How Syfy Will Bring Science Fiction Back to Television

Is Syfy getting back to its science fiction roots? Last night the channel debuted their new slate of original scripted programming for their yearly upfront presentation.

What they promised was a surprising break from their current line-up of magical dramas and charmed artifact programming. Instead, we were teased with potential shows about time travel, lunar colonies, warring alien species, and a show about superhero showboat Booster Gold. If everything goes as planned, the next few years could be very good indeed for science fiction television. Here's a rundown of each new show, some concept art, and descriptions of everything else we saw.

NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

Defiance

The biggest push of the evening was the new multi-platform launch of Defiance, which is tied to an MMO created by Trion. Last night, Syfy showed off a gaggle of new concept art for this "immigrant drama." Set on a future Earth after a horrible alien war, this series takes place in "new" St. Louis (old St. Louis was destroyed, so it was rebuilt, arch and all). The look is hard Space Western — think Blade Runner, but with dirt roads. The series will follow the people of new St. Louis adjusting to their war-torn world. Meanwhile, in future San Francisco (pictured above), the MMO will be running. Both the series and the game will impact each other. If something is blown up on the show, it will change in the game, and vice versa.

We spoke briefly with actor Tony Curran, who plays the alien Datak Tarr. He shared a bit of history behind Defiance:

There is a war called the "Pale Wars." This is where the humans and the aliens start fighting each other. There's an event that happens that triggers the war, and basically after nine year of this war, there's an instance where the humans and the aliens join together to save some individuals. That is the moment of defiance against the whole war. They're saying enough is enough, it's time to live in peace and unite. We're Castithan. I'm Datak Tarr and [Jaime Murray] is my wife Stahma Tarr and we have a son Alec Tarr. We have a beautiful language — the gentleman who worked on Game of Thrones helped develop our language. It gives it a nice depth. We look human, we've got human features but...

The eternal "but." And here's the official Defiance synopsis from Syfy:

Defiance is in collaboration with Trion Worlds, with the Syfy series and Trion's multi-platform shooter MMO poised to debut simultaneously. The series stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Fionnula Flanagan, Mia Kirshner and Oscar-nominee Graham Greene. Set in the near future, Defiance introduces a completely transformed planet Earth, inhabited by the survivors of a universal war. Forced to co-habitate, the disparate group struggles to build a new society among the devastation. The dramatic tapestry of the series and the intense action of the game will exist in a single universe where their respective narratives will inform one another and evolve together into one overall story. Defiance is directed by Scott Stewart (Legion, Priest) and written/executive produced by Rockne O'Bannon (Farscape), Kevin Murphy (Desperate Housewives, Caprica, Hellcats) and Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica). Kevin Murphy serves as showrunner. Defiance is produced by Universal Cable Productions.

A tiny concept trailer was screened of actor Grant Bowler (Cooter from True Blood) stuck in a ray gun stand-off, which ends with someone shooting what can only be described as Sauron mixed with a Transformer. It was clearly just a fun thing to show the audience, so we're not going to judge it that much. But I will say that Bowler is channeling the Western accent hard for his character, Chief Lawkeeper Jeb Nolan. Syfy hopes to launch the new series in 2013, but seeing as how the show just started filming a few weeks ago — and this is just a gigantic undertaking — that may be a rosy estimate.

SCRIPTED DEVELOPMENT/DRAMAS

Rewind

The only other new scripted series we saw actual "footage" from was the concept trailer for the drama Rewind. This time-traveling anti-terrorist series sends a military elite team back to the past, to stop a crisis before it happens.

What's this horrible event? Well, the concept trailer started off with what looked like a completely burned down New York City style setting, and then slowly rewound the footage to reveal a nuclear weapon exploding in the city center. So yes, that's bad. Check out the official synopsis — there are some heavy hitters behind this show, including Jack Bender as the pilot director. It also stars the Oscar-nominated actress from Whale Rider Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Rewind revolves around a team of military field operatives and civilian scientists who must use untested technology to travel back in time to alter events and change the future — and avoid a devastating terrorist attack. Shane McRae stars as Sean Knox, ex-Special Forces who ranks as a field operative in a special division of the Department of Homeland Security. The pilot also stars Jennifer Ferrin, Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Robbie Jones and Keon Mohajeri, and is currently in production in Toronto. Jack Bender (Lost, Alphas) is directing the pilot, written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), who will also executive produce with Tom Spezialy, Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein. A production of BermanBraun and Universal Cable Productions.

Defender

Robert Hewitt Wolfe's untitled series finally has a name! Defender! Between Defiance and Defender, that's a lot of D's. But who cares about the name — it's Robert Hewitt Wolfe of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Andromeda fame. And this space opera storyline sounds excellent. Fingers crossed this show makes it on to the little screen. The only deflating thing about this show's potential was hardly anyone I talked to last night was familiar with Defender or its progress. It's still early, so we're remaining cautiously optimistic.

