This is the most full on science fictiony show that SyFy has attempted in some time. And it has potential, but there are some major pitfalls to be avoided.
Pilot episodes are tough to pull off well. Even with a double length episode there's just so much to try and pack in between establishing characters, world building and you know... plot.
To call it basic would be giving it more credit than it's due. It does just enough to introduce the characters and the setting plus some sort of season arc and really nothing else. There's even one of those leader gives rousing speech and convinces people to fight moments.
Most of the plot hooks it dangles out for future episodes are painfully obvious too. Yes we have two feuding families. Yes we have teenagers from each family who are in love. There's a new mayor and she's a hard ass... but not confident of her own abilities.
But what saves it and at least gives it potential is the characters. They're not particularly original but they are interesting and likeable (or dislikeable as appropriate).
Grant Bowler as Josh Nolan hits the right notes of cocky bravado and genuine caring while Stephanie Leonidas plays Irisa Nyira his adopted daughter as alternately sulky and withdrawn or loving. There's definitely more to be explored in that relationship.
Julie Benz and Mia Kirshner as sisters Amanda and Kenya Rosewater (one the mayor, one the brothel owner) spark well with Nolan and get across a caring relationship with each other.
Also I'm going to keep an eye on Anthony Curran who plays Datak Tarr. He didn't get much beyond cliche to work with in this episode, but you may recognize him as Vincent Van Gogh from Doctor Who and he's a very capable actor when given the material to work with.
So there's material there to work with and the show was developed by Rockne S. O'Bannon who was responsible for Farscape gives me hope we can move beyond the obvious and towards the more interesting stories.
Of course he was also the creator of seaQuest DSV so...
In terms of effects, the budget seems to have been pretty generous as far as that goes. Not only do we see some spaceships (falling from the sky no less) but they've created quite a credible town in the ruins of St. Louis. Which is a bigger scale than any show that SyFy has run before.
Admittedly the aliens do tend towards the humans with funny foreheads and eyes but there's a good variety of them and I hope we'll have a chance to explore some of the different cultures more later on.
I'm going to try it for a few episodes more. It wasn't horrible and as I said, pilots are difficult
TV Review: Defiance — Pilot Episode" />