Curiously, while settling in to watch the show tonight, the announcer very clearly declared this to be the “Season Finale” of Defying Gravity. Now, I know for a fact that they shot 11 episodes of this show, and I know it’s been bleeding ratings since day one - the lowest ratings the show ever got was for the H2IK episode, which came in 34th place for the week, the highest they’ve ever done was the pilot, which came in at 21st for the week, which would be fairly lame during the season, but we’re in the dog days of summer here - there’s no competition. A new show - any new show - should be sucking up the ratings, give it’s running against…well…nothing whatsoever.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that this show was doomed. Really, it was doomed at the outset: Science Fiction aimed at chicks? Scandalous! Stupid! Every bit as doomed as Kings was earlier in the year. Even so, announcing a “Season Finale” when you’ve got three more episodes in the can is…well, it’s a bit confusing, really. Normally the networks just yank the show with little fuss, then burn off the remaining episodes in some other dead slot, but pretending the story had reached its intended climax is…well…it’s damn peculiar.
PLAY BY PLAY
2047 - The day after Halloween, the Ascans (Astronaut Candidates) are subjected to obedience training intended to teach them to follow orders without hesitation. This mostly consists of running a lot of laps, and doing what a bitchy, sour faced old Nazi of a woman tells them to do. Eve explains that she’s a rep from a major financial backer for the Antares expedition, and as such she’s got a role in crew selection. She tells Donner that the people he left behind would never have survived to reach the lander, but Donner doesn’t believe it. Goss gives another wad speech, and then the old woman has everyone play a really vicious game of Simon in which the player gets shocked. Curiously the Catholic girl, Paula Morales, was evidently the only one to make it through this obstacle. Interesting. And possibly funny, I’m not sure. Then the sour faced old Nazi changes the rules whereby Simon now shocks some innocent person. Woo-hoo total lack of empathy! Then there’s a fire alarm, and everyone scrambles through the smoke to the fire escape, but Jen goes back to rescue straggler Zoe, and it turns out the whole thing is just an exercise. They’re declared dead and fail. It’s all kinda’ useless as these lost backs go.
2052 - The day after Halloween, the Antares is six days away from Venus. No one is really buying the “Drugged Halo” excuse for various reasons - no one except Jen, who, of course, is annoying. Nadia, for instance, was hallucinating like crazy, but has never worn a halo. Donner discusses it with Shaw, who, as usual, won’t confess anything. Zoe discusses her dream with Jen, but we get curiously little reaction from all this. Zoe and Donner decide to investigate further, and follow Zoe’s hallucinatory cries to Storage Bay IV, AKA “Beta’s Barn.” They try to get in, but can’t, so they ask Paula what’s in the bay, but it seems to be nothing unusual. Shaw shows up to shut them down, and a lengthy argument ensues, with Shaw admitting there’s something classified in there, but refusing to violate orders and go in to check it out, regardless of the safety of his crew.
The solar flare alarm goes, a massive wave of radiation is six minutes away, so the crew shuts down everything that can get EMP-fried, and head to the shelter. Jen - because she’s annoying - dashes back to rescue her damn bunny, and they can’t make it to the shelter in time, so they have to find protection elsewhere. Meanwhile, the bulk of the crew in the Solar Flare Shelter discuss Schrodinger’s Cat, and whether or not they’ll get cancer in 30 years as a result of this. The all-clear sounds, and everyone - even the girls - are fine because there was no flare: Goss just decided to stage an unscheduled drill to distract Donner and Zoe from Beta’s Barn. Ooooh, dick move!
Meanwhile, all the tomatoes have grown in to a fractal garden, which they realize has to have something to do with whatever the hell is in Pod IV, so they ignore Goss, and Shaw ignores Eve, and they go down and open the bay. A light shines out, and most everyone stares in amazement at something we’re not allowed to see. They mostly look beatified, excepting Jen who looks every bit as blank as when Londo Molari saw a Vorlon in the buff, and Donner who looks…well…like he’s sizing it up.
The torture/training stuff was complete crap. No space program in the world uses, nor have they ever used, anything like that. It’s ridiculous. They go to extreme lengths to establish team identity and esprit d’corps, not destroying it by games of “Torture the doctor.”
Not sure if Paula just shaking off the torture was supposed to show how strong she is, or how much punishment she’s willing to take. Not sure if it was intended to be inspiring, funny, sad, or creepy. It managed to be a bit of all of those.
We’re never told why the two ghosts of Mars were gonna’ kack, only that they were. What was the problem? Why were they dying? It appears that Eve isn’t lying, that they actually were, but a very simple method of checking would simply be to look at the space suit telemetry from the 2042 mission: Even if the lander stranded them, their suits would keep them alive for at least several more hours. If telemetry says they died a lingering, horrible death by suffocation, screaming “Damn you to hell, Donner” the whole time, then obviously Even is lying. If, however, they were dead inside of ten minutes, she’s telling the truth. Why hasn’t anyone suggested this?
I really liked the way AJ and Donner were conspiring together over the radio. I totally *loved* the way AJ was pretending to push buttons without actually hitting them and lying, so that he could defy Goss’ orders without getting nailed for it. I also loved the little bit of face acting between him and Rollie when that was going on.
I didn’t like the Rollie/Eve scene, however. Goofy, boring, it added nothing. And is it just me, or did Rollie suddenly become kinda’ goofy looking?
Did Zoe get a haircut? She looks different to me somehow…
Wassenfelder and Paula seem to be getting along better now. Eventually they’ll be a couple, or they would have if the show continued.
Even though it’s a lie about them being tainted, no one on the ship is using Libido Suppressants anymore. Nadia never used ‘em. Ha!
Nadia is second in command. I don’t think they ever mentioned that before.
I liked the locker room scene between Donner and Zoe - “I thought we talked all this out last night.” “Yeah, we did, but you were pretty drunk so I didn’t know how much of it you’d remember.” Zoe’s rambling was kinda’ cute, too.
And I guess that is that, kids: The fat lady (Presumably a pregnant Zoe) has sung. We don’t know what Beta is, or why he’s there, we don’t know what he’s doing, or why, or how he got there. We don’t know why the Mars-o-nauts were dying, we don’t know why they’re going to Venus, we don’t know if Paula will be able to fly it. We don’t know why the computer kept defaulting to the 3rd landing site, we don’t know who Nadia’s hallucination was, frankly there’s a ton of things we don’t know.
I’ll rent the series when it comes out on DVD and review the final three episodes, and I suppose that’ll be the end of it.
As some of you may recall, this was a multinational television project: Canada, the US, UK, and Germany all coughed up considerable cash to fund this bomb. I’m wondering if it being cancelled in the states means the show is dead everywhere or not, since our network signed on late to the project.
It’s a shame. It was never a great show, but I liked it, and it was getting better. It was cleverly built, if not brilliantly plotted, and I’m annoyed that we’ll never get to find out what the hell the point of all this was.
The End. (Not really, but it’s “The End” enough for our purposes)