defying gravity has been criticised in some quarters for being essentially a soap opera in space. There is for all its hard science-fiction trapping perhaps such a strong emphasis on the inter-personal relations between the crew especially with the training flashbacks that the spaceship setting feels surplus to requirements.

But is that necessarily a bad thing? Drama is conflict and conflict needs to be based on relationships to engage an audience surely? Having took the harder SF route one cannot rely on monster-of the-week or bumpy fore headed cultural inferiors to drive the action and create a threat. Therefore you need to establish the relationships between the characters. If you don’t you end up with 2001 very, very pretty and a few nice bits of drama with the HAL and the ending but doesn’t really engage you emotionally (awe yes, emotion no.)

Therefore you could depict the relationships chronologically taking us through the training and then on to the mission. But I think that would be an endurance test not a TV show. DG’s method of suspiciously ‘Lost’ like Flashbacks helps episodes be arranged thematically which I think works well.

On to the meat: This particular episode’s theme is obedience to orders – a life saving virtue on a space mission. This is a powerful theme and I think the episode deals with it well. The training flashbacks are used to show some morally dubious training techniques and drills that put the importance of obeying orders in context. The specific challenges this training is then subjected to in the context of the mission then brings this it in strong contrast. Furthermore the manipulation of this training by the Mission Director for his own aims as well as advancing the season arc helps raise the question about obeying orders – virtue or vice?

This is helped as you see alliances forming between crew mates and support staff introducing a ‘political’ (small p) element to the show which considers they’ll be interesting further arcs if they can sustain it. However given the significant big ‘not quite’ reveal at the end I’m not sure if they will be able. That’ll be a shame.

The acting is of a standard for Defying Gravity – credible, even good but given the gloss of the show it always feels a bit soapy. I don’t think it’s the fault of actors just a consequence of suspiciously attractive people under rather bright lighting. However the alterative of assuming an grunge in space Aliens/New Who look wouldn’t fit for a prestige space mission in the near future.

All in all an interesting show. Despite coming to DG late I will be keeping along for the ride. It is nice to see something different – different for being near future, different for being pristine rather than grungy, different for (so far) avoiding ETs and different for being Science Fiction on a space ship in a contemporary set science fantasy and fantasy dominated schedules.

And I love my Science Fantasy and fantasy but a change is as good as a rest.

GS Reviewer: Andrew

One comment

  1. Dion Winton-Polak /

    I, too came to Defying Gravity late, but I’m glad I didn’t miss the ride. I’m thoroughly enjoying the show, and keeping my fingers crossed for a second series. It’s a slow burner, but all the better for it (there is a six year mission to get through after all) I think it’s over-egging the pudding to call it a soap opera though. Until I see a secret brother, incestuous affair or a burning Pub (tucked away in pod number 6, perhaps) I’ll keep thinking of it as a brave and interesting but of near future sci-fi. Long may Antares fly.

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