Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
This short-lived 2009 TV series followed the crew of the spaceship Antares on their mission to explore our solar system. The story unfolds by interspersing flashbacks to the astronauts’ training period with the actual live mission as they leave Earth for their first destination, Venus. Their time in space is filmed as part of a reality show that is beamed back to Earth so that planet-bound audiences can follow their progress. But a series of mishaps besets the crew which leads to the revelation of a mysterious presence known as “Beta” on board the ship which is affecting the behavior of the crew members and may jeopardize their mission. And while some viewers quickly grew frustrated with this series because of the many soap opera subplots it worked into its stories, it still managed to deliver a well-made science fiction series and a realistic look at near future space travel as well as an interesting story arc that had just begun to hit its stride when it was cancelled. Defying Gravity was pitched to ABC by creator James D. Parriott (Voyagers!, Forever Knight) as “Grey’s Anatomy in space”, and perhaps that could have worked if the network had given it a chance. But ABC didn’t seem to really understand what they had on their hands (even though Parriott spelled it out to them quite succinctly) and ended up killing the show before it even had a chance. It bowed in late Summer–a time when viewership is typically low–with almost no promotion. Not surprisingly, the ratings results were poor and ABC yanked it from the schedule after only eight of its thirteen episodes had aired. It had barely built up an audience at that point, and I’m sure the few who did tune in were confused at first when the network billed the show’s eighth installment as its “season finale”. The series slowly started to build a reputation, though, especially once the full thirteen episode season was released on DVD. But by that time it was far too late for any fan attempt to save it, and we were left with a series that showed promise to develop into a decent space-based entry (even if it did go heavy on the soap opera elements at times) but which was killed by the very network that aired it. Interestingly enough, Ronald D. Moore’s pilot Virtuality had many similarities to Defying Gravity, but it was not picked up and given a burn-off airing on FOX two months earlier that same Summer (more on that one at this link).
Aired: ABC, 2009, 1 Season Totaling 13 Episodes (Only 8 Aired)
Starring: Ron Livingston, Malik Yoba, Paul Garces, Florentine Lahme, Andrew Airlie, Christina Cox
Created By: James D. Parriott
Buy Defying Gravity and Other Cancelled Space Shows on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com: