Pioneer One: crowdfunded science fiction TV series

Jamie writes in about Pioneer One, "A drama series with a sci-fi bent, made independently and distributed online. It gained some notoriety for being the first 'TV show' to be distributed through BitTorrent via and has thus far been funded entirely by donations from its viewers. If you're looking for breakneck action and glitzy Hollywood polish, you probably won't be into this show. This is truly 'guerrilla television,' kind of a new phenomenon made possible by the web. But there is a story being told here that will reward a viewer who invests in it. 5 full-length episodes have been released, with the finale of the first season to come by December."


  1. The boingboing change in format has resulted in my getting about one article a day in which the video does not display.  Instead, I get a message such as “D’Oh! This video can’t be played with your current setup. Please switch to a browser that provides native H.264 support or install Adobe’s Flash Player”.  I use the most current version of FireFox, Windows 7 ultimate 64 bit.  I reinstalled Adobe Flash, although no other site with Flash has had any difficulty with my browsers.  Nevertheless, articles such as this on boingboing continue to give me the error message rather than the video.   If I go directly to the site from which the video originates, there is no problem in display.

    Does anyone know why this is occurring?

    1. I’ve been getting random problems with flash or heavy media content showing up, but only sometimes (my 4.5 year old computer may be the problem), but I’m running the same browser/OS combo as you. Restarting the machine sometimes fixes it, other times media elements just don’t load, so I have to skip that :(

  2. how is this guerrilla television? Its seems very very conventional judging from the trailer . good story but uber formulaic.

    1. It’s guerrilla because it’s fan funded, not through a network. People paid money to have more episodes made because they liked what they saw. Whether you love or hate the show, it’s admirable that the creators did what they had to to get their work out there. Most people use these obstacles as an excuse.

  3. I know it’s low budget, but as a brit I find the lack of attractive American actors distracting.  Of course in real life most people look normal, hence ‘normal’; but in American TV land everyone is super hot.

    If I wanted to watch a well written TV sci-fi drama with ugly people in it then I just need to watch one that’s not American.

  4. I wanted to like this show, but the acting was just too bad for me to watch any significant amount.  I certainly applaud their efforts as just about every other aspect of the show was just fine, but the poor acting was too distracting. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the actors in the show, I know they were giving it everything they had, it is just that acting is not easy.

    I wish them luck and I will take another look at the series as maybe they have gotten better and it has been a while since I first watched it.

    Now “A Lonely Place for Dying” also on seemed really good to me. I just wish they would release more of it.

  5. If you download Pioneer One, you’ll see a trailer for A City to Make Me.  Does anyone know anything more about this project?

  6. If by “glitzy Hollywood polish” you mean competent acting and decent production value then yes, “Pioneer One” is utterly devoid of glitzy Hollywood polish.  This is ‘guerrilla television’ the way a junior high production of “Oklahoma!” is guerrilla theater – it uses the same tired tropes and clichés as its big budget brethren, but its grating cheapness makes it almost unbearable to watch.  What’s the value in that?  Where is the new? 

    Good intentions are good, but suspending critical judgment of a work because its funding and distribution conform to certain idealistic notions (crowdsourced/DIY good! Hollywood bad!) isn’t doing anyone any favors. 

    1. Speaking as the person of color who directed this show I can tell you that the lack of diversity in the cast is not from a lack of trying. So if you’re judging this project by the color of peoples skin in a picture, then you are doing a disservice to us all.

  7. I finally watched the first episode through to the end, and I don’t find the acting as bad as some of the commenters would have you think. In fact, I find it much better than many soap operas. The important thing here is that as a shoestring budget production, they cannot waste time re-doing every take, so I am pleased with the acting, the writing and even the direction is definitely up there with, say, The X Files.

    Well, at least a normal X Files episode. Let’s not get carried away, here. But the first episode was well written. Kudos for not going for the exaggerated emotion.

    I think the only thing I would have done differently would have been to adopt an epistolary style, but that’s because I have a weakness for pretending the story is crafted from the memoirs of those who lived through it.

    Thank you for this fascinating show. When the season is complete, I look forward to buying a region-free DVD collection. :)

  8. I love Pioneer One.  In fact, I thought it was so good that I decided to donate in hopes of getting more episodes.  It’s amazing how much good, free programming is available online.

  9. I couldn’t finish the pilot… As much as I admire the concepts of creative commons, crowd funding and P2P distribution, and expecting the production value to be less glitzy than major network fare, I couldn’t get past the banal ‘america is the center of the universe’ vibe.  Moving the patient from Canada to the USA only requires a local RCMP fax?  Seriously?  The Russians are crazy because they discharged the ‘one citizen with an imagination’?  As if Cold War USA wouldn’t have executed the same guy as a traitor… please…

    Perhaps the writers should go live abroad for a decade and meet the rest of the world…

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