Twelve astronauts embark on an important mission in space, one that could prove crucial to the survival of everyone else left behind on Earth.  Just as they are faced with a critical decision regarding their task, they are faced with a problem that could affect their psychological well-being.  So goes the plot of Virtuality, the two-hour special airing on June 26 on Fox.

Hatched by former Battlestar Galactica executive producers Ronald E. Moore and Michael Taylor, and directed by Friday Night Lights creator Peter Berg, the special explores the tensions between the astronauts in the face of their survival, and that of the human race--as well as mistrust as things come up.  Oh, and the pressures of being watched by the folks back home every step of the way.

The astronauts, led by Commander Frank Pike (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), are aboard the Earth's first starship, the Phaeton, on an ambitious ten-year mission that is crucial to the survival of mankind.  They enter a crucial point in their mission: the go-or-no-go point.  Go, and they take off to a distant solar system that's millions of miles away, with no chance or turning back.  To help them cope with the stresses of the mission--a bit of privacy, as well as a means of recreation--the ship has been equipped with virtual reality modules, which help each crew member to either assume a different identity--a war hero, a rock star, the works--and explore scenarios they themselves created, or take time off for themselves.

But, as the mission progresses, they realize that a bug has entered the system, and their virtual realities are affected.  As suspicions start to arise--who was responsible for the whole mess?--the virtual reality systems cross the line in a violent way, and the mission decides to shut them down.  To complicate things further, a tragic event threatens the mission--and as more questions arise, as to who or what is responsible for it--the crew realize it's too late to turn back, and they have to push through with the mission with the fear that someone, or something, could derail the whole thing and threaten everyone's existence.  All that, while surveillance cameras record their every move for a reality series back in Earth, and the producers back home starts playing with the "contestants".

The special was originally intended as a pilot, but network executives decided to turn it into a one-off, and see how things go from there.  "Neither Ron nor I are holding our breath for a miracle," Taylor said in an interview with io9, while hopeful that the special will capture enough attention that could turn it into an all-out series.  "We're just happy people have a chance to watch what we made."

Virtuality also stars Sienna Guillory, James D'Arcy, Ritchie Coster, Erik Jensen, Omar Metwally, Kerry Bishe, Joy Bryant, Nelson Lee, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Gene Farber, Clea Duvall and Jimmi Simpson.  It airs June 26 from 8pm on Fox.

-Henrik Batallones, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Fox)