So I'm a Sci-fi geek, throw me out an airlock, but I don't see why all the critics hate Defiance. Okay, honestly, I was put off at first too: the idea of a tv show and video game that "affected the show's progression" seemed like a sellout and something that would keep the writers of the show from doing what they really wanted to with the story. Yes, every once in a while I feel like some things are contrived and try a little too hard to deal with current political issues (there are several references to homosexuality, abortion, and other topics that have yet to leave the debate floor of the United States Congress) or gain some sex appeal (there's prostitution and some scenes where alien women are only covered by beads, I don't know how Syfy got away with that), most of the time there are truly interesting characters and a winding plot that make me come back for more in the next episodes. Okay, it's no Battlestar Galactica, but - especially toward the middle of the season - it's pretty darn good.
Characters & Acting:
All the characters in the show are unique, despite the parallels they may have with typical Syfy show inhabitants. Lawkeeper Nolan, the main character played by Grant Bowler, is your stereotypical loose cannon sheriff with a dirty past, but deep down has a heart of gold. He's basically Han Solo, except instead of making him a General they made him a Cop. His performance, though, is great and really makes the character come to life in a unique way. You can feel the emotion that seems to go on behind what is otherwise a stone cold face. Some other noteworthy characters and actors in the show in my opinion are: Doc Yewll, played by Trenna Keating, with a dirty past who both adds humor and an underlying mystery to the story, and the mayor, played by Julie Benz, who is a woman struggling to fight against the irrational testosterone flying around her.
Plot & Writing:
Yes, some of the episodes may bear SOME similarity to other Syfy shows, but I really don't see the striking resemblance that many critics seem to see (particularly the NyTimes review I read). Every episode adds a fresh twist to a mysterious underlying plotline that I can't predict, bringing me back week after week to see where it goes. The mystery behind the doctor makes me want to know more about her and what the heck some shiny alien technology she's obsessed with is about. Additionally, every episode seems to reveal more about a character (or characters) that makes you sympathize or hate them. For example, I've finally had it with Datak Tarr and his conniving wife, but I'm liking the Doc more and more with her quest for redemption and her internal struggle with her inner scientist. All in all, I find the writing fresh and interesting episode after episode (okay, maybe not so much the pilot, but once you get past that it's good).
Production & Cinematography:
I won't spend too much time raving about the cinematography, but considering most critics find that to be the best quality of the show, it kind of speaks for itself. Personally, I am awed at how much TV has stepped up the quality of Cinematography. Syfy has done so here as well as in the Web Release of Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. It is a ten-fold improvement over shows that began only a couple of years ago. Sometimes the effects waver around the edges, but for the most part the vibrant colors and impressive visuals make this a sight for sore eyes.