First look at “Defying Gravity,” a “‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in space”


I’ve been a fan of women in space movies ever since I watched Kate Capshaw and Lea Thompson in Space Camp as a kid. Although I’ve never gotten into the Star Trek or Star Wars franchises too much, because they rarely give women leadership roles — except for Star Trek: Voyager, which I’ve seen all seven seasons of — and I’ve only watched some of the Battlestar Galactica episodes, I enjoyed Jodie Foster‘s Contact (at least the first half), and Lori and I both loved the 2002 Showtime series Odyssey Five.

So I was excited to hear about the new space drama coming to America (and Canada, Germany, and the U.K.).

Last week, ABC purchased 13 episodes of the new Canadian sci-fi drama Defying Gravity, which has this description, “In the near future, eight astronauts from five countries (four women and four men) undertake a mysterious six-year international space mission covering thirteen billion kilometers.”

The series stars Ron Livingston (Office Space), Laura Harris (Dead Like Me), Christina Cox (Blood Ties), Malik Yoba (New York Undercover) German actress Florentine Lahme (ABC miniseries Impact), Paula Garces (The Shield, Guiding Light), Eyal Podell (Behind Enemy Lines), and Dylan Taylor (House Party).

Defying Gravity launches on ABC and CTV in Canada on August 2 with a two-hour premiere, and then will air on Sundays at 10pm. All 13 episodes have already been shot, and the series will also air on Canada’s CTV, Germany’s ProSieben and the BBC in the U.K.

Described by one exec as “Grey’s Anatomy in space” (not sure how I feel about that), the series revolves as much around the relationships among the crew — who are living in very close quarters for a long period of time — as it does things like wormholes, mechanical problems, and unexplained happenings.

Or as the same exec put it, it’s a show with “a sci-fi premise but told in a female-friendly way.” And by “female-friendly” he apparently means less of that tricky science stuff, and more talking about your feelings, but I’m going to pretend he didn’t say that so I can enjoy the show.

Here’s how CTV describes the two-hour premiere:

In the two-hour series premiere (Sunday, August 2 at 9 p.m. ET), two of the eight novice astronauts onboard mysteriously develop heart ailments only hours after leaving Earth’s orbit for Venus and a six-year inter-planetary sojourn aboard the spaceship Antares. Replacing the ill engineer, Ajay Sharma (Zahf Paroo) and Mission Commander Rollie Crane (Ty Olsson), are experienced astronauts Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston) and Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba). Donner’s arrival disturbs the ship’s geologist Zoe Barnes (Canadian Laura Harris), who is linked to him by a strange dream and a romantic encounter from their early training days.

Although nearly every facet of life on the Antares is broadcast to avid viewers on Earth by documentary producer Paula Morales (Paula Garces), there is also a hidden force that appears to be controlling events from within the spacecraft. With the real purpose of the mission known only to flight director Mike Goss (Andrew Airlie) and a select few, the Antares finally leaves Earth’s orbit for the immensity of interstellar space.

In the second hour, some rocky and intriguing developments confront the crew as they learn to adjust to life on board the Antares, now well on its way to Venus. In spite of the libido-suppressing HALOS supposedly worn by everyone on board, pilot Nadia Schilling (Florentine Lahme) continues her seductive designs on Donner. Zoe still hears strange cries, seemingly coming from Storage Pod 4 — which is off limits to most of the crew. After Ted, now spaceship commander, is briefed by his wife, scientist Eve Shaw (Karen LeBlanc), about the true nature of the mission, he enters Pod 4 and is confronted by a frightening maelstrom.

Meanwhile, back at Mission Control, Commander Goss holds a press conference, ostensibly to explain the abrupt removal of Ajay and Rollie from the Antares. Skeptical British reporter Trevor Williams (Peter Howitt) is determined to discover the truth.

ABC just rolled out a shiny new promo for Defying Gravity that plays up the relationships-in-tight-quarters angle:


Silly exec spin aside, I’m digging the premise and the cast so far. Christina Cox rocked in Blood Ties, Nikki & Nora, and 3Way‘s show-within-a-show LadyCops. I’ve been a fan of Ron Livingston since Office Space and Standoff; Laura Harris was great in Women’s Murder Club; and who didn’t love Malik Yoba as Ice the Bounty Hunter in Arrested Development? (He was also good in Why Did I Get Married?)

When we first reported on this series in a January edition of Ask, Christina gave us this description of her character:

I’m playing Jen, the mission biologist, on a long (5+yrs) multi-stop interplanetary research trip. There are 8 astronauts, 4 men and 4 women selected for the mission. The show will follow us from the selection process all the way through our journey in space, the struggles, friendships, relationships etc. There is also the mission control team in constant contact with us, monitoring us from earth.

So, each episode will tell each of the characters story both through the present (the ship) and via their past experiences leading up to the launch and what might happen when you put 8 people in deep space for 6 yrs.

Christina’s character is straight, and so are all the rest of the characters as far as I can tell. But six years alone in a small space, a few late nights, a few drinking games in a gravity-free environment — I’m thinking anything could happen, right?

Are you planning to watch?