What Could Have Been: Defying Gravity Season 2+

Defying Gravity Season 2Yet another show coming to us by special request, Defying Gravity was basically doomed from day 1 due to network mismanagement and a (frankly baffling) mix of genres that failed to find an audience. However, the show’s creator, James Parriott, had plotted out several seasons worth of material that would’ve been covered in subsequent seasons, and as is so often the case, what was coming was far more interesting than what we saw. The answers to Beta, Gamma, and the fates of these horrifically incompetent and immature characters were left hanging when the show was canceled. Here’s what I’ve found for Defying Gravity season 2 and beyond.

The basic outline for the show going forward would’ve remained the way it is as we saw it–a half to full season dedicated to reaching each planet and setting up the particular character and conflict that would have to be overcome. Season 1 saw Venus as the primary focus, with heavy emphasis on Zoe’s trials until it came to a head on the surface. So season 2, for example, would’ve focused more on Nadia along the way to Mercury. Mars, having already been established somewhat, would’ve gotten more focus than any of the other planets, with possibly up to 2 whole seasons centered around there. But more on that later. I’ll go through the plans on a roughly season-by-season basis, trying to put the pieces into position.

Season 2

  • Season 2 would’ve dealt with the travel to Mercury and Nadia, as I mentioned above. Science Break: because Mercury rotates on its axis incredibly slowly, a “day” on the planet can last years, so there’s basically always one side that’s being baked in the sun at extraordinary temperatures and one side that’s freezing during an equally long night. The only place where the temperature isn’t at an extreme is along the terminator–the line dividing day and night. This makes it a natural choice if you were going to attempt a landing on the planet,a s it’d give you the greatest possible time to perform whatever research you needed to do.
  • Nadia’s character arc, and what her hallucinations were showing her, dealt with the fact that she was actually born intersex, and only “assigned” female at age 11. Never mind that those kind of decisions are generally either made back at birth… but anyway, the man she’d been seeing in her hallucinations was the “man” she could have been had things gone differently. And as you may have guessed given the genetic changes taking place among the crew, Nadia would’ve slowly transitioned into being male as a result of this tampering. The writers tried to foreshadow this with things like her changing to the men’s team during the bet about the HALOs, but man. This has a lot of unfortunate implications–like the fact that she’s so sex-obsessed, put in combination with this revelation, makes it seem like the old ideas that “women can never truly enjoy sex” and “men never think about anything but sex” are in play and somehow makes the show misogynistic and misandrist at the same time. Parriott is even quoted as saying she was written as “a male character in a female body.” How cliche.
    • the purpose of including the bit about the “terminator” above is that it was supposed to parallel her “in-between”-ness and hence why she becomes the next focus. Subtle stuff.
  • At the end of season 1, the flashbacks show Zoe washing out of the program… so how did she end up on the mission? More flashbacks would’ve shown Arnel Poe, a fairly minor character in season 1, losing her leg in a training accident, forcing them to call Zoe back up onto the crew. Poe was the one responsible for pointing out the “black rock” in the faked landing footage on Venus to Trevor, and thus she’d have had a much larger role in season 2 in revealing the mission’s true purpose.
  • Rollie would’ve spent most of the season in jail, so very little from him. With no explanation, this would’ve led to Jen feeling more alone and abandoned than ever…
  • So Jen clings to the bunny, until it eventually starts causing problems aboard the ship and nearly causing disaster. To solve the problem, she’d have to kill the bunny.
  • Eve would’ve had the realization that her visions of the surface of Mars were not from the previous mission in the past, but instead, from the future…

Seasons 3 & 4

  • Season 3 sees the focus moving to Mars. This naturally focuses more on Ted and Donner, plus Eve and Rollie as well. Why?
  • …Because a resupply mission has been launched at season 2’s end, with the intent of rendezvousing with the Antares at Mars. This makes very little sense as is, but it’ll make even less sense with other information. The rendezvous mission would include Eve and Rollie on the crew, necessitating his release from jail. We already know Eve was undergoing the same genetic changes as the crew, but apparently so was Rollie…
  • With Rollie having been in jail so long, Jen would’ve grown closer to Ted, eventually culminating in an affair. You can understand now why Eve and Rollie need to go to Mars now–DRAMA. I’m starting to the Beta and the other fractal objects are stand-ins for the writers, contriving situations for maximum melodrama.
    • This is obviously another aspect of Jen’s abandonment issues, which is also given as the explanation for why she couldn’t see the objects.
  • More reveals about the state of the Earth at this point. Hopefully less stupid than “global warming evaporated the ocean around the barrier reef.” Suffice it to say, the Earth’s in a really bad spot.
  • The fate of the astronauts on the previous Mars mission would’ve also been revealed, with them having survived for weeks after the ship abandoned them there. It was even discussed at one point having them still be alive when the Antares arrived, The Martian style, however this seems unlikely. They also wanted Donner’s former lover Karen, who he left behind, to have been pregnant at the time, and sent messages back to Earth (which were deliberately ignored) as they struggled to survive. This show sure is obsessed with space pregnancy huh? At the very least, seeing her as a hallucination was on the table.
  • Two people would’ve died on Mars. Who? No idea; Wass seems like a likely choice because Parriott had no idea what to do with him. It would make space aboard the ship for Eve and Rollie to stay with the mission, so that’s something.
  • As the investigation of Trevor and Arnel progresses, Claire would also be drawn into it, horrified about the genetic changes. A larger conspiracy surrounding the fractals is unveiled: they’re being collected with the intent to destroy them, not to gather them and see what happens. The people in power are in favor of the status quo and don’t want it to change, hence launching a mission that costs hundreds of billions as the Earth is slowly withering away.
    • Now, this makes no god damn sense. The Gamma object on Venus was already all but unreachable, and only ended up recovered because Zoe was being driven crazy by it (at the risk of her life). These things posed no threat to the people in power. Worse still, the problem could’ve easily been solved by destroying Beta, the object from Earth, since collecting and gathering ALL the objects is the only way to actually change things. But that’s plot driven stupidity for you.
  • Anyway, even after this pointless resupply mission, they still don’t have enough fuel to complete their mission and get home. Thus, they’re forced to confront a point of no return again: to go back to Earth with what they’ve collected so far, or continue on with the mission and hope it works out for them. No points for guessing what happens there.

