Five Things to Know About Syfy’s ‘Defiance’

by | March 7, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Defiance

"Defiance": Grant Bowler as Joshua Nolan, Julie Benz as Amanda Rosewater -- (Photo by: Joe Pugliese/Syfy)

Syfy is about to go where no network has gone before with the April premiere of “Defiance,” which will launch as a multi-player online game on April 2, followed by the TV series on April 15. It is the coming together of two platforms where the virtual world will factor into the show and vice versa.

The good news for non-gamers is that the TV show can be enjoyed completely without partaking of the game, and gamers can play without watching the series. But if you do both, the producers promise an enhanced experience.

“When we decide we’re going to do something [for the series], our mythology coordinator Brian Alexander is on the phone with his counterpart at Trion Worlds,” says executive producer Kevin Murphy. “They’re talking back and forth and they’re basically doing what you do in Congress, where you sort of reconcile the Senate and House version of the bills and figure out how those things can work.”

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Set sometime in the future, “Defiance” is the story of the survivors of a radically transformed planet Earth, whose landscapes have altered following a war that resulted from the arrival of seven unique alien races, known as Votans. In this newly formed civilization, the Votans and humans are trying to learn to live together, but it isn’t an easy peace as even the various Votan races don’t get along. And all this will take place in the boomtown of Defiance, which sits on the ruins of St. Louis, MO for TV viewers. For gamers, the new frontier is located in the San Francisco Bay area.

The series stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner.

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So what else do you need to know about “Defiance?” Read on:

No. 1: The core of the “Defiance” story is the father/daughter relationship between human Jeb Nolan (Bowler) and Irathient alien Irisa (Leonidas), who Jeb unofficially adopted:  When Murphy took over from Rockne O’Bannon as EP of “Defiance,” he threw out the existing script and began anew with a story that contains a “Paper Moon”-type father/daughter relationship.

“The idea of father and daughters in difficult times, what does civilization mean and how do we begin it again, that’s something that I think about a lot,” he says. “It’s reflected in literature that I like and things that I’ve developed. I think that that central relationship is of an essentially not very good man, who wants to be better, who has found this strange, damaged individual, this young girl, who makes him into a better man, and he’s just trying to figure out the right path.”

“Jeb is my non-biological father who, basically, has brought me up since I was about 10 years old,” says Leonidas. “We stumble across Defiance and our world changes. For me, it’s always been just us. I grow up not just as an alien in a weird world, but also as a 22‑year‑old girl, who is also going through stuff that a human girl would go through. So we have a very fiery relationship. We’re fiercely loyal towards each other, but we will have our moments where we don’t want to talk to each other.”

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No. 2: The Votans built large ships to escape their universe and come to Earth, actually also making “Defiance” a melting-pot story: After a decades-long war, during which the Votans drop terraformers on the planet, scorching the earth, a truce was reached when the the realization was formed that the planet was being destroyed past the point of habitation.

The Votans are broken down into the Castithans, the Irathients, the Vulge, the Gulanee, the Indogene, the Liberata and the Sensoth.

“Castithans and Irathients don’t particularly like each other,” Murphy explains. “It’s a marriage of convenience. Everybody can agree they all hate the Vulge, who are sort of the villains. This is eight different races [humans are the eighth], who are now forced to share one planet, and 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. It really is an “immigrant melting pot” story.”

That said, even the Voltans of the same race are divisive. The first generation Voltans remember life in the old world because they made the journey in hypersleep, but they’ve had children. The children view themselves as people of Earth. They don’t remember the old world, except as their parents talk about it. There are humans who remember when the St. Louis Arch looked like the St. Louis Arch, but their children don’t. So in addition to the father/daughter story, “Defiance” also holds up a mirror for the immigrant experience in America.

No. 3: “Defiance” can be thought of as a futuristic Western: With Defiance being labeled a frontier town, comparisons to the wild West are not out of line and it does have that vibe, especially with Jeb taking on the job of law keeper, similar to Marshal Dillon in “Gunsmoke.”

“One of the things we’re really having fun exploring is how to take some of those tropes of the Western, of the frontier story, and kind of turn them on their head and find ways to explore them that challenge the audience and have them look at it in ways that they may not have thought to look at it before,” says Murphy. “So I think you can look at the final show and decide whether or not we’ve succeeded, but that certainly has been what we’ve tried to do.”

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No. 4: Defiance is a frontier town, but it is also a sexy town: One of the staples of the frontier town of Defiance, is the Need/Want where everything from household goods to gambling and companionship by the hour can be found. Because it is in the future, it is not just women who are available for sex, but also men, and aliens. There is something for everybody.

“It was extremely important to me that it wasn’t a place where women were subservient to men,” says Kirshner, who plays Kenya, who runs the brothel portion of the Need/Want. “These are women who are empowered by their position. They love sex. They want to be there. It’s a place of exploration, and it’s a place of beauty. So that stereotype of a brothel being something where women are sort of these sexual slaves doesn’t exist there. I wouldn’t be comfortable with doing something like that. So I’m proud that it turns the stereotype on its heels.”

No. 5: The Game vs. the TV series: As previously mentioned, both the TV series and the game have been designed as self‑contained, stand-alone experiences, but together they offer complementary interactive storytelling across both platforms.

“There are two things that I think are really important,” explains Mark Stern, President of Original Content for Syfy and Universal Cable Productions. “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. You didn’t need to know anything about one to enjoy the other. That was paramount to us. And then, 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.”

“Defiance” the multi-player online game launches April 2, followed by the TV series on April 15 on Syfy.