Watched episode 1 of Defiance on The-Channel-Previously-Known-as-Sci-Fi. I'm trying to decide if they were doing an alternate background for Shadowrun or d20 Modern.
It was pretty basic storytelling. They
really crammed too much into the 2 hours of the show. I think they
would have been better served making everything they put into the first episode into the first season. This would have provided more depth to the town, the characters, and the personal relationships between the characters. See the first season of Deadwood for a good example of how this is done.
By the way, it is fairly clear that Defiance borrows heavily from Deadwood. (Plus some Shakespeare and some westerns/samurai stories: Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars/Last Man Standing - I'm looking at you.) They need a better Al Swearengen as the one they have is kind of bland. The riff on the drow and what a female led society that lets the men think they are in charge looks like is interesting, but I did not see enough to determine if it is a cultural trait or just that particular couple.
Also, I've driven through St. Louis, so I know what the terrain looks like. It is a river plain adjacent to the Mississippi, not a valley surrounded by cliffs and hills. They may try to hand wave this as part of the terraforming the aliens started (and might or might not have finished), but that seems unlikely. Anything that would have raised those formations would have been enough to drop the arch entirely. I'm striking this up to "filmed in Canada".
Those are my initial thoughts on the show. I'm probably not going to watch any more episodes as it did not have that "must see what comes next" vibe.
To get back to my original question - I think the show models an alternate Shadowrun setting more than d20 Modern. It looks like they are substituting high tech and psionics for magic, but it is hard to tell from the first episode (too much exposition, not enough doing). The aliens are all here and have been for 33 years at the point the story picks up, which lines up with Shadowrun more than d20 Modern. d20 Modern assumes more "fantasy races" are bleeding through from the shadow realm over time, whereas Shadowrun has the goblinization event and then it's done.
The technology is a post-apocalypse mix, so there is a mix of ultra-tech and low tech. As with any post-apocalypse world, good alcohol is hard to find, but bullets are always available. Most of the people in Defiance (the town) have pistols (if they are human) or energy blades and maybe energy rifles (for the non-humans). The big horde o' bad guys at the end are all body armor and energy weapons like space orcs ought to be (no, they are not called orcs, but really, look at them). This, to me, leans more towards Shadowrun's mixture of high tech and social regression rather than d20 Modern's more "world behind the world" vibe.
That's it for now. I'm still recovering from a cold I came down with last Saturday, so my thoughts a bit more scattered. Later!