I like to think that I’m up on current events when it comes to pop culture, especially what is called “genre” TV and movies. When I did my podcast I remember the day the Sci Fi channel changed it’s name to SyFy and proclaimed it would steer away from science fiction. Because why would a channel heavily steeped in science fiction want to be a science fiction channel? Their claim that wrestling is their biggest money and ratings maker was backed up by TV by the Numbers which is a thinly disguised Nielsen Ratings website. I say “thinly disguised because they only use Nielsen Ratings. Apparently in an era where everything cable so data can easily be quantified, TV still thinks Nielson’s ratings are a thing. Anyway this move by SyFy to get away from serious science fiction back in 2009 pissed off a lot of people because it did not make sense. This is the channel the produced shows like Stargate, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica and Eureka. Show with varying success in the ratings but arguably became important part of the pop culture landscape.
So color me surprised when SyFy announced they were going back to science fiction. I mean science fiction not disguised as “supernatural” shows with heavy science fiction elements. (I’m looking at you, Warehouse 13.) I say “color me surprised” because I completely missed when they were announcing it. Blame it on YouTube channels that keep reporting super hero movie news over everything else, I guess. One of the shows that kept to this promise is Dark Matters, which premiered on June 12th. Even from the trailer, which I didn’t see until after I watched the premiere, the science fiction elements are undeniable. Space Ship, crew in space ship uniforms, a robot and easy access to planets. This is the future, after all, and in the future getting to planets is like taking a drive to the mall.
The show comes out the gate with a mystery that will appear to be the main focus. Six people and a sexy robot wake up to find themselves on a ship they don’t recognize and no memory of who they are. The robot’s programing and some of the ships logs have been wiped or damaged so that information is not readily available. However they do not feel distress about this and even comfortable being aboard the ship even though they cannot be sure if they are prisoners or passengers. As the show moves forward they all find out they have a particular set of skills that makes getting around the ship easier. The also simplify things but calling each other numbers that matches the order they woke up in, 1 through six.
One, played by Marc Bendavid, is the diplomatic white guy who assesses the situation quickly so he’s able to give some exposition. Two, played by Melissa O’Neil, is the kick ass hot chick who knows how to pilot and control the ship. Three, played by Anthony Lemke, is the show’s Adam Baldwin from Firefly, he likes guns and blowing stuff up and will help the crew but get in their way for personal gain. Four, played by Alex Mallari Jr, is the martial art’s deadly but quiet fighter who I bet will turn out to be some kind of ninja shadow assassin. Not much of an Asian stereotype there, eh SyFy. The plucky if not somewhat spooky but adorable teenage is Five, play by Jodelle Ferland who seems to be the one with vision and genius level technical expertise. Roger Cross play Six. You know Roger Cross from playing the brooding but action effective cop in Motive, or the brooding but action effective terrorist in Continuum, or the brooding but dedicated action oriented servant on the Strain. Here he play the brooding but action oriented pilot determined to be the diplomat of the crew. Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer plays the tough and snarky android that can interface with the ship so serves as the shows Basil Exposition and mover of plot device.
So far there is no clear villain ex machina, and the crew reaches their first adventure/destination thanks to the nameless android having found where the ship is supposed to be heading through the ships logs. They come upon a mining colony where we are given a sense of the shows over all world. Space if mostly run through corporation and the resources of planets is obviously huge areas of profit in this universe. However we are not given a sense of what kind of leadership governs the rules of everyone. We’re told that colonies can claim a planet by being there and use the planet’s mined resources for commerce and trade but why the corporations can get away with whipping out entire colonies is a bit a of mystery so far. We do know that the corporations employ a group of bogeymen called “The Raza” to do their dirty work and the people of the colony are waiting for a shipment of weapons and assists to help them fight this Raza. Because someone fired a missile at them before they made it to the colony and the ship is packed to the brim with weapon, the crew decide they must be the ones who are supposed to help the colonists from the evil corporation. Enter show final twist here, but I’ll admit it was a good one.
I can already see that people will compare this show to Firefly, and I understand why. That would be sad because Firefly was only original in execution rather than in character and story element. The elements found in that show as well as Dark Matter has existed since the Buck Rogers days of serial science fiction so I’m not holding this against the show. The creators, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie of Stargate fame, went out their way to create a diverse cast which is a really good thing to see. My only gripe will probably be Three who, as I said before, will obviously play the one who gets in everyone’s way even when it make no sense at all. The guy who does stupid shit so the plot can attempt to be interesting is getting old for me. I admit this is a nit pick right now because I otherwise enjoyed the first episode and was engaged enough to give a mildly high recommendation. Let’s see where things go from here.