Briefing For Ron Moore’s ‘Virtuality’ TV Movie (and possible series Pilot) Airing Tonight

Virtuality is a 2 hour TV movie (and possible pilot for a series) from Trek and BSG vets Ron Moore and Michael Taylor. Set aboard "Earth’s first starship", Virtuality is the first new space-based sci-fi on network television since Star Trek Enterprise went off the air in 2005. To get you ready, we have all you need to know below including a synopsis, previews, interview snippets and more.

 

“Virtuality” [Two-hour Back-door Pilot]
US: Airing June 26th on Fox at 8 PM (7 Central)
 

UPDATE: Available to watch ONLINE AT FOX.com

 

Synopsis: The crew of the Phaeton is approaching the go/no-go point of their epic 10-year journey through outer space. With the fate of Earth in their hands, the pressure is intense. The best bet for helping the crew members maintain their sanity is the cutting-edge virtual reality technology installed on the ship. It’s the perfect stress-reliever until they realize a glitch in the system has unleashed a virus on to the ship. Tensions mount as the crew decides how to contain the virus and complete their mission. Meanwhile, their lives are being taped for a reality show back on Earth.

VIDEOS

Promo (Fox – USA)

Preview

12-minute extended preview

Trailer for the webisode series "Edge of Never"

Check out more clips and behind-the-scenes videos here and here

IMAGES [more at SpoilerTV]

REVIEWS – mostly positive – wanting more

A selected look at some of the reviews–mostly positive, but with reservations about the abrupt conclusion with unanswered questions

[SCI FI Wire]
The series is edgy and feels a bit distant, and not because it takes place in outer space. Still, it would have been a series worth watching…On the other hand, as a movie, Virtuality leaves us hanging in every way you can imagine. There are plenty of surprises and questions asked. But don’t expect any answers.

[NY Times]
…it is an impressively credentialed and stylish bit of television moviemaking, an exploration not merely of our practical dependence on technology but also of our psychological and nearly eroticized addiction to it…it wants you to drive over to [your friends] houses, park the car, knock on the door and deliver a bundt cake and a hug. Like so much glossy science fiction in which the white spacesuits are trotted out, it yearns for the old folkways — now go bake.

[HitFix]
I didn’t always buy what "Virtuality" was selling, but I didn’t doubt that a foundation was being laid for something really interesting…What I do know is that "Virtuality" isn’t a satisfying movie, but it’s a tantalizing pilot and the viewer who see these two hours will want to see more, so you’d better show some enthusiasm, starting Friday night, but really starting on Monday morning.

[EW — Grade: B]
…boasts an interesting cast (including Clea DuVall) and an Alien-invoking vibe (if no aliens). Though it’s billed as a stand-alone movie, the result screams ”failed pilot” loud enough to be heard in space.

[USA Today]
There are some interesting ideas amid the stylistic wreckage, but they’re hard to sort out and — by necessity, because this is a pilot — they don’t end up anywhere…Virtuality counts as an interesting experiment, and it’s better than most of the networks’ summer offerings. But because there aren’t likely to be answers provided by additional episodes, it can only be unequivocally recommended to Galactica acolytes and curio collectors.

[Los Angeles Times]
It is not a movie — it ends unfinished, just as it’s really beginning — but that does not mean you should pass it by…this is smart, handsome TV, a witty, measured mix of sci-fi, soap and satire that offers new twists on old tropes.

[Chicago Tribune]
…I think "Virtuality" works as a character drama, as an observant commentary on our technology-obsessed culture and as a mystery-thriller, I don’t want you to spend your precious free time on it if you think you’ll end up frustrated with its lack of resolution. So it’s your call.

[The Boston Globe]
As a setup, the two creepily atmospheric hours are promising and thought-provoking…The different elements hang together as a nicely faceted whole – until the final minutes, that is.

VIRTUALITY NEWS

Co-creators Ron Moore and Michael Taylor On Whats Next If Show Gets Picked Up
"Virtuality"
is considered a back-door pilot, meaning that it’s being aired in the hopes that it attracts a large enough audience for Fox to greenlight a full series.  In the past, co-creator Michael Taylor has said that he didn’t think a series pickup was likely, but Taylor told SCI FI Wire that they’ve crafted a series that could easily be launched out of tonight’s pilot-turned-movie in the event that the show does get picked up:

"Fox is calling it a movie, but they want a lot of eyeballs on it too," Taylor added. "So we’ve conceived a whole season; we conceived multiple seasons. We know where this show is going, and it’s going some really weird and interesting places. And that first season? Wow. It becomes an exciting thrill ride. It’s a thriller, a story still about technology, it’s a beautiful, crazy stew, and it’s a hell of a ride."

