Home / Film / DVD Review: Defying Gravity – The Complete First Season

DVD Review: Defying Gravity – The Complete First Season

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Defying Gravity is a show that never really found an audience. ABC picked up the show a mere three weeks before the first episode aired, giving the network no time to market it properly. The network then pulled the plug on the show midway through the first season after only eight episodes aired. The show really began to assert itself as the season progressed, and it is unfortunate to see such a promising program be canceled prematurely. Thankfully, the option now exists for viewers to relive the first season in its entirety as it's now available on DVD, complete with the episodes that were not originally aired.

Defying Gravity takes place in the year 2052. Eight astronauts have been chosen to go on a six-year voyage through the galaxy in an unprecedented exploratory journey aboard the spaceship Antares. Don’t be put off by the very science fiction sounding premise, though—this show has a lot more to offer. The complex characters and relationships that make up this ensemble cast and the liberal use of flashbacks as narrative devices bring up appropriate comparisons to two other ABC staples: Grey’s Anatomy and Lost. Great use of the soundtrack also serves to enhance the emotional resonance of many key climactic scenes.

Ron Livingston (Office Space, Band of Brothers, Sex and the City) stars as Maddux Donner. Donner is a veteran astronaut who is haunted by a tragedy that occurred on a Mars mission from his past. Fans of Livingston will be pleased, as he gets to show off some range. From his unique comedic stylings to some dramatic moments, Livingston really owns the character. The rest of crew on the Antares are an international assortment of characters, each with interesting backgrounds. Laura Harris (Dead Like Me, The Faculty) plays Zoe Barnes. She is the ship’s geologist, and she serves as a romantic interest for Donner. Each crew member has secrets from their past that are slowly revealed as the show progresses.

The astronauts on board the Antares are unaware of the true nature of their mission. The cunning mission control flight director back on Earth knows more than he is letting on, and the crew of the Antares are subjected to hallucinations and odd physical effects due to some strange, confidential cargo on board their ship. This mystery serves as the primary storyline for most of the season, but viewers receive answers in the ninth episode.

The sets are really detailed, and the show often really looks as if it were shot aboard a huge spaceship. The set directors worked closely with NASA to create the most realistic possible layout for the ship, and they really did a fine job. The visual effects are good as well, as exterior shots of the Antares don’t look cheap or rushed.

For special features, this set doesn’t really offer that much. Twenty-nine  deleted scenes are included but are rather forgettable. There are two featurettes that feature interviews with the cast and crew about the making of the show that are nice but rather short. Some photo slide shows feature some really neat concept art and sketches of the various sets and spacesuits and different promotional material. These offer a lot of insight into the attention to detail that went into the show. A really honest, in-depth look at why the show failed on network TV would have been nice. I suppose having the five episodes that never aired is a bit of a gigantic special feature in itself.

This show is entertaining, but if you have commitment issues then you deserve fair warning. Though many mysteries are solved, several are left without answers and the show does not wrap up nice and neat upon its conclusion. Answers to some of the looming questions from Defying Gravity have been made public by the series creator James Parriott through interviews. This definitely helps alleviate some of the pain, but instead of wallowing in sadness that the show is no more, instead enjoy the 13 episodes that are available.

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About Daniel Terracina

  • Thanks for the positive review, however the show has not been officially canceled. Plus the entire season did air in Canada & the UK.
    Defying Gravity was the first series to use a new business model of being a multi-nationally production, which offsets the costs and risks. This could make it appealing to another network to picking it up.

  • An interview I read with James Parriott said that the Defying Gravity actors had been released and the sets had been destroyed.

  • Brian

    Thanks very much for shedding a little light on this sparkling but woefully mishandled show. This is a shining example of what happens when H’wood gets it right. So much so that even sci-fi hater’s would find little fault with it. The sci-fi background is secondary; indeed, this storyline could’ve taken place in almost any other setting. The Amazon DVD sales are astounding, considering almost no one saw the program in the US. The show also seems to have attracted quite a loyal and determined following on Facebook, which may account for some of that. ABC has NOT listed the show as cancelled and there is an expectation that the series will be shown to completion, perhaps during the summer replacement season. In any event, this was undoubtably one of the best shows of 2009 not to be seen, and would be worth a tidy little profit for the production company savvy enough to pick it up.

  • David

    completly agree with Brian this one of the best shows of 2009.

    It a shame ABC set out to sabotage it from the beginning, by taking so long to decide whether they would buy it or not.
    Apparently Syfy an a selection of other networks were all interested in the buying but ABC had first pick for some reason.
    Also the production model goes against what people like ABC actually, an I suspect that setout to discredit the model.
    It the only excuse I can come up with for the mishandeling of the show.

  • david waterman

    I found this show by accident one day and became completely addicted. What a story line. It’s not really about Space, but about the relationships that develop. I found myself totally engrossed in the interpersonal relationships of the characters. Yes, there was a little too much flashback, but overall, it was brilliantly done. The sets are remarkable.

    I would love to see this again. The DVD is awesome, but Blue-Ray would have been better. My one wish: I wish PBS or The Science Channel would pick this up. Commercial Television doesn’t deserve it. It’s just too good.

  • rad sugar rose

    my family and i bought and watched the whole season on dvd- while we’re so glad they made the dvd available, we’re sooo bummed there won’t be any more seasons. its an AMAZING show that got totally duped by network tv lameness. the story arc, acting, sets, special effects, pretty much everything were all spot on. what an awesome concept and such a fun show to watch! i wish and hope that it gets resurrected somehow!

  • Frannie

    Watched it from the beginning of the season. Sad if it is canceled. I purchased the DVD because I wanted to have a part of history. Great show and I will be keeping it with my Star Trek copies. Sci-fi rules