Describing the pilot for “Virtuality” back in January, FOX Entertainment president Kevin Reilly called it “a little dense.” He didn’t necessarily mean it as a compliment, but co-creator Ron Moore is happy to take it as a badge of honor.
“It was very complex material,” says Moore, who wrote the sci-fi show with fellow “Battlestar Galactica” scribe Michael Taylor. “The initial reaction when he saw it was, Kevin Reilly said ‘Wow — if this was just a movie, I’d say ship it right now, it’s fantastic.’ But it’s a pilot.”
And even though FOX is airing the two-hour “Virtuality” pilot as a movie Friday night (June 26), the project isn’t especially likely to go anywhere after that. Moore is taking a “never say never” attitude toward the show’s prospects, but he acknowledges that it’s something of a long shot to earn a place on the FOX schedule.
“[The network’s] attitude is kind of wait and see. I think they want to see what the reaction is going to be: What will the critics say, is there going to be word of mouth, will the sci-fi community turn up for it,” Moore says. “… Right now it doesn’t look like it will go to series, but if enough people watch, anything is possible.”
Now, about those “dense” remarks. It’s true, “Virtuality” — whose cast features Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Clea DuVall, Sienna Guillory and James D’Arcy — isn’t the easiest concept to grasp: A 12-person crew is sent on a 10-year mission aboard a spaceship called the Phaeton. To help pass the time en route, crew members have access to sophisticated virtual-reality worlds that let them become anything from a Civil War soldier to a rock star. There’s a bug in the system, however, that causes their fantasies to take disturbing turns at times.
On top of all that, the crew are also the stars of a reality show that’s being beamed back to Earth, and they start to wonder if they’re being manipulated to make better TV.
“The astronauts start to wonder themselves if they’re being told the truth about what’s happening on Earth,” Moore says. “It starts to become this interesting psychological crucible.”
You’ll get a chance to judge the relative density of “Virtuality” for yourselves at 8 p.m. ET Friday. Here’s a preview.