Here's the synopsis:

In the aftermath of an intergalactic war between humans and transhumans, the starship Defender, populated by a combustible mix of former enemies, is sent on a seemingly simple goodwill mission, which turns into a fight for their lives and for the safety of the Universe at large. Executive producer/writer: Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Alphas). A production of Universal Cable Productions.

And here's a collection of brand-new show descriptions straight from the Syfy press release. Sadly, none of these were discussed at the upfronts, so take that as you will. Nonethless, our hopes for future of actual science fiction program on the Syfy channel has been raised. Which show are you most excited about?

The Adjustment Bureau

In this drama, based on the hit movie starring Matt Damon, guardian angel-type agents work to keep the world according to The Plan. They create everything from plane crashes to coffee spills in order to steer people to realize their true destiny. But there is one thing the operatives and their Chairman can't control — free will. Writers: Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer (Melrose Place, Smallville). Executive producers: George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau, The Bourne Ultimatum), MRC, Slavkin and Swimmer. A production of Universal Cable Productions.

High Moon

Based on the novel, The Lotus Caves, by John Christopher, this imaginative, out-of-this-world series explores a world where the countries of Earth have established colonies to mine the Moon's resources. When a new life form is discovered, chaos erupts as various factions race to uncover its powerful secrets. Executive producer: Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies). Co-executive producer: Jim Danger Gray (Pushing Daisies). Writers: Bryan Fuller and Jim Danger Gray. Executive producer: Granat Entertainment. A production of Universal Cable Productions.

Untitled Booster Gold Project

Based on the best-selling DC Entertainment Comic, this is the story of a washed-up athlete from the future who travels back to the present in hopes of becoming the greatest superhero of all time. But instead of chasing criminals, his main priority is chasing fame and money. Booster Gold discovers that being a hero takes more than just a megawatt smile. Writer: Andrew Kreisberg (Arrow, Warehouse 13). Executive producers: Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern, Arrow) and Andrew Kreisberg. Producers: Greg Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Horizon Television. The Booster Gold comic book series is published by DC Entertainment, which will also act as an executive producer.

Grave Sight

More sexy times from Charlaine Harris — now the ghosts are doing it!

From the best-selling author of True Blood, this Charlaine Harris book series follows Harper Connelly – a young woman with a unique gift. After being struck by lightning as a teenager, Harper can sense the location and last memories of dead people. She teams up with her protective stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, to help find a missing teenage girl — only to uncover a network of lies and murders throughout a small town in the Ozarks. Writer: Kam Miller (Law and Order: SVU). A production of Universal Cable Productions.

Seeing Things

Based on the comic Grey Legion from Platinum Studios, after a cop meets his violent demise, he returns as a ghost to close his last case. But the only person who can help him is a socially awkward man who is realizing for the first time that his hallucinations may not be all in his head. Writers: David Slack (Person of Interest, Lie To Me) and Gabrielle Stanton (Haven, The Vampire Diaries). Executive producers: David Slack, Robert Cort and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. A production of Fox Television Studios.

The Family

For generations, an alien family has hid amongst humans in plain sight using their advanced intellect to carve out a life for themselves as their family grew. But when the family patriarch that kept peace amongst the factions dies, a war begins to brew with some members believing the time has come to reveal themselves, and their superior power, to the inferior human race. Writer: Dan Harris (Superman Returns, X2). Executive producers: Neal Moritz (21 Jump Street, Total Recall), Mark Verheiden (Falling Skies, Battlestar Galactica). A production of Sony Pictures TV.

LONGFORM SCRIPTED DEVELOPMENT

Eyes Of The Dragon

Based on Stephen King's best-selling novel. A kingdom is in turmoil as the old king dies and his successor must battle for the throne. Pitted against an evil wizard and a would-be rival, Prince Peter makes a daring escape and rallies the forces of good to fight for what is rightfully his. Writers: Michael Taylor (Defiance, Battlestar Galactica) and Jeff Vintar (I, Robot). Executive producers: Michael Taylor and Bill Haber. A production of Universal Cable Productions and Ostar Productions.

Darkfall

When, without warning, modern forms of power and technology become a thing of the past, Los Angeles, and the world at large, becomes a place where magic rules and life as we know it is turned upside down. Writers: Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (Kung Fu Panda, Sleeper Cell). A production of The Jim Henson Company and Universal Cable Productions.

One Mile Straight Down

When a powerful earthquake hits California and opens up a chasm bigger than the Grand Canyon, it reveals an enormous hidden ocean lying deep beneath the earth's crust. Billionaire adventurer James Exeter works with the government to take an advanced nuclear submarine down to explore it and discovers more than he ever could have imagined. Writers: Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Naren Shankar (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and Deran Sarafian (CSI: NY). Executive producers: Skip Woods, Naren Shankar and Deran Sarafian. A production of Universal Cable Productions.