Third-episode verdict: Defiance (SyFy/SyFy UK)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 4

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, SyFy
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, SyFy UK

Sigh. What a waste. Of all the things SyFy could have been pouring its money into, this is the one it chose: Defiance, a sci-fi cash-in on Game of Thrones that’s big on world-building but poor on characters.

Now, it wasn’t unreasonable of them. The first, feature-length episode wasn’t half bad, showing signs of imagination and proper science-fiction concepts at the heart of it all. True, in terms of people’s relationships, gender politics et al, it was extraordinarily conventional, but at least there was some promise and Game of Thrones isn’t exactly going to give The Left Hand of Darkness a run for its money in the feminist stakes either.

Since then, though, things have progressed to beyond ordinary, dropping all that expensive world-building and fun in exactly the same way that Terra Nova did, in an effort to build up the characters. Unfortunately, as a result, the show has become a simple tale of a conventional, slightly roguish sheriff having to solve mysteries against a backdrop of people with weird foreign customs who need to be shown the wisdom of truth, justice and, above all, The American Way. Particularly that bit of The American Way about husbands/men being in charge and the few women around needing men’s support if they’re going to make any decisions.

It still looks good and it’s got Julie Benz in it so it can never be entirely terrible, but everything in it has been done to death and done better elsewhere, and while it has a whole lot of imagination, it’s an imagination that doesn’t know much about people.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob’s prediction: With so much money sunk into it, it’s a cert for a second season, but it’ll need a major revamp if it’s to do anything but erode viewers over time.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.