TCA: Syfy’s Defiance Explained

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Syfy’s “biggest and most ambitious undertaking,” Defiance, starring Julie Benz and Grant Bowler, held a Q&A panel at the TCA Press Tour featuring the cast and creators of this potentially groundbreaking series/online game. And through the session, we got a bit more insight into the world of Defiance and the idea of simultaneously launching a TV show and an MMORPG.

Firstly, Dave Howe, President of Syfy and Chiller, told the room full of critics that “We imagined the future of entertainment as technology evolves across new digital screens and platforms, and we also saw an exciting opportunity for Syfy to extend its powerful storytelling brand. Our vision was simply to create true transmedia properties, and that means characters and stories that are designed and built, from the get go, to live on these various new platforms. So five years in the making, Defiance will be the biggest and most ambitious undertaking in Syfy’s 20 year history.”

So right off the bat, it was easy to tell that this was a massive undertaking that expanded beyond just the television series itself. “The analogy I like to use,” Kevin Murphy, executive producer and showrunner, added, “is that I grew up just as a gigantic comic book geek. What I always loved about comics was the fact that you could love Batman and read Batman’s adventures, and Batman’s adventures would stand on their own and be a satisfying reading experience. And if you happened to also like Superman, you could read Superman. If you read both titles, when they would have their occasional crossover that would happen, like in the summer where they’d share adventures in the Justice League, it would add this extra layer of coolness to the whole thing. But you could choose what it is you have.”

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Tony Curran and Jaime Murray as Castithans on Defiance.

“And I think that that’s kind of the analogy of what we’re doing here because the Trion game has its own narrative,” Murphy said. “It has its own storylines. Our show has its own dramatic storytelling needs, its own storylines. But if you choose to partake of both, because we exist in a shared universe with dual portals or entrances, you get a richer, fuller, more nuanced experience because when some huge catastrophic weather event happens in the TV show, if you’ve been playing along in the game, something the player has done actually put those events into motion.”

Mark Stern, President of Original Content for Syfy and Universal Cable Productions, continued with “Here are two things that I think are really important. I think the first is, philosophically, when we set out with Trion, both companies agreed that we were going to do the best show or game that we could do, period, that you didn’t need to know anything about one to enjoy the other. That was paramount to us. That was kind of bedrock. And then, as Kevin said, it’s all referential. So if you know about both, it helps the experience and it adds to it. But you do not need to know anything about one to enjoy the other, which is one of the nice things about it.”

The world of Defiance is set on a war-ravaged future Earth, now overrun with alien refugees who have fled a collapsing solar system. Benz plays the human Mayor of a town called Defiance while Grant Bowler plays a human drifter who lands in Defiance, with his adopted alien daughter, and is instantly roped into a murder mystery and a potential city-siege. There are elements of show that are like Firefly [Space Western aspect] and Babylon 5 [Melting Pot aspect]. “[The aliens'] solar system was going to be destroyed,” Murphy clarified. “Their sun was going to explode, and different alien species lived on different planets within this system. So what’s kind of cool about this is that Castithans and Irathients, who are two of the races, they don’t particularly like each other. It’s a marriage of convenience. Everybody can agree they all hate the Vulge, which are sort of the villains, and they’re one of the races.”

“This is eight different races who are now forced to share one planet,” Murphy said, “and not everybody quite gets along. And there’s factions that form. Human beings find that, in some ways, they’re very much like Castithans. In some other ways some humans are much more like Irathients. And alliances and factions form. So that’s kind of how this show is not really as simplistic as ‘Here’s the alien invasions, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.’ It really is more of an ‘immigrant melting pot’ story about you’ve got the Irish quarter. You’ve got the Italian quarter. You’ve got the people who have come over from Asia. You’ve got the people who are indigenous, etc., etc.”


 

Defiance premieres on April 15th, at 9pm on Syfy.

Follow Matt Fowler on Twitter at @TheMattFowler

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