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Er, hello everyone… My name is Stuart Atkinson, and… I’m a DEFYING GRAVITY fan.

(pause for smirks, eye-rolling and laughter).

Fine, go ahead, laugh, I don’t care. Yes, yes I am a fan of the cancelled US sci-fi TV series, and I am standing here before you today to tell you all that, proudly. The TV series had a lot of critics – and I mean a LOT; it was panned more than Bob Mortimer on “Shooting Stars” – for its romantic storylines, poor science and pseudo-mystical plot, but it was, in my opinion, nowhere near as bad as many people said it was. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the most scientifically accurate show ever written. And maybe it did get a bit “soap opera” at times. And maybe, in tormented astronaut Maddux Donner (below), it did have one of the most depressing, oh-just-slit-your-wrists-and-get-it-over-with! male leads ever seen on TV, but it wasn’t meant to be a laugh a minute comedy, or a ****** documentary, it was meant to be fun!

It was meant to be entertainment, an hour at a time of eunashamed, scapist fun. The special effects were superb, the costume and set design first class, and the underlying plot – nothing less than a secret a treasure hunt across the solar system, collecting aliens! – was great stuff. It had conspiracies, deception, boo-hiss villains, slimy reporters, femme fatales, the works. Now, all those elements might be called “cliches” by many people, but to me thay add up to an hour or so of kick your shoes off, put your feet up, open a can of Strongbow and forget the world for a while…

Now, as many people will tell you, I will watch just about any old science fiction rubbish. If it has spaceships, aliens, people in spacesuits, I’m happy, no matter how cheesy, unconvincing or silly they are. That’s not because I’m easily pleased; it’s because I can find a nugget of something interesting, or inspirational, or exciting, in even the worst sci-fi shows – a beautifully designed spaceship, a subtle plot, well-written character relationships. Hell, I can even sit through an episode of ANDROMEDA and enjoy it, because a) it’s often funny, b) it has the most gorgeous “ship” ever seen on screen, in the shape of the Andromeda’s avatar, Rommy, and c) it does have a certain epic sweep and feel to it.

But I have a basic and fundamental test for any TV drama series – not just sci-fi series – that is face-slappingly simple: do I care about the characters? Do I feel the need to tune in to another episode to see what has happened to them, because I care about them and their well-being? Not even all of them, just some of them. And DEFYING GRAVITY passed that test with flying colours.

Donner… Maddux Donner… ok, so he was a miserable, morose, droopy-eyed git, haunted by having to leave two crewmates on Mars, but he did grow during the series, and at the end I was feeling genuinely happy for him. But the main reason I was so hooked on DEFYING GRAVITY was its ‘heroine’, Zoe Barnes, played by the always-watchable Laura Harris.

Ah, Zoe, Zoe, Zoe… a woman with more issues than the archives of Radio Times. But her heart was in the right place, right from the start, and I really felt for her when she was struggling with her hallucinations and wracked with guilt. Just a good character, I thought.

Sadly, we’ll never know if Donner, Zoe and the rest of the crew of the Antares ever completed their mission, and collected all the aliens, because the series was cancelled after one season. In fact, in the US the first series wasn’t even shown in its entirety, the last couple of episodes weren’t broadcast. Thankfully, and to their credit, the BBC did show the whole series, so we got to see Zoe stumbling across the blistered surface of Venus, clutching the alien to her chest, in a race against time to make it back to the lander before her suit seals gave out and she went down in history as not just being the first human being to set foot on Venus but also the first human being to be poached alive on it.

As the end credits rolled I felt like doing that melodranmatic thing where you sink to your knees, clench your fists into a ball and shout “Noooooo!” at the sky, because I really wanted to know what happened next and knew the series was dead. But thanks to one of my Twitter friends (thanks Joi!), I was able to find out what happened next, on this American TV website: http://www.ch131.com (Go to “TV shows” on the left, select “Defying Gravity” from the list of shows that comes up, and then click on “Episode 14”). And having read that, I am even more frustrated – if the show had kept running I think it would have given us some wonderful TV, and some very memorable moments. I so, so wish I could have seen the crew landing on Mars; I think the design team would have done the Red Planet justice.

But the show is over, and won’t be coming back. It’s a shame, but there you go, and it’s a very common thing for fans of sci-fi and fantasy shows to “get into” a series only to have it cancelled. You get used to it.

DEFYING GRAVITY had its faults, no denying that. But it gave me one moment of absolute magic for which I’ll always be grateful – Zoe’s historic “first words on Venus” speech…

“Mark the day with a footprint, a step forward in the path of man.”

Now that actually brought a bit of a lump to my throat, I must admit.

Farewell, DEFYING GRAVITY. You deserved better.

And Zoe? We’ll always have Venus… 🙂

7 Responses

  1. I’m SO glad that someone else out there liked it. It was my favorite show of the year–beautifully shot, and I really enjoyed the characters. Though oddly, I found myself most drawn to Rollie, Stephen, Ajay, and Donner. I really wanted to know what would have happened to Jen, as well…

    It’s sad that so many fellow space geeks panned the show–that walk across Venus was EPIC.

  2. Hey Stuart, thank you for your great article about the show. I personally wish more people would read it, as it is such an amazing spectacle! It is nice to find someone who shares your views, I look forward to reading more of your articles!

    Best of luck,

  3. Dear other Fans of Defying Gravity,

    Never had ‘Multi Layered’ so much meaning as in this show!
    I was engrossed very early on and felt epically attracted to watch each and every episode …it is so sadly missed 😦
    I joined the ‘SAVE DEFYING GRAVITY’ Facebook group…check it out~ there is much activity there.
    Become a fan of the group and stay in the loop, see you there.

    Greetings , Edith

  4. Sci-Fi is the best, i love sci-fi movies, books and stuffs like that. I am a man of science that is why i love it .,:

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