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Defiance: TV Review

NBCU SyFy Defiance Still - H 2013
SyFy
Grant Bowler and Stephanie Leonidas in "Defiance" on Syfy.

The Bottom Line

Touching on aspects of Battlestar Galactica, Mad Max and various other sci-fi adventures, Defiance gets credit for being ambitious and creative. 

Premieres

9 p.m. Monday, April 15 on Syfy

Executive producers

Kevin Murphy, Michael Taylor, Rockne O'Bannon

Cast

Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene, Mia Kirshner

A major undertaking from Syfy attempts to regain the clout the channel once had with "Battlestar Galactica."

Although there are flaws in Defiance, the newest sci-fi series from Syfy, which is trying to regain the mojo and audience it had with Battlestar Galactica, there's a lot of ambition and potential as well. So much, in fact, that even if tonight's two-hour premiere doesn't hook you, stay patient and let it find its footing.

Why? Because major flops like Terra Nova on Fox and even the almost-had-something allure of Revolution on NBC pale in comparison to what Defiance might be able to attain. In fact, there's been few truly intriguing science fiction offerings on television of late -- and by sci-fi I mean full-on aliens that look like lizards or whatnot and random races that look like humans but have egg-shaped heads and weird skin. In short, a sci-fi series that goes all in, without trying to ground the show with too much human remains.

The premise of Defiance is decently straightforward. A full 33 years ago, eight alien races came to Earth in what are called Arks, had a huge war and fought among themselves (remaining humans included) until what was known as Arkfall, or the end of the battle. Then there was an armistice between all races. That was 15 years ago as Defiance opens. But the alliances are still fragile. The races don't really trust each other and there are long-simmering feuds among them. Our hero is Nolan (Grant Bowler), a former Marine who now wanders what's left of the unrecognizable earth with Irisa (Leonidas), who was part of an alien race called the Irathients. Nolan rescues her and raises her as his own.

STORY: NBCU's Gamble on SyFy's 'Defiance'

Their Mad Max like roaming around earth eventually leads them to the town of Defiance, sitting on what was once St. Louis (most of the arch remains). Although he and Irisa planned to stay there only momentarily, they get hooked into an impending attack by a very vicious element of the alien races. It's in Defiance where Nolan meets the town's new mayor, Amanda (Julie Benz), and her sister, Kenya (Mia Kirshner), who runs the local whorehouse. Defiance is filled with two powerful families -- the McCawleys, who control the mines and are headed by Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) and the Tarrs, fronted by Datak (Tony Curran) and Stahma (Jaime Murrray), who are part of an elite alien race called the Castithans.

There's a melting pot vibe to Defiance and no doubt there will be constant struggles and fights as Nolan -- who just wants to get to Antartica, where he hears there are sunny beaches -- gets enlisted as the new lawman of Defiance (Western, anyone?). So, yeah, there's a lot of genre-bending in this one but some real entertainment value, dramatic potential and, hell, if it can be half of what Battlestar Galactica was, that's a winning combination.

One worry, but also a worry you can ignore, is that Defiance also is tied to a video game franchise (created at the same time as the series). One apparently influences the other, but we're told that you don't need to worry about the gaming element to enjoy the series. But if that intrigues you, bust out the Xbox.

For everybody else, give this a chance, and let's see if TV can pump some life into a genre that sorely needs it.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine