Space is the new Vampire. Just you wait.
Where everywhere you turn right now in popular culture is covered in Vampires (True Blood, Twilight/New Moon, The Vampire Diaries), in the next year Space will become just as hip. It started this year with Star Trek, Moon, and now ABC’s new series Defying Gravity.
(But wait, you say, what about Battlestar Galactica? That’s only been THE greatest show on television the past 4 years. Why doesn’t it count? Because BSG opened the door and helped to set the bar for all of those shows. It brought space fiction to the public in a way, a very real, authentic way, that allowed these others to follow. And besides, it doesn’t take place on Earth.)
Defying Gravity premiered Sunday night with a two-hour dose of space drama. The pilot episode was surprisingly great; I wanted to hate it before it started, but found myself really impressed with it. For a cast of largely unknown actors, financed by Canadian TV and then imported to ABC, I expected shoddy production values. Instead, I found great CGI space shots and a likable cast. Ron Livingston, who never gets enough credit for being way more than Office Space, is the best of the bunch.
And the premise (a 6 year voyage to 7 planets) set only 40+ years in the future is entirely (almost) plausible. It’s at least as plausible as we want it to be.
You see, the reason why Star Trek resonated so well is in part due to the fact that it is OUR future. Unlike, say, Battlestar Galactica which is largely set in an alternate/futuristic society, Star Trek is just far enough away to be science fiction but close enough to be fiction. And I believe 100% that our future, mankind’s future, is Star Trek. Not with aliens and space battles through wormholes. No, the idea of man exploring the universe, because we HAVE to.
It’s manifest destiny. It’s where we’re meant to go, as echoed by Ron Livingston’s character in Defying Gravity.
We, as a world, as a people, cannot stay on Earth indefinitely. We are growing too large too fast, we are destroying the planet, but mostly, it is in our heritage and blood to explore the unknown.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” is a speech we’ve all seen replayed a lot recently, but Kennedy was entirely, if not eerily, accurate. (I say eerily because, to me, that speech gives me goosebumps. Kennedy knew what mankind could and would do.)
We chose and we went. And now we have to go back. Why we haven’t had a station on the moon by now is one of the greatest bafflement’s of modern life. We went. We went again. Then we just stopped going.
We could have had a stable, living station there and would be one step closer to going to Mars, which is obviously next.
A scenario echoed, again, in Defying Gravity, which splits it’s episodes between the present (2052 to them) and the past (2042 and 2047, the former being a trip to Mars and the latter being the beginning of the current team’s training).
With Defying Gravity, we’re presented with an ambitious new series that tries a little too hard to be mysterious (there is, in fact, a mystery element to their voyages, but we don’t know what yet.) It’s also got a lot of sex without actually being sexy, unlike Star Trek which was sexy without having sex.
And that’s really the only drawback. It’s a little slow at times, it’s pacing needs a bit of work, and it just needs to focus on being sexy without having sex. Early reviews called it the “Grey’s Anatomy in Space” show, and it’s easy to see that, except Grey’s is, or was, a deeply human, emotionally rooted show about relationships in a hospital. Defying Gravity has it’s space relations, but it seems to be more about manifest destiny and just regular, mystery destiny than anything else. We do have several love triangles in place, but mostly it’s about the humanity of space.
Something which Hollywood is well on it’s way to mastering.
Which is good news for me.
The pilot I wrote last year and have been (slowly) revising into (almost) perfection is a space drama, and I was more than a little worried that Defying Gravity would encroach upon my ideas. (5 years ago, prior to the Twilight explosion, I wrote a script involving a vampire. I am always just ahead of the cusp of what makes popular culture rock, but because I am a nobody, it doesn’t really matter. This is why I sigh.)
But, thankfully, though Defying Gravity is good, it’s nothing like my script. For one, I think my pilot is 100% better, in character, in action, in execution, in plot, in mystery.
But it doesn’t matter. My script sits on my kitchen table; Defying Gravity airs Sunday nights on ABC. It wins.
And I hope it wins you over, too. You can choose to watch it or not, but you can’t choose humanity’s destiny, and that is the moon and stars and whatever lies beyond. To boldy go, indeed.