I was so excited at finally having a ‘proper’ science fiction show with spaceships and aliens back on the air that I was maybe a little gushy in my pilot review. The rest of the series didn’t quite live up to my rose-tinted view of the pilot, but it did manage to hang on to most of the sense of fun and production quality.
My biggest disappointment with the show is something of a personal bugbear; I don’t like it when science fiction shows lose track of the science bit of that and head off into wibbly-wobbly mysticism. There is a muttering about nano-tech to explain the visions and powers and what-not, but that’s a bit of a cheat in my book. I like my science fiction to be explainable and not drift too far off into magical powers, destinies and chosen ones.
As the series went on it seemed to become less about aliens and spaceships and more about politics and secrets. It’s hard for me to explain where this lost me, I know and love that science fiction is generally just about using different situations to explore familiar issues, but this all became a little too mundane. The ‘alieness’ became confined to interior décor, colourful make-up, swear words that get past the censors and a couple of exaggerated character traits. With the exception of the mystical wibblies, most of the stories and characters could have come straight out of Deadwood.
I’m probably being rather harsh, but then it balances with my rather rose-tinted pilot review. I did enjoy the stories and the characters, they’re all doing solid jobs and there are a couple of stand-out performances – Jaime Murray (Warehouse 13, Hustle) plays the multi-layered Stahma beautifully and most of my frustration with the mystical storylines stemmed from the fact that Stephanie Leonidas was so much more fun playing the knife-happy Irisa rather than the angsty girl with a destiny.
The design is also a lot of fun, the way the alien races have all contributed and merged into the human world, everything overlapping, the next generation integrating more than their parents might like… it’s impressively done and interesting to watch. Even the music is wonderfully alien feeling. It means that even though it’s all made of of very familiar components it combines into something fresh and new. The only exception being the rather one-dimensional Earth Republic, who seem to have wandered straight out of Firefly to be “evil gus in suits”.
It’s a solid show and very entertaining to watch. But it’s more an a level with syfy’s other ‘fun’ shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka. That just seems a bit of a shame, because with a bit of extra effort it could have been more; but it lacks the originality and chaos of Farscape or the depth and power of Battlestar Galactica. I’ll certainly be happily tuning in for season 2 next year, maybe by then I’ll have got over my disappointment and be able to more fully embrace the show for what it is, rather than what it’s not.