Frank: "I'm asking if you know fantasy from reality, Roger."
Roger: "I think I do. Do you know what's real, Frank?"
Virtuality is the sort of high concept science fiction show that is exactly my cup of tea. It's also the sort of show that gets canceled immediately. And that's if it even gets the chance to go to series.
So there's this ship called the Phaeton with a crew of twelve, on a trip to another star in search of a habitable planet. Five years there, five years returning. That's the simple part. In order to alleviate boredom and keep the crew from going nuts and killing each other, they have what is essentially their own holodeck in a pair of goggles: VIRT, virtual reality software where they can fight in the Civil War, headline at a rock concert, and even have really safe sex with each other.
What makes Virtuality so fascinating is the layers of unreality in the story. There is the artificiality of living on a ship in space in the first place. There is the "reality show" being filmed on the ship and sent back to Earth; everything they say and do is eventually seen by literally billions of people. They are even encouraged to alter their behavior to make it more exciting for the sake of ratings.
An environmental crisis has recently taken place on Earth and what the Phaeton is doing is critical for the survival of the species... or is it? How can they be sure Mission Control is telling them the truth? Their only privacy is in VIRT, but something in the program has gone terribly wrong; a strange man is appearing in all of their personal programs and killing them, which isn't real but certainly feels like it is. And then something terrible does indeed happen. Or does it? (I'm going to stop there before I say anything that will spoil you.)
This show stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whom I really liked as the lead in the short-lived New Amsterdam. There's the wonderful Clea Duvall as the ship's pilot. There's even a female character named Billie, and that never happens. There's the claustrophobia of Alien, and a Hal-like computer named Jean. And, of course, Ron Moore, who knows how to create compelling, adult sci-fi. (Although I think he blew it with Caprica.)
In fact, I have been looking forward to Virtuality since I first heard about it, and I loved this pilot. I want it to be series. I want it a lot. And I bet I won't get it. Why does this keep happening to me? Why does Fox want to hurt me?
Couldn't they dump the stultifyingly boring Caprica and give us Virtuality instead?
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.