“My old man calls space travel a fool’s game. He says human beings are 60 percent water; they eat, sleep, defecate, can’t follow directions, and explode like piñata when exposed to the vacuum in space. Lately, I’ve been wondering if he is right.”
Houston, this is Canaveral. Initiating prelaunch checklist. Please respond go/no go:
Special F/X: Canaveral, that’s a go. We have some state of the art images here, flight. The Antares craft is slick and quite a piece of eye candy, even if it is very derivative of Kubrick’s 2001 craft. Overall, we show seamless CG work that might be some of the most impressive television f/x to date. All indicators green here, Canaveral.
Cast: Canaveral, we have a go here as well. Ron Livingston as veteran astronaut Maddux Donner does an exceptional job here. He been on several successful missions in the past, including the acclaimed Band Of Brothers project where he played Capt. Nixon. He’s also been involved in missions from The Practice to Sex And The City where he served with distinction. Co-lead Malik Yoba also happens to have an impressive list of missions to his credit, although he’s had more than his fair share of aborted flights in such missions as Raines, New York Undercover, and Thief. All pretty solid efforts that just couldn’t maintain orbit. The cast also includes the talented Karen LaBlanc as the mysterious Eve Shaw. The supporting cast might not be near so solid, and we have some rather melodramatic performances out of the likes of Laura Harris as the too-emotionally-fragile-to-really-be-an-astronaut Zoe Barnes and Floretine Lahme as the oversexed Russian cosmonaut Nadia Shilling. Of course there’s the young genius but social screw-up Steve Wassenfelder, played well enough by Dylan Taylor. In spite of a few yellow indicator lights, Flight, I’m going to give this one a go for flight, with caution.
Script: Canaveral, this is Houston, and we have a problem. That’s a no go for flight, Canaveral. I repeat. That’s a no go for flight. Unfortunately, Defying Gravity spends far more time in the bedroom than it does exploring the stars. The show tries hard to imitate the mysterious Lost style shows, but it just ends up becoming lost in space. It takes forever to get anywhere in the story. The points of suspense are carried to such an extreme that you find yourself yelling at the screen: “We get it already. Move on.” Again, Flight. We are at a no go for launch.
Of course the no go for launch warnings went unheeded, and as often happens under those circumstances the flight is either aborted or ends in disaster. I’m not sure which term applies here. The show has been aborted (cancelled), but I think disaster struck long before the abort.
The series follows the training and mission of a small group of astronauts on a six year mission to visit seven planets. It takes place about 40 years in the future, and I’m glad to report that Pluto is once again on the planets list. Unknown to the public and all but one of the crew is that they are actually recovering pieces of some kind of sentient creature. A part of the creature had crash landed on Earth, and there is a piece on seven other planets. The creature, named Beta, causes hallucinations and even changes in the physiology of the astronauts. It appears to be “selecting” the crew which goes to pick the pieces up. The hallucination idea is incredibly dragged out, and we get far too much time spent rehashing the same events. The crews romantic entanglements were also too much for me. I’m told I’m ultrasensitive to such things, but this time my wife concurs that there is just too much. Throw in inappropriate musical montages and rather stiff dialog, and you end up with a project that really should not have gotten out of the research and development stage. It was cancelled before the full show aired, and you get the last five unaired episodes here where the ship does finally reach the first planet, Venus.
The show is also very convoluted. They go out of their way to invent things to explain such problems as gravity, which actually could have had a simpler explanation that would not have led to the longest list of continuity issues I’ve ever assembled on a series. But instant communication with Earth from Venus they never explain at all. Somebody really didn’t do their homework here.
Each episode of Defying Gravity is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I will admit that the picture is actually pretty stunning at times. The f/x are very well done. There is a very annoying phase issue with some flashbacks that is intentional but annoying. Colors are very good. Black levels are exceptional for a standard definition release.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a little disappointing when you get to the more action-packed elements of the show. It would be so nice to have some real zing and swoosh to the spacecraft material. Everything is clear enough but never approaches dynamic. Dialog is presented fine.
Mission Accomplished: (1034) Cast and crew attempt to define the show but end up admitting it’s a soap opera in space. There are production design, sketches and character profiles.
Deleted Scenes: (19:30)
This is the kind of series I actually try very hard to like. I’m an admitted science fiction geek. I was surprised that I hadn’t even heard of the series when it reached my doorstep. The cover makes it look like a CG animated show, but it is not. I gave it every opportunity to draw me in, but in the end I’m not surprised it failed so miserably. When people wired into the industry and predisposed to look for and like this kind of show don’t catch any buzz at all? “Never a good sign.“