Taylor expanded further on that line of thought:

"Creatively, you have to have an idea where your show is going," Taylor explained. "On the other hand, on Battlestar, Ron always had a sense where the show was going, but the journey was the thing. I don’t think we really ever planned more than half a season’s worth, more than 10 or so episodes at a time, because you also want the opportunity, when you have a strong concept, have a strong situation in place, to let that change. You want to let the characters and things that happen to the characters, situations you had not conceived of when you start thinking of a series, start to change where you’re going."

Meanwhile, fellow co-creator Ron Moore is on record with his hope that strong reviews and ratings will provide the opportunity for the show to be picked up as a full series.  Here’s what he told SCI FI Wire we’d see if it indeed got picked up:

I think they would be extensions of what you see in the pilot. We would be following all of those storylines. The green-eyed man [Jimmi Simpson] is obviously a big player, and what’s his connection to what’s happening in the virtual world? Is there a connection between him and events in the real world? The biggest mystery of all is "Well, what happened to Pike [Coster-Waldau]?" What did Pike see in his vision? Did he have a foreboding? Did he know what was going happen to him in that airlock? Is that part of what he saw in his vision? Did he start believing in the reality of anything that was happening?

I think some of the fundamental questions on the show go to things like "What is real? What is not real in this story? What is manipulation? What is not manipulation?" If we went to series we would continue to explore that, and we’d play different characters starting to unravel different mysteries. What are they telling them from Earth, and is that true? Are they just being paranoid? Is somebody aboard manipulating their messages, the virtual reality? There are a lot of mysteries and certain interesting things that were set up that we would continue to play if the show went to series.

Ron Moore On The Virtual Reality of Virtuality
Ron Moore fielded a question by io9 about how the show’s virtual reality differs from what we’ve seen in Star Trek, via the holodeck:

 Well, it’s a different concept. The holodeck is a space, and you would go into [it] and 3D forms were created in front of you… This is truly a virtual world, much more akin to a virtual headset. Whereas you have an experiential ability touch things [you’re not going into an actual space], so it’s a different sort of mechanics. At the story level, we’re not explaining the idea that if you die in the virtual space, you die in the real space. [Instead, if you die in the virtual space, you just wake up.]

It’s more like gaming is now. You game, you don’t get killed, you wake up. We’re using it much more psychologically now. The experiences that the astronauts have aboard the spaceship in the virtual space are things that are psychologically motivated. They go in there in and do things for entertainment. [And this reveals something about their personalities, and where they want to spend their time.] When things go wrong in that space, how is it going to affect them in the real world? How does the virtual space affect the real world storyline, and vice versa?

VIRTUALITY BITES

  • Erik Jensen, who plays the ship’s engineer Dr. Jules Braun on the show, talks about virtual reality element of the show. [SCI FI Wire]
  • Plus stars Siena Guillory (who plays Rika Goddard, the ship’s exobiologist) and Clea DuVall (Sue Parsons, the ship’s pilot) talk about the approach they took to portraying their characters. [io9]
  • Rounding out the interview links, The Futon Critic also conducted one with the cast and crew.  Check it out here.
  • The Emmy Award-winning crew behind "Battlestar Galactica" is involved in "Virtuality", and VFX supervisor Gary Hutzel talked about the VFX of the series with Airlock Alpha.
  • Keeping with the BSG tradition, airlocks will apparently play a role in the show…[E! Online]
  • Given the importance virtual reality plays in the movie, SCI FI Wire takes a look at the nearly 80-year history of VR.
  • Gene Farber and Jose Pablo Cantillo play "two of the most complex gay male characters ever to appear on a sci-fi TV show" according to AfterElton.

Gene Farber (as Val Orlovsky) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (as Manny Rodriguez)

Follow Russ on his blog: Your Entertainment Now and on Twitter: Twitter.com/YourEntNow.


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DaiMonRon
June 26, 2009 11:49 am

Looks like a must see! Good to see some new sci-fi on friday nights after the premature (IMO) cancellation of Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Zip
June 26, 2009 11:52 am

I’ll give it a go, see how it goes,
But will take in early movie first. perhaps ST09 again, :) I just don’t want it to leave the theater.

