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Defiance (Syfy) - Series Premiere: Synopsis and Review

Updated on April 24, 2013

The new Sci-Fi series ‘Defiance’ premiered on April 15th on Syfy with a two-hour special. ‘Defiance’ revolves around Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler, ‘Ugly Betty’) and his surrogate daughter Irisa Nyira (Stephanie Leonidas, ‘Atlantis: End of a Worlds, Birth of a Legend’). Nolan was about ten years old when seven aliens races, collectively known as Votans, set foot on Earth. Even though the Votans did not intent to harm the human race, the humans were hostile and suspicious. Two decades later Nolan and his surrogate daughter, who is a Votan, try to survive in the harsh conditions on Earth.

In the two decades between the arrival of the Votans and present day a lot of things happened. I have made a summary of these events. Most of the events aren’t explained in detail yet, but just implied by the dialogue of the characters. Some of the events haven’t been mentioned at all in this episode, they were not essential to know yet. The summary of these prior vents will help understand the storyline of the present day.

The Votans arrived in 2013, when Nolan was about 10 years old. The Votans consist of seven different races: Casthithan, Indogene, Irathient, Liberata, Sensoth, Gulanee and Volge. They all lived on different planets in the same star system: the Votanis star system. When their star system was destroyed by a stellar collision, together they searched for a new place to live.

The Volges were intended to be left behind. All the other races disliked the Volges, they are covered in armor, have integrated weapons and are known as the villain race. The other Votans found Earth, but the humans were hostile and suspicious, even though the Votans came in peace. Only small colonies of Votans were allowed on Earth. The remaining Votans had to stay in the spaceships, also known as Arks, in a hypersleep.

Votans and humans have been negotiating to get all the Votans to live on Earth. After ten years of negotiations and tensions rising, the ambassador of the Votans is killed by a human, which erupts a war between Votans and humans, known as the Pale Wars. Seven long years of war follow when suddenly the apocalyptic Arkfall occurs. The fleet of Arks mysteriously explodes, killing millions of Votans still in their hypersleep.

Terraforming is the process of deliberately modifying a planet’s atmosphere, temperature, ecology or surface topography to make it habitable.

Whoever was behind the attack, the Arkfall caused some serious trouble for everyone. Many destroyed Arks rained down on Earth, releasing the terraformer technology of the Votans. The Votans intended to use the technology with caution, but now it released chaos on Earth, making it a dangerous place for both humans and Votans.


A few months after the Arkfall both parties were so exhausted they ceased fire. Votans and humans started working together to survive. However the Volges don’t want to live peacefully with the rest. They are still hostile to the humans and other Votan races. No wonder they were almost left behind in their old star system, if it wasn’t for someone who smuggled them in the Arks.

Now that you’re up to speed, lets talk about this episode. Nolan’s daughter Irisa is an Irathient. Nolan rescued Irisa when she was little. Together they are Ark hunters, they search Arks which fall from the Ark belt (the ring of destroyed Arks around Earth) for valuables. They just found a very valuable sphere which seems to be able to power machines. When Nolan and Irisa are about to leave they encounter a group of Irathient marauders. Nolan and Irisa are able to escape but have to leave most of their stuff behind. They flee into the woods where Nolan hides the sphere.

Nolan and Irisa are attacked by a strange species in the woods, but are rescued by the lawkeeper (sheriff) of the city Defiance. Among the residents of Defiance are two rich families, the McCawleys are human, the Tarrs are Castithan. Christie McCawley and Kupack Tarr are secretly in love, which leads to a conflict when the families find out. When the oldest son of the McCawley families is murdered everyone thinks Kupack did it. The lawkeeper was killed in a fight between the McCawleys and Tarrs. Since Nolan has experience in tracking people down, he is hired to discover who the real killer is. He find out it’s an Indogene who’s the mayor's assistant. He confesses he killed the guy to cover up a plot to use Volges to kill everyone in Defiance.

Nolan and Irisa leave Defiance, since the town has no chance to withstand an attack of Volges. After Nolan has recovered the valuable sphere from the woods he changes his mind and wants to head back to Defiance. The sphere could help save the town. Irisa thinks it’s a bad idea, she wants to put as much distance between her and Defiance as possible. Nolan decides to go back to Defiance with the sphere on his own.

A big fight follows when the Volges arrive. Irisa comes back with the Irathient marauders to help defeat the Volges. Meanwhile the sphere activates a bomb, but there is some sort of process that has to be completed before the bomb goes off. When the bomb explodes everyone is to take cover, otherwise they will be killed. The process takes a while to complete, but as the bomb goes off all the Volges are killed and Defiance is saved. The mayor of Defiance asks Nolan to be the new lawkeeper. Nolan reluctantly accepts the job.

In the cliffhanger of the episode the old mayor of Defiance and some guy talk about the failed attack on Defiance. They planned the attack because they want the town to be empty. There is something in hidden in the city and they want to find it, without anyone knowing.

It’s hard to keep up with all the unknown technology that ‘Defiance’ features. For example the sphere Nolan and Irisa found in the Ark has certain powers which haven’t really been explained. It somehow powers up some weapon, and to actually make the bomb go off something which looks like a puzzle must be solved. Why or how this worked isn’t explained, but there are several shots of the process, as if we should know what he’s doing. This frustrates me because I feel like I’m missing a vital piece of information.

I feel the same about the events prior to the present day in the series. I would have liked to know a little bit more of the events before the story started. Everything that happened in this period led to how Earth looks right now. Knowing what happened then will make it easier to understand why things are happening now. Along with this I’d like to learn more about the individual races, their specialities and relationships among them.

It was a bold move to put a big battle in the first episode. Usually a battle like this is the climax of a season. There is a good reason for this, after several episode viewers get attached to certain characters. When a war is about to start the viewers want to see how it ends because they don’t want their favorite characters to die. But in ‘Defiance’ the battle happened so soon, I had no time to really get attached. I couldn’t care less if one of the main characters died.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really liked the show. Maybe I just like it because there are very few true Science Fiction series on TV lately. ‘Defiance’ simply doesn’t have much competition. Apart from that, the CGI (computer-generated imagery) looked good, considering the probably tight budget. The art department did a good job as well on most of the Votans. I found the Indogene to be especially convincing. However, the Sensoth were wearing something that looked like bad bigfoot costumes.

The storyline makes you wonder what will happen next. I haven’t talked about the relationship between Christie McCawley and Kupack Tarr in detail, because it didn’t play a big role in the overall storyline of the show yet. However, this storyline is sure to get more attention in coming episodes. I’m excited to see where the show will go from here on out. The most important question on my mind right now: What does the former mayor think to find in Defiance?

What do you think of 'Defiance'?

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    • Robin Oatley profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Oatley 

      5 years ago

      Hi LA Elsen,

      There were a few moments the dialogue was difficult to hear. I had to really concentrate because there was a lot going on in the scene. I think if you're in a quiet room it shouldn't be a problem, though. I think this show will be worth your while, so maybe you should rewatch it alone sometime.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • LA Elsen profile image

      LA Elsen 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for writing such a well detailed review. Honestly I wanted to get into this series, but the first episode aired when I put my kids down and then I have a 50/50 chance of watching the full episode. When I did sit down, I came in when the sheriff was giving Nolan his walking papers. I had a hard time hearing all the dialogue. I felt like some of the sound effects were over-bearing. I am going to try and re watch it alone sometime. It looks promising. Thanks to your hub I know what is going on.


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