If you love outer space science fiction TV shows, then it’s been a great summer on Syfy. Between Dark Matter and Killjoys, Syfy finally re-embraced the genre that it used to be known for before the days of “Blue skies sci-fi.”
We’ve already featured Killjoys and spoken at length about why you should be watching that series; now it’s time to look back at Dark Matter. Of course there are some spoilers ahead for the first season of Dark Matter, but we’ll hold back on some of the major revelations. After all, part of the joy of watching this show is being surprised by the twists!
Dark Matter kind of flew under the radar when it debuted as a comic book miniseries back in 2012 from publisher Dark Horse Comics. But fans of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe should be very familiar with Dark Matter creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie. Mallozzi and Mullie were two of the best writers on the Stargate TV franchise and they’ve brought that experience to their new series. Perhaps more impressively, the duo has managed to put on an excellent sci-fi show on a budget that is noticeably smaller than their previous series.
The premise of Dark Matter is deceptively simple: six strangers wake up from stasis on a spaceship called the Raza and quickly discover they have no idea who they are or how they got there. In the absence of their real names, they take on numbers. They are One (Marc Bendavid), Two (Melissa O’Neil), Three (Anthony Lemke), Four (Alex Mallari Jr.), Five (Jodelle Ferland), and Six (Roger Cross).
Even without their memories, the six crew members appear to retain some of their core personality traits. One wants to be heroic and good, while Three is the a–hole who seemingly only cares for himself. Four is born to be a warrior and Two seems uniquely suited to lead. Both Five and Six appear to be the heart and conscience of the crew, but everyone has their secrets on this ship.
Over the course of the first season, each of the six crew members are forced to face the reality of who they were and who they want to become. One is painfully made to realize that he is quite literally not the man he thought he was, while Two receives some very unpleasant revelations about her origin. Six discovers his involvement with a terrorist attack so horrific that it sends him on a personal mission of revenge, while Four learns that he was innocent of the crime that he was accused of by his own family.
For most of the season, Three comes off as the one dimensional jerk of the group. But when his backstory finally emerges, it puts him in an entirely different light. The man he used to be was capable of love, and the man he is now offers some measure of forgiveness when another crew member tries to take the blame for Three’s personal loss. When one of the Raza’s crew is seemingly murdered, it’s Three who takes it the hardest. Those aren’t the responses of a man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself.
Five is enigma of the group, as she holds all of their memories in her head and her status as a member of the crew is called into question when her past is initially revealed to the audience. Five also forms the closest emotional bonds on the ship with both Two and Six.
There is one more main character on Dark Matter: The Android (Zoie Palmer). Palmer gets most of the show’s comedic moments as her Android struggles with her own emerging humanity. Some of the funniest scenes of the season came in the seventh episode as the Android displayed barely disguised jealousy when another Android won favor with the crew. The Android also has a more serious arc as she contemplated erasing her personality because of her “programming flaws.” More than anything, the Android wants to be accepted by the crew as one of their own. And she gets that …for at least a few scenes right before the finale.
This show has such an interesting mix of characters that it’s easy to overlook the fact that the majority of the first season was set on the Raza itself. Again, this series didn’t have a huge budget and it’s practically a miracle that it works as well as it does. Mallozzi and Mullie have made the personal conflicts of each character so compelling that it drowns out some of the show’s shortcomings.
Could Dark Matter use a bigger budget? Absolutely. In the few times that the series has ventured off of the ship, the scale of the show has been a noticeable problem. It’s hard to create the illusion of an intergalactic community of planets when the locations and sets are so limited. But at the very least, genre veterans David Hewlett, Torri Higginson, and Wil Wheaton have turned in some fun guest appearances on the series.
The final episodes of Dark Matter Season 1 do return to the core mystery of the series. And we do find out who wiped the crew’s memories and why. More importantly, a traitor is revealed, but it’s maddeningly unclear why this person did what they did. Thankfully, there is going to be a second season and we will probably get answers to that question—if Dark Matter had not been renewed, I would have been extremely displeased with that ending, but as long as it’s just a season finale cliffhanger, then it’s more than acceptable. The remaining crew of the Raza are in a tight spot and I can’t wait to see how they get out of this one.
Only the last five episodes of Dark Matter are on Hulu and Syfy.com, which makes catching up on this series a little tricky. But it’s more than worth the effort, and there’s plenty of time to get up to speed on Dark Matter before the second season hits in 2016.
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Photo Credits: Space/Syfy