Virtuality is a pilot episode from one of the guys behind Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D Moore. I’ve been watching Galactica and I’m now on season 3 and enjoying it, so when I heard about Virtuality I was interested enough to make sure I took a look at it.
What we’ve got in Virtuality is a near future sci-fi drama based upon the first ship capable of interstellar travel – the Phaeton. On a 10 year mission to Epsilon Eridani and coming towards the go/no-go point near Neptune, we follow the crew as they go about their daily lives while relaxing using the virtual environments available to them on board. These environments seem like the real thing and various programs are chosen by each crew member as their form of escape from the confines of the ship. Not only that, but the whole mission is being filmed as a reality-type show by two of the crew members as part of the sponsorship that funded the ship.
However, as we follow each crew member in their personal spaces a recurring person seems to be in the programs with them. No one knows why, or who they are, but as conversation about this isn’t readily bought up until later in the show we are left guessing ourselves. Combine this with the impending go/no-go choice the commander has to make, the fact that we’re told Earth has less than 100 years before it becomes uninhabitable due to global warming, and a serious medical condition in one of the crew arising and we have a very interesting concept.
Personally, I enjoyed this very much. Not only is the situation an interesting element of the show, but the characters are engaging and I want to know more about them while discovering more about the mission, the ship and the nature of the planet Earth they have left behind and the star system they are heading to. Most of all, I want to know what is happening with the virtual reality programs and how this affects the crew when it is there only escape.
Despite enjoying it, I can’t help but feel that it would soon run out of story if it had been picked up as a series. With only twelve characters, and in a limited environment, the possibilities are far from endless. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it hasn’t been commissioned for a full show, although if it were set up as a mini-series it could effectively tell the story that needs to be told without becoming stale.
It’s regrettable that good sci-fi shows like this are developed only to be dropped before getting a proper chance to shine, but when the tv stations want a hit they won’t put the time and effort into a show that will require involvement and development to fully hit it’s potential.
In the end, worth watching and enjoyable. A good example of thoughtful sci-fi that doesn’t require big action set pieces to leave an impression.