Monday, August 3, 2009

Defying Gravity vs. Virtuality

Earlier this summer, Fox aired a movie/pilot named Virtuality created by Ronald D. Moore, the master behind the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. That show has a very stark resemblance in some regards to Defying Gravity. Now I'm not going to claim that one show copied from the other, but I would like to point out some similarities and differences.

Both shows involve long term space travel, but the goal in Virtuality is to find an inhabitable world outside our solar system. In Defying Gravity, they are on a preset course around the universe. It seems more in reach, but nonetheless challenging for all.

First of all, the reality show. The Virtuality reality show is shown in a Real World/Surreal Life/Big Brother sort of way. There are hidden cameras and quality cameras used to record the person speaking to the audience. It's much more surreal in the fact that it's a fucking space mission, but it's also a show for huge profit with a huge audience. The Defying Gravity show is more toned down, less intrusive, more instructional. It's not about showboating or revealing the despair of the travelers. In this regard, I think Defying Gravity did a better job.

The characters of each crew has both men and women, but where Defying Gravity has the usual cliches, Virtuality has a very broad base of characters. There are unusual people and personalities in Virtuality. I know they;re not really astronaut material, but neither are those in Defying Gravity, so the hell with it. If you're not going to portray realism, go all out and be crazy.

The "scifi elements" are very different. There is almost no discussion of science in Defying Gravity, and we don't know the propulsion or the sustainability. All we know is that they have the capability to go around the solar system within 6 years and stay alive. Virtuality explains the oxygen production and how they will get out of the solar system.

The way each show deals with the long term nothingness is very interesting. Defying Gravity deals with it in a way that shows a disturbing lack of creativeness from the creators. Essentially, the astronauts will have to spend 6 years with the same people doing god knows what. They are specifically given "Halo" patches that decrease libido, but what are they supposed to do? If someone offered me the chance to spend 6 years doing research on a cramped ship I'd decline in a heart beat. I don't dream about the stars and I certainly wouldn't want to come back to Earth with 6-years passed by. Virtuality takes a page from Ron Moore's other new show Caprica with the virtual reality. The astronauts put the devices on and they can enter any scenario of their choice. This leads to some wild experiences and insight into the character.

Both shows have a twist with a little mystery behind it. The Defying Gravity ship Antares has something on board that controls people. The Virtuality ship Phaeton has a virus or something on board that is hurting people in the virtual world, even raping a member. In the end, the captain kills himself, but "downloads" himself into the virtual world.

The human reactions to the journey are different and odd. In Defying Gravity, the astronauts seem fine, upbeat, and even indifferent even though they will engage in a journey with probably dire consequences. Virtuality takes a much deeper tone reflecting on the real psychological impact on how people would react to long term space flight bolstered by weird virt modules.


FanaticalWhovian said...

Thanks for this. Now i just have to decide if I even have time to watch who i felt is worth it of the two. But really thanks. Sad things i hadn't heard of either show till very very recently.

Richard said...

I don't think I am gonna like any of them. I sooo miss BSG. Currently waiting for Caprica or SG-U to have some fun with sci-fi on TV. Defying Gravity sounds like Melrose Place in space and Virtuality probably will miss Keanu Reeves to disable the Matrix, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Defying Gravity looks sure to boring as hell. Some characters are square-jawed american perfection, and others are insecure, abortion-guilt-ridden quivering jello blobs. Seriously? Really? The only mystery surrounds Beta, and so far they're taking their sweet time elaborating that.

Virtuality I would have found to be a far, far, far more interesting show. As a writer on Star Trek, Ron Moore must remember that holodeck stories are the worst of them all. 15 years on, I can only assume that he feels he knows what he's doing with the subject. True to form, he kills off a character that seemed indispensible and throws the whole thing into an OMGWTF tailspin just before the credits roll. Fuck, yeah. I hope he gets to see that story through.

I would far rather watch a series that starts off like an incredibly intense amusement park ride, that they're going to iron out the kinks from, than a drab drab boring drab kiddie coaster that they might add some flashing lights and not very interesting personal mysteries to.

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