This comes courtesy of The Drex Files.
This comes courtesy of The Drex Files.
I was lucky enough to get a seat at the Virtuality screening last night. How did I get in, you ask? I went cleverly disguised as Sienna Guillory. I have to say I played the role with grace and dignity. Anyway, first thoughts… W.O.W. The show is fantastic. And by the time it’s over, it’s even more fantastic because you realize how many directions it could go in. Luckily, there’s only one more day until everyone can see it for themselves.
I’ll try and have a longer write up later, along with our interview with Kerry Bishe. Lots to catch up on…
Congratulations you sly fox. Mr. Ron Moore, leader of men, you’ve done it again. After having read the script for Virtuality’s pilot episode, I’m having a hard time imagining how FOX could say no to it, because this might be one of the most original ideas we’ve seen in a long time.
There’s a lot we know already, so a thousand pardons as I retread some old ground. Virtuality is set aboard Earth’s first starship, the Phaeton. If everything goes according to plan (lol), in five years the Phaeton will reach the star Eridani, ten and a half light-years from Earth. We aren’t told what exactly the crew will do once they get there, but I’d say the safe bet is some sort of extra-solar colonization attempt. In typical Moore fashion, we’re not given a lot of background info, but it’s hinted at that Earth isn’t exactly an ecological paradise. You know, like she is today.
So the Phaeton, on it’s way out of the solar system, has just reached Neptune, and the go/no-go point in it’s mission. A no-go will turn the ship around and send it back to Earth, but a go will sling-shot them around Neptune and toward Eridani. Before the go order can be handed down, we learn that Eyal Meyer, the ship’s doctor, has just diagnosed himself with Parkinson’s Disease and it’s entirely possible he won’t make it the entire trip.
Ten years is a long time, and so the crew won’t go stir crazy and kill each other, the Phaeton has been outfitted with virtual reality “modules”. Crew members can create their own virtual environments and let loose when the stresses of long-term space travel get to be too much. The thing is, there’s a glitch in the system. A nameless man with green eyes is turning up in the crew’s simulations and killing them. Unlike The Matrix, being killed in the system won’t kill you in real life, and at first the glitch is ignored, that is until the green-eyed man attacks and rapes Billie Kashmiri, the Phaeton’s resident computer specialist. After the attack, Captain Frank Pike orders the virtual modules to be taken offline until they can be repaired, which of course pisses everyone else off.
Such drama, amirite? Well go buy a hat and get ready to hold the f*** onto it, because it doesn’t end there. A mission as ambitious as the Phaeton’s has to cost a huge amount of money. Back on Earth, we find that a huge corporation known as the Consortium is co-financing the Phaeton mission. In exchange, the ship and her crew have been turned into one giant reality television show. Cameras, a confessional room, it’s just like The Real World in space, except without all the alcohol and sex (well maybe a little sex). Directing and executive-producing the show is Roger Fallon, who also happens to be the Phaeton’s therapist. Of course, this conflict of interest puts him at odds with Captain Pike, and if that didn’t, Pike’s affair with Fallon’s wife sure would.
Obviously, in light of all this, the crew decides to go forward with the mission. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have much of a TV series, would you? I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say this. The show is going to set up a situation, and then pull the rug out from under you in the last fifteen minutes. It all ends on a big cliffhanger that really changes the game.
One thing I do know, Virtuality is going to be a moody show. Battlestar Galactica already kind of has a monopoly on characters who spend most of their time frowning, but I think this is set to take things one step further. You see it already in how the characters interact with each other. The Captain’s having an affair with the therapist’s wife. The therapist has to worry about the crew’s psychological well-being and at the same time make sure the reality show is dramatic enough. There’s a married couple, a homosexual couple, and after six months in space, the bickering is already starting to set in. I mean, I get off an hour long flight from Austin to Dallas looking for someone to kill, so I can only imagine being crammed inside a metal tube with eleven other people for ten years. The show can go in so many different directions and I’m really excited to see what Moore does with it.
With BSG (and I’m sure Caprica and Virtuality will follow) redefining typical science fiction conventions left and right, I’ve always wondered if Moore could do what he’s doing without his time writing for Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an “I’m okay, you’re okay,” futuristic utopia has taken it’s share of criticism. And I think a lot of the show’s writers may have felt boxed in by that universe’s conventions. With Battlestar, it felt like Moore was spitting in the face of every single one of them. It’s paid off beautifully, as BSG is one of best show’s on television today, and it’s proved that there’s more than one way to do good science fiction. Just something to think about.
I do wonder if Virtuality will be as heavily serialized as Battlestar Galactica is. A big network like FOX might want the writers to do more stand-alone episodes, to keep a steady stream of new viewers coming in during the show’s run. Moore might oblige them, or bring down the pimp cane and say, “I got Bob Dylan in space and made it awesome,” while the FOX execs bow down and leave him alone. I love the serialized stuff, so he can bring as much of that on as he’d like. I’ll watch every episode.
With season 4.5 of Battlestar Galactica not bowing until January, the possibility that Caprica will be held-off until the Spring, and Virtuality set as a mid-season replacement, it’s going to be a long six months. But judging from the script, and Ron Moore’s long track record of slapping us upside the head with great storytelling, it’ll be well worth it, and I don’t think fans will be disappointed.
The Futon Critic has posted a lengthy review of the pilot script for Ron Moore’s Virtuality, or more accurately, Michael Taylor’s script based off a story he developed with Ron Moore. From how things are looking, it’s hard not to get really excited about this. Ron Moore (with the help of the folks at BSG) has already broken so many barriers when it comes to science fiction, and I really can’t wait to see where he takes his new show. It’ll be interesting to see what he can get away with on a network television station. If you haven’t read the article, get over there and take a look.
The pilot begins filming this month, even though no annoucements have been made as to who will be running the show. Ron Moore will be speaking at a couple of panels at next week’s Comic Con, so we’re sure to hear more then.