I was hesitant to watch this since it was touted as Grey's Anatomy in space. I'm definitely not a fan of Grey's Anatomy and other prime time soaps. I might watch it once in a blue moon, but never regularly. I am however, a huge fan of scifi and seeing a space show on one of the main networks skewed me into watching.
There is a huge flaw in advertising this as Grey's Anatomy in space. Scifi fans don't watch Grey's Anatomy, and Grey's Anatomy fans don't watch scifi. I have no clue what ABC or the producers were thinking. I think they could have pitched the show with more Lost in mind. Admittedly, Defying Gravity isn't traditional scifi, but ABC has to know what kind of audience they want and judging by the overnights, they were way off the mark.
The plot revolves around an unrealistic portrayal of astronauts as they go on a 6-year journey to a bunch of different planets. 4 men and 4 women
There is a pretty big conspiracy/mystery behind everything which I will go into after explaining the plot of both episodes along with commentary.
The main character is Donner played by Ron Livingston. He's an all-American hero, he left some people behind on Mars, he's kind of impulsive...we've seen him before. Throughout the show, he gives little commentaries a la Meredith from GA, and like most TV monologues, there weren't any insightful things said. We kind of just learned a little about how he thinks. There was nothing profound, different, or special about it.
At first, Donner and Shaw who was with him on Mars are just the alternates. Simultaneously, Ajay and the commander Crane have some kind of heart condition that make them unable to make the journey safely. Donner steps in as flight engineer for Ajay, and Shaw becomes the commander.
Interspersed through the show are video clips of the members talking that are shown to the public. It's similar in style to Virtuality which I will go into in my next post. The astronauts muse fairly unrealistically about their thoughts and is kind of bland as well. The "reality" show involves Paula going around with a camera asking people questions. It's not very intrusive and I actually liked the fun tone it brought to the show. Maybe it's just Paula, but I like her character.
The main problem of the pilot is Ajay who puts his spacesuit on a walks out of the ship. When Donner and Shaw get there, Donner manages to talk him down. I was hoping for something dark, maybe Ajay dying or going crazy, it seemed Donner got him back too sudden.
There are flashbacks showing Zoe Barnes during training. It turns she became pregnant from some guy who said he had a vasectomy but didn't really. Jen Crane, the wife of Rollie Crane, the commander helps her get an abortion which from my impression are now banned. Everyone seems overly promiscuous so I really don't get it and this show doesn't seem to be one that will delve into social issues since they'll be in space with 5 other people for 6 years.
When Donner gets his physical, the doctor tells him that scans show he doesn't have a vasectomy even though the chart says he does. This is a pretty big clue that he was the one who had impregnated her which is confirmed in the second episode.
There is an ongoing thing with Zoe hearing sounds of a baby. It probably has to do something with her abortion. Ghosts? Her mind? It's interesting and I'm hoping it can shed light on the abortion ban. Also, Donner has dreams of being on a spacewalk while Zoe is naked and floating out of the spaceship. This happened when he wasn't even slated to be on the ship, and later he brings up "fate" to Shaw.
In the second episode, Zoe is testing her suit, but the door suddenly opens and she flies out. To make matters worse, there is a leak in her suit and pressure is dropping. Luckily, Donner had, as a result of his dream, attached the tether to her suit even though it was unnecessary. He manages to pull her in, saving her.
The flashbacks show how Donner semi-stalked Zoe until she slept with him. Right after that happened, she gets a call saying she is part of the space program. The flashbacks also show how physicist Steve Wassenfelder had some self-confidence issues and failed the swimming portion and how Ajay helped encourage him.
Jen Crane is working on natural selection with bunny embryos, looking at natural selection and then destroying them. Paula asks her some questions about doing that and she gets a little testy.
And finally, the conspiracy/mystery/what makes this show interesting. There are references in the show to "it" deciding things. How "it" decided it didn't want Ajay and Rollie and miraculously gave them heart murmurs, putting Donner and Shaw on board. "It" got Steve onto the ship even though he bombed the swimming. Somehow the mission commander Mike Goss and Shaw's wife Eve follow it's orders more than tests or qualifications. Later, Eve says it is onboard the ship and called it "Beta."
It's possible there is alien influence which is kind of lame. What would be cool is if it were some kind of entity of fate, a physical manifestation of destiny that influences everything. Zoe seems to imply that this Beta is stored in pod 4 and Shaw has to get to it. At the end of the episode, he goes into pod 4, the door closes behind him and he starts screaming.
I have some issues to gripe about. The show is set in 2052 except nothing is modernized. Bathrooms look exactly the same, bars look exactly the same and mission control looks exactly the same. The visual effects were decent for a low-budget TV production, but there were some times when the ship going through space looked pretty bad.
Other than the twist with the thing controlling everything, the show is basically a rehash of things we've already seen. There wasn't too many soap opera elements, but from the set up, I can see where we can get huge doses of it, something I certainly do not want. I will continue watching and review the show since I want to see exactly what's on the ship.
I will have a post named Defying Gravity vs. Virtuality in a couple hours. Stay tuned.