June 26, 2009 12:29 pm

boy, Fox is really doing a great job spreading the word on this. seriously, this is one of the first times i’ve heard this was on tonight. compare this to how Fringe was advertised….
i hope it does well. good TV sci-fi can be hard to come by. especially now with BGG gone for the most part and Lost not back until next year.

JohnWA
June 26, 2009 12:35 pm

I’ve been impressed with Moore’s work since DS9. He’s much bolder than many science fiction TV writers. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it is always interesting.

I’d give this a chance at least.

jdp13
June 26, 2009 12:40 pm

Sounds promising. Anything by Ron D. Moore I’m willing to give a try

Randy H.
June 26, 2009 12:45 pm

Why wasn’t this just part of “Sci-Fi Monday”? Moore’s prior connection to Trek doesn’t, in and of itself, seem enough to support an entire separate article.

DavidJ
June 26, 2009 12:46 pm

Not crazy about the Reality TV aspect, but the rest of the concept sounds pretty interesting.

Johnny Ice
June 26, 2009 12:46 pm

Interesting. I have been looking for something new sifi concept for TV. This show look interesting however i would have liked see Phaeton as Earth’s first starship ark” with 12 man crew but as a sleeper ship with hundreds or perhaps thousands cryogenically-frozen passengers. Earth is destroyed by gamma burst from the Sun and Phaeton and Epsilon Eridani is only hope for survival of the humanity.

DaveyNY
June 26, 2009 1:12 pm

Sounds interesting but I’m skipping this one…

I’ve had enough of the Leave-Um-Hanging crap that’s being tossed out by the current crop of TV producers…

A continuing storyline is nice once in awhile, but not for the whole run of the series… (especially if it turns out this doesn’t make it past Pilot Stage…)

That’s what killed X-Files… they never gave the viewer any kind of satisfactory conclusion…

And if something in your personal life causes ya to miss an occaisional episode or two, your screwed and out of the loop… (that’s what was especially wrong with LOST…)

Thanks but no thanks, I don’t want anymore of other peoples unfinished ideas in my life…

DaveyNY

June 26, 2009 1:55 pm

Hey, everyone. My wife got a screener of this at her work and I watched it this week. It is very good. Definitely work recording on your DVR and watching. Would have been a great series. The ending is, uhm, really quite surprising. But no spoilers here.

Captain Pike
June 26, 2009 2:12 pm
Izbot
June 26, 2009 2:51 pm

I might check it out but the abstract sounds a little like it could be called “Star Trek: Holodeck Accident” and I’m a little over the whole holodeck accident scenario by now.

June 26, 2009 3:06 pm

Randy

I think this site has like 8 other stories in the last 24 hours and over 20 in the last week. This site has and will continue to run periodic stories about sci-fi. That policy will not change, and in fact we are going to probably do more of it.

We will also continue to be the leading site for all Star Trek news. It is possible to do both. You can skip the not directly related to Trek stories if you like, but they will not stop.

Sxottlan
June 26, 2009 4:32 pm

Oh well, never saw any ads for it, didn’t remember it was on tonight and didn’t set the VCR and I’m not home right now, so I guess I’ll miss this.

Unless they’re re-airing this at some point?

Ron Mosher
June 26, 2009 5:04 pm

zzzzzzzz wake me up for stargate universe

SciFiMetalGirl
June 26, 2009 6:10 pm

Anthony, thanks for the reminder that this is on tonight! I almost missed it! I just set my DVR from online!

June 26, 2009 7:12 pm

anything to do with moore I ignore like the plague

June 26, 2009 7:14 pm

If the series happens, I’ll watch the pilot to prepare for it/decide whether to watch.

If not, it sounds like it would just be a frustrating waste of potential enthusiasm.

scifi sentinel
June 26, 2009 8:02 pm

Virtuality!!! It could have been great, oh well.
Are all directors 18? (Sorry if it’s not you) What’s up with the stupid shakycam again? Can’t anyone produce some video for the majority of us that don’t need Ritalin?
Don’t you people know why the steadicam was invented or maybe how to use one?
The sole reason for Battlestar Galactica’s demise was due to this constant, ridiculously overused shakycam effect.
Now you’re about to blow your shot with Virtuality. Guaranteed to NOT be picked up for this reason alone! I can guaranty a majority dropping half way through.
The effect is properly executed when used sparingly maybe once every 20 minutes.
NOT EVERY MINUTE!!!
AND NO, IT’S “WAY NOT” COOL!!!

