Killjoys, Syfy’s newest addition to the rich TV tradition of space dramas, has a killer, three-word elevator pitch: Space. Bounty. Hunters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t build much on that intriguing premise in its pilot episode.
Killjoys centers around three bounty-hunting protagonists who live in“The Quad,” a system of four planets ruled by a mysterious, powerful, and seemingly corrupt corporation. We get to hang with leader Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), and brothers John (Aaron Ashmore) and D’avin (Luke Macfarlane). Dutch has a mysterious childhood that makes her highly competent and a major question mark, even for her closest ally, John. The two have been working together for years, hunting down and collecting people and items across the four planets that make up “The Quad,” all as part of their work for the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition (RAC). When John’s brother, a former soldier, falls back into John’s life, the duo becomes a trio.
The drama comes from the mind of Lost Girl creator Michelle Lovretta, and has some of the same zaniness and humor as the succubus series, though far less charm — at least at its onset. There is room for growth, in both character and world-building, but Killjoys is going to have to start doubling down on its character development to make up for its murkily familiar start. So far, Lovretta has created a world seemingly cobbled together from other science fiction universes. The morally-ambivalent, snarky protagonists? Check. The vaguely steampunk vibe? Yep. The shady, looming, and all-powerful corporation? Uh huh.
So far, however, Killjoys has failed to “borrow” from other TV science fiction classics the element that arguably matters the most: characters we care about and who care about one another. Out of all of the potential stories to tell in within this fictional universe (or within this culture of space bounty hunters), it’s unclear why we’re following these three largely interchangeable characters and their dull dynamics. The show seems more concerned with getting slow, sexy shots of Dutch’s bod than letting us know who she is as a person — why she cares about this lifestyle and the people she has surrounded herself with. When it comes to the character dynamics, there is a lot of telling rather than showing: i.e. Dutch and John have an easy camaraderie. John and D’avin are estranged, but still love one another. Prove it, Killjoys. Make us care. Especially in a summer that gave us the cinematic showing-over-telling dystopian masterpiece Mad Max, this over-exposition is hard to swallow.
It says a lot about how few space dramas there are on TV right now (other new in-space Syfy series Dark Matter, notwithstanding) that Killjoys has the slightest sense of novelty. Because this show is really not doing anything new. It aspires to be another Firefly or Farscape, but feels more like that mid-90s sci-fi show you never bothered remembering the name of. That being said, Killjoys’ killer setup and the fact that it is set in space (albeit, a very Canadian-looking space), is enough to keep me watching past its first few episodes. Will you be joining?