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Herc Is Mighty Disappointed By Syfy’s SciFi Western DEFIANCE!!

Published at: April 15, 2013, 6:25 p.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!

Syfy’s post-apocalyptic pilot “Defiance,” set 35 years in the future, is about a “frontier boomtown” called Defiance built on the rubble of St. Louis -- which, like the rest of Earth, was invaded by extraterrestrials and devastated by a “universal war.”

The series was created by Michael Taylor (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Virtuality,” “Caprica,” “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome”), Rockne S. O’Bannon (“Seaquest,” “Farscape,” “The Triangle,” “V,” “Cult”) and Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives,” “Caprica”).

It stars Mia Kirshner (“24,” “The L Word”), Fionnula Flanagan (“Brotherhood,” “Lost”), Julie Benz (“Angel,” “Dexter”), Graham Greene (“Dances With Wolves,” “Die Hard With A Vengeance”) and Grant Bowler (“Ugly Betty,” “True Blood”).

There’s obviously a lot of talented people working in collaboration, but what emerges feels more like terrible “Firefly” fan fiction than something I’d assign to a DVR.

There are at least a half-dozen sentient alien species now wandering the planet alongside humans. Some look like albinos. Others remind me of the Eric Stoltz character in “Mask.” All look like people in make-up, and they all seem to represent minor variations on various Earth cultures, past and present.

The series, a crime procedural at heart, focuses mostly on the scavenger ex-Marine played by Grant Bowler, who by the end of the two-hour pilot gets himself installed as the town’s new top lawman. The creators try to mask the central character’s blandness by having him spout a lot of wisecracks, but the wisecracks are substandard (even compared to those utilized in “SVU” or “CSI”) and quickly come to grate.

Given Taylor’s involvement, I confess I was expecting him to boster the project’s plotting and dialogue to something approaching “Galactica” levels; instead, “Defiance” seems to have dragged Taylor down onto a plane of diminished sophistication akin to too many other Syfy series. The plot twists are timid things and characters are clichés in facial appliances.

Having seen the first four hours of “Defiance” I have to say this is so far the least enjoyable thing Taylor’s worked on. He and his collaborators seem to think that transplanting tired elements into a sci-fi setting makes them new again. If so, they are mistaken.

I warn you not to defy me!

The New York Times says:

... Everything in “Defiance” feels off-the-shelf, cribbed from the long line of westerns and space westerns that runs from John Ford through “Star Wars” to the more recent and far superior “Firefly.” …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... passably entertaining dramatic series about Earth's dystopian future that makes the best out of familiar plotlines and characters. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... OK but not exceptional … less gritty than Syfy's best series, "Battlestar Galactica," and the characters aren't as well drawn as on the superior "Farscape." …

The Boston Herald says:

... The show’s pacing, particularly in the first hour, could trigger a nap. You might roll your eyes when two characters start yapping about the search for a mysterious key. “Quite the party town you’ve got here,” Nolan cracks at one point. If only.

HuffPost TV says:

... it's admirable that the show wants to dive right in to Defiance's current problems, but more information about the various Votan races and what happened when they arrived wouldn't go amiss. Still, the fact that "Defiance's" opening salvos are so entertaining is cause for relief -- and a certain amount of apprehension. Will it continue to embrace the myriad possibilities of straight-up sci-fi, or will it join the ranks of evasive, half-committed, defanged genre programs? …

Variety says:

... this caters to (young) adults, mashing up sci-fi concepts into a nondescript TV program whose visual effects are infinitely more enterprising than its characters. For all but the subset willing to buy in and participate on multiple levels, think of the “Star Wars” cantina scene stretched into a series, then perhaps think about watching something else. …

9 p.m. Monday. Syfy.

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