Season 5+

  • The mission continues on to gather all the fractals. Each one is tied to a particular crewmember’s struggle in some way. Jupiter, Saturn, etc.
  • Ajay will also join the “uncover the conspiracy” group and eventually even Goss would realize he’s being manipulated and lied to, urging them to continue on.
  • Donner and Zoe would hook up and she would get pregnant as a result (more space babies). The genetic tampering has somehow caused her to regrow her uterus from scratch, apparently. Also I guess all those horrific burns got healed. Eventually, their shared dream would come true–but the planet in the background is Pluto (which was still one at the time) and the sun? Not the sun. It’s the combined version of all the fractals, their “true form,” so to speak.
  • The objects’ assembly would cause a crazy series of flashes–all the pivotal moments of the show would flash by, changing, and other moments important to history would change, too. The series would end with the Antares returning, its mission complete. And a crew disembarks–made up of a totally different group of people. Reality has been rewritten, resulting in a better world (which naturally means none of our incompetent characters could be allowed in space). But… that also means none of the soap opera bullshit we just watched for 5 seasons meant anything. Those versions of the characters are dead, and while their struggle did eventually create this world, nothing changes that. Pretty lame ending, if you ask me, and I think it would have turned off that whole Grey’s Anatomy fanbase they’d been gunning for all along. At least sci-fi fans are accustomed to stupid endings.

That’s about it. It’s quite a lot of info, actually, and almost all of it came from two interviews conducted a year apart by Keith McDuffee on a now-closed site called Cliqueclack, so all thanks to him for doing the hard part; I just tried to reorganize the info into a clearer format. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the path this was going down, and the melodrama that I disliked about it wasn’t going anywhere. As a result, I don’t feel like Defying Gravity getting canceled was particularly tragic. It was a strange show that never stood a chance of succeeding, and so it’s no surprise that it didn’t. But if you liked it, I hope this gives the show a little closure for you.

Do you wish Defying Gravity had been renewed to continue down this path? Or is the prospect of a universal retcon enough to make you want to end it as it did? If there are any other shows you’d like me to research, leave a message in the comments, or send a tweet to @RetroPhaseShift. If you enjoy these and want to know when the next one’s out, you can also subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed here.

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  1. i am pretty shocked that this much story was already sketched out, and that the creator was willing to share the information with keith. the ending surprised me for sure. thanks for doing all that detective work.

    • In the linked articles, Parriott talks about meeting with other showrunners who didn’t even know what they’d be doing in 4 episodes, much less next season. He found that a rather disappointing approach to writing, and so made sure to have at least a 5 season road map for his show before it started. Regardless of how I might feel about the show itself, I’ve got to give the man props for taking his work seriously. It’s still a little uncommon for sci-fi shows to have a long plan going in, but most of the great shows, like Babylon 5, had well-plotted stories, with 5 seasons being a typical place to aim (the 100 episode syndication mark).

      • B5 is the pinnacle tv example for sure. but in other cases i figured if it didnt pan out, all the unused material could be saved and re-purposed in a future project by parriott rather than just give it all in interviews!

        a lot of comic books are the same way — if they are planned as a (long but) limited series from the start, the creator can ensure that the ending is as powerful as the beginning was while focusing on a great journey. see any image\vertigo work by jason aaron, brian k vaughan, neil gaiman, etc.

  2. Another medical show that was set in space is Mercy Point. I wonder if this one had more to it or not. It lasted one season.
    Great info on this very weird show.

    • Mercy Point is on the list for a future Primer article, but it’s almost impossible to find. Not on any streaming site, legal or otherwise, and I don’t think it was ever released on DVD. I’m very curious about it, but I can’t really review it until I find a way to watch it. :p