The science fiction genre has its own, weird little niche in the television world. Despite the increasing mainstream success of Game of Thrones, which, let us be clear, falls under the purview of “fantasy,” shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica remain stimuli for scoffs and sneers by
losers with no taste average persons. “It’s cheesy!” they’ll say, or “It just doesn’t make any sense,” they’ll say, decrying a particular show’s sorry special effects or stilted acting. These are understandable reasons for avoiding science fiction TV. But stay with me here. I think I might start actually saying something.
Setting the Sci-Fi Stage
Because of its very nature, sci-fi needs the support of big bucks, and this is especially hard in the world of television, where networks simply can’t be sure if the show that they are investing in will be a success or not. Even fans of the genre might find it impossible to watch a show with low-budget special effects, because they’ve been spoiled by the master-class of some (read it–SOME) Hollywood productions, such as Prometheus. <–Not the best film, however it is visually outstanding.
But, I’m getting away from my point, and that point is this: science fiction television is in a decrepit state. It’s just . . . not good. But Philip! You insipid pos! You gorramn talentless loser! Go frak yourself! (stoppit, we’re not doing this right now–oh, okay). But in all seriousness: how can I straight-up claim that science fiction television is bad? Well, because it kinda is.
And I know: this is the point where I lose all you fans of Falling Skies, Defiance, Helix, Eureka, Haven, etc. I’m not disparaging these shows. They’re all great in their own way (except *cough* Falling Skies *cough*). And they all have something in common: these shows all take place on Earth. They are science fiction shows–I’m not challenging that–but right here, right now, when I say these two words, in this particular order, SCIENCE FICTION; I am referring to the space opera, the galaxy-sprawling, planet-hopping adventure that takes its cast–and its viewers–between stars. When I think “sci-fi,” this is what I’m looking for. That said, I don’t wanna discredit shows like Orphan Black (of which I am an avid fan), which use fictional science for mainly dramatic purposes in strictly Earthly settings. That’s fine. Great, even. They’re telling the story they want to tell.
But there was a time that science fiction meant Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and Firefly. A tight-knit group of space adventurers, discovering a hopeful, threatening universe where anything is possible. That’s the kind of science fiction that is missing from today’s television line-up. That is the void that Killjoys is welcome to stay for as long as it can.
What Is Killjoys?
Killjoys is a Canadian production created by Michelle Lovretta that airs on the Space Channel, and on Syfy in the United States. It’s part of Syfy’s push to return to its roots of . . . well, anything that’s not Ghosthunters. So what is Killjoys? Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s the lack of other shows like it that even spurs me to watch it. But whatever the reason, I find myself waiting every week for the new episode.
Killjoys takes place in a section of the universe called “the Quad,” a dwarf planet called Qresh, and its three moons, Westerley, Leith, and Arkyn. The Quad is the setting of intricate caste politics, and is run by the Nine, dynastic leaders who live in luxury on Qresh. The moons’ populations aren’t happy that they have to live in squalor, relative to those on Qresh. For example, Westerley’s central hub of Old Town suffers the occasional acid rain storm caused by the Nine’s ostentations in other parts of the moon.
For more info about the world of Killjoys, check out this page on the official Syfy website.
Our “Quad” of Heroes
The main characters, eponymous killjoys Dutch, Johnny, and D’avin, work for the Reclamation and Apprehension Agency (or, “the Rack” for short), a neutral organization that both sides of the Quad’s central conflict employ to carry out “warrants.” Basically, killjoys (slang for Reclamation agents) are bounty hunters, but they’re more respected than the average bounty hunter in other sci-fi universes, and actually, most of them don’t set out to kill people–although higher-ranking killjoys can take assassination contracts.
Dutch, their leader and overall badass, is running from her past and weird, over-attached father(?).
Johnny Jaqobis is the crew’s engineer/jack-all-trades:
D’avin Jaqobis, Johnny’s brother, is a soldier with more than a little PTSD going on in his head.
So who’s the fourth crew member? The ship of course!
Lucy is the non-human component of this quad-within-a-quad, and her favoritism towards Johnny is used deftly as comedic relief.
There’s also a slew of great supporting characters: Pree, the sarcastic bartender; Pawter, a black market-type doctor, and Alvis, a more-than-he-seems priest with a penchant for espionage.
Moments of Greatness
If some critics of the show think that Killjoys isn’t good on a macro-level, fair enough. But it’s hard to deny that the show has it’s pieces of truly great moments. My favorite, for example, is when
in the latest episode (Season 1, Episode 8, “Come the Rain”), the conflict of the episode is solved by Johnny shooting three men in the head without so much as a flinch. Sure, the guys he shot were holding the people in the bar hostage, but Johnny was looking for a way to fix everything without any further bloodshed. When he sees no other out, he takes their lives. But this isn’t that “great moment” I want to point out. That comes just a few scenes later, when Johnny and Dutch are lying on Johnny’s bed, on their stomachs, feet in the air like children, reading a comic book. This comes very soon after Johnny’s stone-faced shooting. Both of them are killers now, but here, in this scene, they just look like kids.
And that’s the beauty of sci-fi right there. That it can ask questions like this: what will the world of the future be like? What kind of people populate a universe where there is a respected profession for killing, and how do those people live with themselves? Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but maybe there’s another layer to the word “killjoy.” Not only are they called this because they “kill for joy” (joy is this universe’s word for money–read into THAT as much as you will), but because they are killing their joy, their emotion, their morality.
IDK IDK IDK
Because it’s on a network television channel’s budget, Killjoys frequently uses lighting and different colors to give the audience a sense of otherworldly-ness. Westerley’s Old Town is draped in drowsy blue hues, while the neighboring Barrens is basically taken straight from the video game Borderlands, but, well, more barren. What brief glimpses we see of Qresh are bright, daytime shots, free of filters and unequivocally paradise-like.
At times, the lighting and color techniques seem a little tacky, as if they’re trying too hard, but it’s hard to blame the crew, knowing what they’re working with. That said, I rarely find the cinematography distracting, and it’s done well enough to be appropriately weird, fittingly sci-fi.
So! Is any of this convincing you to watch the show? Or does it all sound like sci-fi trope derivative? Either way, I urge you to give Killjoys a try. Watch at least two episodes, because while the pilot isn’t weak, the show does take a bit of time to gear up.
I mentioned earlier that Killjoys–so far–is not a perfect show (if even there is such a thing). The dialogue can be at times silly, and its episode-to-episode plotlines even more so, but Killjoys accomplishes things that its predecessors, shows like Battlestar, Stargate, and Firefly, did amazingly well: cast chemistry. Killjoys is not yet at the level of these shows, but could one day be, given the chance (RENEW PLEASE). It doesn’t yet have the dramatic intensity of Battlestar Galactica, or the deep mythology of Stargate, or the snap of Firefly‘s wit. Maybe it never will. But Killjoys has a pulpy, comic adventure feel all its own, and with time, I think it could become something truly special.
Killjoys wraps up its pilot season on August 21.