If you think sci-fi is dying on network TV, then you should head over to Syfy and check out their continuing spate of sci-fi shows there. While you have to be into major sci-fi think when watching most of their shows, spelling-challenged Syfy has a continual wheel of thoughtful sci-fi ideas. Even if some people think the current crop of shows aren’t up to the quality of the past, “Defiance” might change your mind. It’s a show filled with enough sociological allusions as “Star Trek” had, especially in the analogies of race and politics with aliens. The show also takes place in a real city, (or what’s left of it), namely St. Louis, Missouri.
Keeping within the vogue of taking on a post-apocalyptic world, “Defiance” takes on the idea that aliens have infiltrated the earth after a tragic accident left the earth in near ruins. These changes are mostly environmental and even create alien species out of life here on earth. However, the main alien species isn’t from around here. They’re called the Votan race, and they have different races from different planets with distinctive attributes that tell us just as much about ourselves as they do the aliens.
With “Defiance” starting its second season this June, what Votan species should you be on the lookout for that manage to give some subtle nods to political theory, racial issues, and environmental messages we hear about daily?
The Political Ambiguity of the Castithans
As if politics isn’t complicated enough, along comes the Castithans who seem to be a hybrid of liberal and conservative political philosophy. They’re the classiest of all the alien races, which manifests because they’re an aristocratic race. If they seem overly conservative in many ways, the writers gave them a left turn and made them extremely liberal in sexuality. Whether that was a subtle nod in the collision of conservative and liberal values in humans, you can’t deny how astute it is in the contradiction. They’re worth watching through the second season over whether they happen to mate with humans based on the claims they can.
Also, you have to wonder how their pale skin would ever hold up if the sun becomes overly blistering.
The Green Message with Irathients
The Irathients are the alien race seen the most on earth in “Defiance”, and they also bring the green message that you’d expect in a sci-fi show about a scourged earth. Last season, we saw many of them work as farmers to honor their heritage back on their home planet of Irath. If that means they’re liberal, it at least means they don’t have contradictory politics in their backgrounds. With their bronze skin, they’re somewhat of a left-field nature-preserving variation on the Na’vi from “Avatar.”
The Ape Angle with the Sensoth
As perhaps a subtle nod to the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, we see the Sensoth who may resemble apes, yet have many of the same characteristics of sloths here on earth. This gives more of the creature quotient to the alien races that all sci-fi shows about aliens require. Unlike the apes in “Planet of the Apes”, though, they’re fairly docile. In many ways, there may also be a racial message therein as in the “Apes” movies. The fact that the Sensoth are used for hard labor gives the impression they’re stuck in a certain place and could be doing something much more significant.
More Nature Warnings with the Hellbugs
A Hellbug might be the greatest name for an alien species in sci-fi history. They’re insect-like creatures that were mutated when the world’s environment became tainted. Through this mutation, they turned into dangerous predators that make them resemble vicious bees. As with killer bees in real life, they’re a big problem, except they’re necessary to sustain the circle of natural life. Don’t be surprised to see the second season deal with the pressure to eliminate them colliding with the dilemma to keep them around for nature’s benefit.
And while that’s going on, we may hear more about killer bees being found this summer in the most unfortunate real places.
The Artificial Intelligence Angle with Biomen
To show how rounded the sociological impact of “Defiance” is, you can see a look into artificial intelligence with the Biomen. They’re considered part of the alien mix despite being the classic example of the futuristic robot designed to fight in wars. Yes, we’ve seen all that before, though these robots seem very self-aware and have a hidden rage. You may see it manifest in the second season outside of the ability to switch them off at will. The off switch, however, has to be used with excessive force to be activated, meaning humans may have to battle them somewhere down the road.
But if war breaks out with the aliens again, the Biomen may put back into action, giving a new analogy to what soldiers have to face and the emotional aftermath of the battlefield.