RogerBW's Blog

Dark Matter season 1 04 March 2016

2015, 13 episodes. A motley crew wakes up on a spaceship with skills but no memories. They try to find out who they were and what happened.

But they don't try very hard. The "other" SyFy Friday night show of 2015, alongside Killjoys, was created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, who wrote and produced rather a lot of episodes for the various Stargate television series. They originally pitched it as a TV series some time around 2011, but didn't get enough interest, so produced a four-issue comic; a couple of years later, SyFy commissioned them to adapt it back to television.

There are quite a few familiar SyFy faces here in minor roles: David Hewlett, Torri Higginson, Wil Wheaton (well-cast as a smug and pompous git), and the excellent Zoie Palmer as the ship's android. The leads aren't familiar to me, but their characters are: the good guy, the crass offensive guy, the space samurai, the big friendly black guy, the slightly weird techie chick (always referred to as "a child", as she was in the comics, though her actress is in her twenties and doesn't look particularly young), and so on… nothing original here, and even more than Killjoys this is deliberately generic sci-fi with absolutely no surprises to offer. Yeah, sure, the ship needs fuel and repairs… when the plot needs it to. There are planets, and it takes a while to go between them, but you'll never see a starmap. There's a Galactic Authority (how generic can you get), which has rebels working against it, though at least for once those rebels aren't all saints.

The big story arc, of course, is the leads' discovery of who they are (or at least were) and how they got onto the ship with wiped memories in the first place. We find out quite a bit of the former, but basically nothing of the latter.

The show looks cheap in a way that Killjoys doesn't. We spend a lot of time in the same spaceship corridors (and occasionally in those old familiar Canadian forests, and around disused industrial plants and what I suspect are 1960s university buildings), guns and other props are slab-sided low-detail items clearly thrown together in a hurry, and there are never any crowd scenes (something to which my Doctor Who re-watch has made me particularly sensitive).

There is something laid on top of the standard plots, though: bickering. Bickering might work better if we had more reason to care about these people.

The season ends with an old-fashioned and conventional cliffhanger in which Everything Has Gone Wrong and the entire crew is in trouble. This is skiffy spackle that doesn't have anything to say. It has its moments, and the acting is often surprisingly good, but in the end it does nothing more than filling time. The series has been renewed for another season.

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See also:
Killjoys season 1

  1. Posted by RogerBW at 07:36pm on 06 March 2016

    Between the two, I found Killjoys distinctly better. Both of them seem like the result of shaking up the Big Box of Sci-Fi Clichés and seeing what fell out, but Killjoys did a better job of putting them together; it has more engaging actors, more of a sense of fun, and an actual ongoing story.

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