Ron Moore's awesome virtual-reality thriller, Virtuality, may be the freshest, most challenging work he's ever come up with. Fox has been sitting on the two-hour pilot for months, but it looks like it'll finally air.
As I've said before, when I first heard about Virtuality, I wasn't that excited, because the concept sounded too much like a whole show of holodeck episodes. But about a year ago, I reviewed a huge chunk of the pilot script (it was pretty much the whole thing) and I was an instant convert.
Yes, Virtuality is the story of the crew of the Phaeton, a deep-space exploration vessel, who use virtual reality to distract themselves from the claustrophobia and boredom of deep space (until something inevitably goes wrong), but there's way more to it than that. For one thing, the ship really is incredibly claustrophobic and slow, not roomy and zoomy like the Enterprise. For another, the crew are forced to take part in a "reality TV" show that's broadcast back on Earth... and the ship's therapist is the reality-show's producer. It's seriously twisted, demented stuff. Oh, and the menace that wreaks havoc in their virtual reality world is a bit scarier and more insidious than a bunch of Worfs in cowboy hats.
Also, it's directed by Peter Berg (Hancock and the upcoming Dune) and stars genre veteran Sienna Guillory (pictured above) alongside Clea DuVall, Jimmi Simpson, Joy Bryant, James D'Arcy, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and others.
So it's fantastic news that the pilot will finally air on Saturday, July 4. I'm guessing this is the original version of the pilot, since it's two hours long. There were reports a while back that Fox was asking Moore to revamp the pilot - possibly to make it one hour long, and also to remove "controversial" elements such as the fact that two minor characters, Manny and Val, were gay and married to each other. Here's hoping that I'm right, and this is the original pilot, not some eviscerated version.
Let's be clear, though - it seems exceedingly unlikely that Virtuality will get to become an ongoing series. (I'd say that's been clear for months, unfortunately.) It's just barely possible that if the TV movie has out-of-the-park ratings - doing much, much better than you'd expect from a Saturday night on July 4 - that Fox will reconsider killing the series. But honestly, I'd say that's not terribly likely. So I'm just glad we're finally getting to see all the Virtuality that will ever get made.