Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
Virtuality was a two hour TV movie written and produced by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar: Galactica) that follows the crew of a deep space mission headed to the Epsilon Eridani star system on a journey that will take ten years. Their day to day activities on the ship are recorded and transmitted back to Earth where viewers watch them on television, reality series-style (this helps with the funding of the mission). In addition, each crew member has a virtual reality module that they can use as an escape from the rigors of deep space travel (which is very long and dull). However, a glitch in the programming has led to several bad experiences in the virtual world, and the crew considers switching off the system for the duration of the mission. This glitch seems to extend beyond that, though, and ultimately leads to the death of one of the crew members which points toward a potentially subversive plot unfolding on the ship. While at first glance Virtuality seems to give us and odd mish-mash of elements—hard science fiction meets reality television meets the Star Trek holodecks meets murder mystery meets a conspiracy story arc—it ends up delivering a superior sci fi tale that had potential if it continued to an ongoing series. However, the pilot is very dense and takes a while to warm up to, so I can understand where the network executives might have been scared off by the property. FOX chose to pass on the pilot, though they did give it a burn-off run in the Summer of 2009. The wife of Erik Jensen who portrayed Dr. Jules Braun in the telefilm tried to rally fans to watch its one airing and contact the network in support of the show, but I don’t know how much activity that effort generated and FOX was not swayed to change its decision. And it’s quite a shame, because this could have delivered the engaging, hard science fiction epic that fans have been clamoring for, especially with BSG‘s Moore running it, and a pre-Game of Thrones Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gives an excellent performance as the ship’s captain. Fortunately, the pilot was released on DVD (and it’s currently at a very economical price), so it is available for viewing for those who missed it or would like to revisit it. It’s worth a look and similar in many aspects to the short-lived Defying Gravity that hit ABC’s schedule only two months after Virtuality aired (more on that one at this link).
Aired: FOX, 2009
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kerry Bishé, Joy Bryant, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ritchie Coster, James D’Arcy, Clea DuVall
Created By: Ronald D. Moore
Buy Virtuality and Other Cancelled Space Shows on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com: