Find science fiction on TV too complicated? Well, then welcome to 'Defiance', which threw a lot of stuff at us in its first year. They didn't explain half of it, so thank goodness for the Internet, which it seems like a lot of writers use to tell backstory instead of putting it on screen.
But hey, it's been renewed for a second season, and the second season premiere is tonight (Thursday, June 19). But that was about 39 weeks ago. So why sit through one of the dozen SyFy marathon showings when you can just read here and bring yourself up to speed.
If you haven't seen the show and want to know whether you should watch it... well, you should. It's pretty darn good, and is from the guy who brought you 'Farscape'. And 'Cult', but we'll try to forget that one. But you'll probably want this handy-dandy primer to what happened, and who is who.
So to begin. It's the year 2046, and an alien conglomeration of six Votan species traveled to Earth in big arcs when their home sun went nova. That was 5,000 years ago, so they spent most of the travel time in hypersleep. They didn't think Earth was inhabited when they set out, but 5,000 years later, humanity has risen up. In 2013 the Votans arrived and Earth people weren't thrilled to open up the planet to millions of aliens.
Despite that, both sides almost managed to negotiate a treaty when the arks blew up. The Votans thought Earthlings were responsible and attacked. While the two sides fought it out in the Pale Wars, the arks fell to Earth and the terraforming machinery inside of them started transforming Earth.
Eventually, the two sides fought themselves into exhaustion over a ruined planet and negotiated a peace. The town of Defiance, built on the ruins of St. Louis, is where the two sides have decided to work together peacefully and build a new city. The Votans control large parts of Central and South America, and the "Earth Republic" controls the NE United States. The rest of the U.S. is a series of badlands filled with mutated plants, hostile animals, and arkfall storms. The terraformers that remain jam radio transmissions and the storms make air flight impossible.
So Defiance is a town on the edges of the badlands. Human and Votan work together, but they're not very comfortable with each other. And the Votan sub-species aren't necessarily very comfortable with each other, since they all hopped into the arks from their separate worlds.
In charge of Defiance until recently is Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz). She was relatively new to the position, and voted out at the end of the first season. Her sister, Kenya (Mia Kirshner) runs the town's major brothel. Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) owns the largest mine in the region. His daughter has married into Datak Tarr's family.
Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a Castithan, is a major Votan business and criminal type, and managed to get himself elected mayor. His wife Stahma (Jamie Murray), secretly maneuvers to put and keep him power. She poisoned Kenya, her lover, at the end of season one and Kenya may or may not still be alive.
A war veteran, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), found himself in Defiance with his adopted daughter, an Irathient named Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). After helping defend the town from an invasion, Nolan has stayed on as a Lawkeeper, the head law enforcement officer.
The Earth Republic, or E-Rep, has been trying to get control of Defiance, expand their sphere of influence, and gain control of the mines. They secretly backed Datak when he ran for mayor against Amanda. However, when Datak discovered he would be a figurehead, he rebelled and killed their military representative, becoming a wanted criminal. E-Rep invaded Defiance and now controls the place through force of arms.
Oh, the mines. There's a Votan ship with a weapon system that they sent ahead to Earth three thousand years ago. It's buried in the mines and E-Rep knows about it. The key to unlocking it is a cybernetic system that ended up in Irisa, and a secret religion has spread up around her. They believe Irisa to be the Devouring Mother, which is the kind of name that never bodes well for anyone. At the end of last season, Irisa jumped into the pit holding the ship.
Got all that? Good. Now let's do a brief refresher on the Votan races.
Castithan: Pale skinned, value honor and social position highly, expert knife fighters. Imagine the... flexible honor of Klingons, and you've got a Castithan. They like taking lots of baths. They tended to rule a lot of the civilized areas of the Votan system and consider themselves nobility. Best known members: Datak, Stahma, their son Alak who is married to human Rafe's daughter.
Irathient: They come from the planet Irath, and didn't have much to do with the Castithans. The Irathients are tribal in nature and live close to the land. Imagine the physical aspects of Klingons, and you've got an Irathient. They have a bad reputation because they tend to carry communicable diseases. Best known members: Irisa.
Indogene: These bald white-skinned aliens augment their bodies with cybernetics and are arguably the most educated of the Votan races. They serve as scientists and doctors. Best known members: Dr. Yewll, the chief physician for Defiance.
Liberta: A short vaguely dwarf-like race, they often work as servants.
Sensoth: A large hairy race of beings, often used for physical labor and bodyguard duties. Despite their ferocious appearance, they're typically very easygoing.
Gulanes: A race of energy beings, they lived by themselves on their own planet. Only a few came to Earth in the arks, stowing away, and almost no one has seen them.
Volge: Not a Votan race per se, but they conquered one of the planets in the Votan system. The Votans thought they had left them behind to die in the nova. However, the Volge have since shown up on Earth and tried to invade Defiance early on.
Oh, and there's a MMORPG. It's free to play now, and is supposedly tied in to the TV series.
So as we begin, some time has passed. Nolan is searching the badlands for Irisa, unaware that she dived into the mines. E-Rep controls Defiance. Kenya may be dead. The E-Rep soldiers had just captured Datak and Stahma. Amanda and Rafe were preparing to lead an uprising against the E-Rep soldiers.
Ready, set... go!