June 26, 2009 8:51 pm

This movie was painfully boring, but I find BSG unwatchable, too, so maybe it was me?

June 26, 2009 9:22 pm

Feh, skippin it. I’m going to start reading more. Less TV = Smarter me

June 26, 2009 10:40 pm

I watched and tweeted fox to GO on it.

It is sarcastic in the take on reality tv shows , and just like BG, it makes you think.

The end is too abrupt but I would watch it along with Dollhouse.
If you liked BG, then you will like Virtuality.

Enc
June 26, 2009 11:06 pm

id rather watch BSG and i stopped that one when what was it apolos arrow?
yeah we see a lot that red mars and hall 9000 and non of it realy worked.

now i heard the word movie mentioned. it looked like it was shot in wide screen and was cut off by my 4:3 tv.

if C is avg then it gets a D something.

Fred
June 26, 2009 11:08 pm

Does anyone know if it will be replayed? Was out of town and missed it!

Captain Dunsel
June 26, 2009 11:48 pm

Anthony (and Rosario),

Wonderful coverage. TrekMovie is without a doubt my go-to site for info on pretty much all upcoming genre projects.

Just one slight quibble… Couldn’t you have posted this a day earlier? ARRGGHHH!!! I was working on several projects and didn’t see this until almost 2 AM on the twenty SEVENTH.

How about a feature (like you do the Science Friday, etc.) that’s a really brief re-cap on the coming week in premieres, TV debuts, season premiers, etc.? No heavy content – just “Tuesday – Show XYZ returns on Network GFH at 8 PM; click here for our most recent article on XYZ”

Please Please Please?

Jack
June 27, 2009 12:07 am

Yeah, ditto… got home late (found out about it on this site at work) and didn’t know it was on this morning to TIVO in advance — saw about 2/3 of it and was impressed.

Trekkie16
June 27, 2009 7:27 am

I watched it last night and I have mixed feelings.

I really enjoyed how they incorporated the virtual reality into the storyline, very well done. I even liked the reality TV concept and thought it was very clever.

I thought the pacing was a bit uneven. At times it was too slow moving. I didn’t have an instant like for all the characters like I did with BSG. After the first episode of BSG, I was hooked and thought it was just brilliant. The actors had so much chemistry from the moment they first appeared on the screen and I didn’t feel that same connection with this cast.

I did like the backstories and I wish there was more related to the Earth and the catastrophies happening.

Ending was a bit bizarre.

If they make it into a series, I will watch the first few episodes. It has potential, they need to just pick up the pace a bit.

st381
June 27, 2009 8:42 am

Honestly, I thought it stunk. Reminded me of cheap pre-ILM 1970’s Scifi. If I want to watch holodeck based episodes of science fiction, I’ll stick to my Dixon Hill episodes of TNG. Sorry to come off so negative but it really wasn’t very good at all. The premise that mankind could build an interstellar starship but didn’t know that the Earth was going to be uninhabitable before they launched sounded a little too politically correct to me.

Then the reality show premise that everyone but the stalwart commander participated in was supremely cliche and irritating. I just don’t see astronauts of any generation willfully participating in such an activity.

P.S. Wasn’t shocked or interested by any of the romantic relationships on-board.

Kahless
June 27, 2009 10:53 am

It might be watchable if they drop the reality aspect of it. But then again, thats probably the whole gimmick of their pitch: (“Big Brother” in space). Death to reality shows! (except maybe Ghost Hunters)

Sam G
June 27, 2009 11:52 am

I thought it was pretty good.

Enc
June 27, 2009 12:47 pm

25
agreed

Enc
June 27, 2009 1:52 pm
did any one catch how thw wheelcahir charactor moves about a ship with knee knockers and sto many stairs? how long have they been in space ‘board ship? i like the meals with lots of greens (they have to grow their own food and showed it) but after a while some of their pre-pack food stuffs will run out. So. I couldnt help but notice all the store purchased prepared sauce bottles etc. i didnt realy understand their point of use of ‘go, no go’. i understand ‘point of no return’. but their go, no go’ seemed more of a make up your mind moment. that i would think would be known and understood by the crew during selection. kinda late to be asking this question now. ‘go, no go’ would be fine for performanceof the ship, tech, systems etc. is it working in the real world as tested/simulated, hows it holding up. are we go or no go. it seemed to be use (or misused) for wanting to show the tensions and emotions of the crew. to be used a plot point to built to. everything is headign for this big moment. we have a people now spending mos in space and i havent heard any stories of them bickering as much as these people do. i didnt see (did i mss it) the crew (and capt) bring up the mission itself as a reason to ‘go’. their mission was after all to look for signs of life (or… Read more »
spooky
June 27, 2009 2:13 pm

Why bother! On that network it is sure to be cancelled before it gets too interesting!

