Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review Blog – Killjoys

On the recommendation of friend and fellow authory-type, Charles “The Great Devourer”Phipps, I decided to give Syfy's Canadian Space Adventure a go. Some slight spoilers may follow.
I'm not saying the marketing guys tried to copy Guardians of the Galaxy with the promos... but they totally did.
So the premise is that out there in space somewhere, humans are living on a system of planets called the quad. These planets (and their populations) are heavily segregated into traditional class roles. Some planets are basically just hard labour planets for mining and such, while others are veritable paradise where ruling aristocrats live. The Company (yes, very vague and ominous) seems to basically own everything and also employs pretty much anyone with anything approaching a job.

Separate from them all are the Killjoys. Killjoys are basically bounty hunters/security/delivery folk working for the RAC (Recovery and Apprehension Coalition). They accept warrants (regardless of the source) and send their agents to retrieve/apprehend/deliver/kill/whatever else needs doing, and get paid Joy (the fictional currency) in return.

The story focuses on three such Killjoys. Dutch, the sexy-ninja-femme-fatale-leader of the group. John Jaqobis, the charming-funny-genius engineer-heart of the group. And D'Avin Jacobi, the ex-solider-gun-loving-hardman-thug of the group. Together these three attempt to carry out their jobs and serve warrants, only to find themselves embroiled in a much larger plot which appears to threaten the entire quad.

Right then. Premise over, time to get to grip with a bit of reviewing.

There were some very interesting concepts hidden within the show (and I do mean hidden). One episode saw the crew board a deserted interrogation ship where a mad AI was continuously breaking people down and rebuilding them for information. What made this episode so interesting was actually the method of torture, using nanobots to cause physical pain and then repair the damage to do it all over again.

Another episode saw them all embroiled in a tale of political politics as they were hired to rescue a girl who was being used as a 'breeder' for one of the ruling families. That particular episode had a very by-the-numbers finale shoot-out with about a dozen things that made no sense, but the idea behind the episode was an interesting one, as was the political ambitions of the character who actual issued the crew their warrant.
This scene made NO sense. This girl sacrificed herself because they were out of bullets... Dutch does not look out of bullets.
Unfortunately, many of the episodes came down to a very basic set of premises. The crew are given a warrant to go to a place and do a thing, only to find out that not everything is not like it seems, and then they have to work within the rules of the warrant to save the day and ruffle as few a feathers as possible.

In the shows defence, it is new, it is an interesting, though not entirely original concept, and its future was uncertain from the get-go. It has a very standard Monster-of-the-Week formulae (honestly each episode contains at least 1 gun-fight and at least 1 sexy-time scene), with occasional hints at a bigger story, and individual character mysteries. It does what it can within the confines, and ends up being fun, but flawed.

For our characters we'll start with Dutch (played by Hannah John-Kamen). She's kicks a lot of ass and those scenes never seem like the actor is taxed doing it. She has a mysterious past, with bits hinted at here and there over the course of the series. She changes outfits and hairstyles a lot, as do most female leads in shows like this. She's perfectly serviceable as the captain of the group. One very strange thing is her lines often sound as though they were spoken off-set and at those times the shot always cuts away so we can't see her face. I'm not sure if there was a problem with her remembering her lines, or they decided to change her lines after the fact, but its quite jarring once you notice it.

John Jacobi (played by Aaron Ashmore) is the star of the show as far as I'm concerned. He's witty and charming and thoroughly likeable. He's the least mysterious of the group and is played as a heart on his sleeve kind of every man. His relationship with Dutch is a highlight as they aren't romantic in the slightest, but are obviously very close. It's a pleasure to watch the two play friends instead of lovers.

D'Avin Jacobi (played by Luke Macfarlane) is... a big, pretty guy. He has strong facial features and rugged haircut. He's got a bit of a mysterious past, but who really cares? Honestly I just wasn't impressed with the character or the portrayal. Dull and lifeless. What made it worse was the way the show shoved him and Dutch together into a romantic entanglement. REALLY shoved. From the very first episode characters kept mentioning that they shouldn't get together... and they shouldn't have. There seemed to be no reason for it other than she's a woman, he's a man, they have interlocking parts so they should... interlock... for tension's sake. It was awkward and unbelievable... much like the character.

The other character worth mentioning is Lucy (voiced by Tamsen McDonough). Lucy is the (sentient?) AI aboard the ship and, other than the occasional ex-machina moment, is there to try to give the ship some personality. It fails.
This is Lucy. She is a ship.... with fairly poorly defined dimensions.
Here's why it fails: Name a space ship with personality... You probably thought of the Millenium Falcon, or Serenity, of Gallatica. These ships have personality and not one of them has a little voice on-board trying desperately to mimic Hal 9000. They have personality of the little quirks each ship has, because they are held together by the love and companionship of the crew, not by some disembodied voice. It worked in 2001: a space odyssey because Hal was a murderous nut-bar. It works in Star Trek because the computer is just a computer.

Anyways... Everything else aside the show builds up and up into an interesting finale and... despite any misgivings I have about it... It's fun. I enjoyed watching it. I cringed at places. I laughed at places. I enjoyed the action scenes despite never being wowed by them. It's fun and worth a watch if you like action-adventure sci-fi shows. If you like a bit more thought and intrigue, watch The Expanse instead. Actually, just watch the Expanse instead.


Have any of you watched Killjoys (or the Expanse)? What did you think? Leave a comment below.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy and the upcoming Best Laid Plans duology. You can find out more on his website here.