Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy on a daily schedule of themes:
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This series is a good sign that maybe SyFy is getting back on track.
Its no secret that the former Sci-Fi Channel went off the tracks for awhile, and started doing things like replacing science fiction with professional wrestling, and mind-numbing reality series designed for morons. Lately though, they seem to have woken up to the fact they lost their way, and are showing signs of a renewed devotion to scripted genre TV.
2015’s summer lineup of shows for their revitalized Sci-FI Friday, was a welcome change of direction for fans who had grown alienated by, and even begun to despise the channel’s programming schedule.
Of the series in question, Defiance had already become known as a hit-or-miss proposition at best, with rare instances of good science fiction interspersed with lackluster stories that soon lowered the series popularity with fans. This series was followed by a new show that showed some promise, Killjoys, a future telling of life in outer space about the bounty hunters that plied their trade there. A sort of reworked approach to Joss Whedon’s classic short-lived series Firefly, this series enjoyed some popularity among fans for its initial season, some more that others. Ultimately I thought it was disappointing overall, and never really lived up to its promise… yet.
The best of the three, and the subject of this article was the Canadian series Dark Matter, basically a mystery/adventure series in outer space surrounding the crew of the spaceship Raza. They awaken from technologically induced slumber in individual chambers with no memory of their past or how they came to be on the ship. We soon learn that some of them are wanted criminals for various offenses. Another crew member is an android they discover, also in sleep mode, who it turns out is linked to the ship and can control its operation and functions. The universe they live in is controlled by competing corporate entities they seem the have varying degrees of unfriendly relationships with, contributing to making the context of their existence, on occasion, more hostile and threatening.
The series was a pleasant surprise. It uses a formula that should be familiar to fans of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (which makes sense since it is from former Stargate writers/EPs Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie). Implementing a lighthearted touch to the unfolding drama and mystery that naturally results from the crew’s manifold dilemmas as they go about defining themselves as characters, and try to decide what to do next. In addition there are depictions of future tech and other reminders the story takes place in the future of humanity’s existence in outer space.
This is a character driven narrative and the ensemble cast is a good and likable one. They decide to call themselves by the numbers denoting the order they woke up in: 1-6.
One: (Marc Bendavid) The first to awaken and another mystery in himself. It is soon revealed he is not who he appears to be and has had plastic surgery in order to appear as someone else in order to gain entry to the ship, for, as yet, unknown reasons. He doesn’t seem to have any particular skill set.
Two: (Mellisa O’Neil) The leader by virtue of her natural ability to do so. Highly intelligent, and strong, the most organized and pragmatic of the group. She has skills as a fighter, and its later revealed she has been technologically enhanced with the ability to adapt to, and survive the harshest environments, up to, and including hard vacuum.
Three: (Anthony Lemke) Appears to be a self centered, blustering, over-the-top macho buffoon with a big mouth, who seems only interested in his own welfare as a priority over everyone else’s. He does not seem to be as intelligent as the rest. Impulsive and volatile, but his bark is worse than his bite. He demonstrates a real affection for weapons, and seems to have experience with them. A wanted criminal.
Four: (Alex Mallari Jr) On the surface a reclusive misanthrope, a man of few words with an almost monk-like, deadly serious approach to everything and everyone. He is soon revealed as belonging to a royal bloodline and is a prince. A master of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. Also a criminal wanted for the murder of his father.
Five: (Jodelle Ferland) A sort of space hippy, she is much younger that the rest, and soon becomes regarded as the crew’s mascot. She is highly intelligent, unconventional, and displays a natural proclivity for dealing with most tech. She is an anomaly that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the crew.
Six: (Roger Cross): On the surface he seems to be a reasonable man, large and capable. When it is discovered the Raza has a shuttle he demonstrates a natural ability as its pilot. No other particular skills but a good guy to have on your side in a fight. Another wanted criminal in connection with a mass murder.
The Android: (Zoie Palmer) Although not a real person she is female in appearance. She is an extension of the ship and can act as an interface with it. Incredibly strong and an important resource for the crew. She is another take on the Pinocchio trope often used in science fiction and is portrayed as a sort of female Data.
The Raza: a sporty sort of tank of a spaceship, fast and sturdy, reminiscent of the most recent movie incarnations of the Batmobile.
This 13-episode series was a pleasant surprise that didn’t seem all that interesting to begin with, but over a few episodes, quickly changed my opinion of it. The first season aired during the summer of 2015, and was a refreshing change of pace from all the comics based series on TV today. I consider it to be one of the best new outer space science fiction adventure series out there of recent memory, and fun to watch. Good stuff.
The series was picked up for anther 13-episode season, and the season 2 premiere is scheduled for July, 1st, 2016, Friday at 10 pm. Looking forward to it with enthusiasm.