Enc
June 27, 2009 2:18 pm

33
we lost TSCC.
we lost Firefly

i forget how it was worded, but. was it the phaeton airing on fox?

RTC
June 27, 2009 5:13 pm

Tried to watch it … wanted to like it … didn’t get past the first commercial.

June 27, 2009 6:24 pm

#32 – The go/no-go business didn’t make any sense, since they supposedly had enough delta-v to get to ANOTHER STAR SYSTEM, they could have very easily turned around and gone home. The science of interstellar flight was next to non-existent in this show, unfortunately. One matter-antimatter charge to get them to 1/15c? In a few moments? No way. They would have ended up as smears on the back wall. The design of the ship didn’t take into account radiation and particles coming straight on with enough oomph to sandblast all of the fiddly bits clean off and kill the crew; there were no forward scattershields. Ah well. The only bit of fun I had was at the end, where all I could think about was Commander Powell from DARK STAR. “Doolittle…Doolittle…who won the World Series?”

Alec
June 27, 2009 7:51 pm

It sounds like a rip-off of Star Trek. So I’m glad that it flopped.

Commodore Lurker
June 27, 2009 10:58 pm

I like it, watched it twice. Another smart, intelligent, well written show fromRon Moore and Michael Taylor.

Too bad no one put this much thought into JJ Trek. }:-)>

JonWes
June 27, 2009 11:05 pm

i liked it a lot! More then I thought I would. Too bad it never had a chance. Why does Fox even buy these?

Enc
June 28, 2009 2:33 am

36
they fired off a few charges and mentioned 100 some odd more togo. (most likley for the total trip) but keeping in science that would put them at 25-30 charges to get them to 0.15c then again for slowing down then up for the return then slow down for the final earth arival.

your right about the rads. there is some papaers now about putting mag shields on craft to protect the crew and shelters. but i dont recall those being mentioned. windows any one ?

i think thety did roatate those botany sections so the windows faced away from the propulsion shields in case any rads got thru.

37
it flopped?
any one got the overnite numbers on this thing?

36
now that you mention it. i dont think they could have gotten to their target speed (0.15c) with nukes alone. I think they had to build up to speed X by doing slingshot(s) THEN hit the nukes. and the slingshot method gave them a point of no return option.

ah hell lets just look it up

http://drexfiles.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/mike-okuda-the-phaeton-and-nuclear-pulse-propulsion/
also read Aplications and Later Developments at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

vorta23492392932939230
June 28, 2009 6:39 am

It was pretty annoying at first with the reality concepts and the people fighting ala big brother or whatever — but the VR spookiness and religious conversion (paging Kara Thrace, Angel of God!) aspect of Captain Pike (ST ref?) hooked me. “I once was lost but now I’m found” indeed!

Then he seemingly realizes that all LIFE is just a kind of VR when he asks – if you kill someone in a video game do you have to stand trial? Spooky/morally ambiguous territory. I want to see more, Moore.

June 28, 2009 11:14 am

20. Greg2600

It’s you.

Jack
June 28, 2009 8:01 pm

ps. I’m really thrilled with the genre coverage on this site — Thanks, Anthony. This is one of the few sites I come to nearly every day (others are nytimes, gmail, facebook, espn, r.tomatoes and digg).

RD
June 28, 2009 9:11 pm

I see Moore is better at taking somebody else’s’ ideas and re-working them.

Could not watch this thing but a few minutes at a time. Thank God for TIVO. They unfortunately saved the most interesting stuff until the end. Absolutely the kiss of death.

It definitely needed to fail. Or, produce it on the cheap and sell it to MTV with a younger more attractive cast. Just terrible.

June 29, 2009 3:19 pm

Silly. Just plain silly.

So many people have lowered so many bars across so many fields that few know when something is actually good anymore.

The wait goes on…

hoping it gets picked up
July 2, 2009 4:21 pm

If left as a movie I’d rate it a waste of time since so many questions were left unanswered
But if it turns into a TV show I would say I loved it and can’t wait for more!!
Thee are so many possibilities and angles they could go with
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it gets picked up!!

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