So you wake up, in some kind of chamber, with no idea of who you are, where you are, how you got there – be honest, wouldn’t you freak out a little more than the people on Dark Matter? I sure would. But I promise you, 10 minutes of screaming, followed by another half hour of being curled up in a little ball before I had to run to the bathroom would not make for great TV. Fortunately, the six newly conscious characters, now named One through Six, and their interesting Android friend, have more aplomb and self-control than I do. And I appreciate that.
Dark Matter, one of a pair of Syfy’s new space opera shows (Killjoys will debut next Friday, and the shows will run back to back) has given us a very interesting premise. You have six people who wake up on a spaceship with no personal memory, each with talents and abilities that they have to discover. No information about their whereabouts, their ship, or their reason for being there is found. How do they react to each other? Who’s in charge? Very quickly, it looks like Two (Melissa O’Neil) is the group’s leader. After attacking One (Marc Bendavid) as soon as she wakes up and finds him at the ship’s computer console, she says that she did it “because you were in the way.” As good a reason as any, I guess – her quick moves, decisive actions and belly-baring shirt make her a natural leader.
Most of the first episode felt a bit predictable, but how else do you introduce this large cast? You wake them up, give them all a few lines, have some snappy interaction (“Who are you?” “I don’t know. Who are you?” “I got no idea”) – and then hopefully, you move into something more interesting. And Dark Matter does.
The six crew members each fit a “type” – the sympathetic, good-looking conscience of the crew (One); the smart, decisive leader (Two); the wise-ass, hard as nails, self-important mercenary type (Three, played by Anthony Lemke); the silent martial arts expert (Four, played by Alex Mallari, Jr.); the lost young girl with freaky powers (Five, Jodelle Ferland), and the kind, wisecracking pilot (Six, played by Roger Cross). I’m a little disappointed that they went with the stereotypical Asian as a martial arts master (although I will say that Mallari is great at it, and that, when asked, the show’s creators said that they were open to any type in the role), and that immediately upon finding clothing lockers, the two women went for the makeup first. But I’m expecting that the show will get me past those small irritations quickly enough.
Once the basic intro stuff is over, the show takes off. The little touches are interesting. What is that puzzle box that Four finds? And the small moment where One sees his reflection in the bottom of the metal cup – really nice (ok, I’m picky – those individual rooms were bigger than most studio apartments in Chicago… my brother used to serve on submarines, and they had barely enough space around their bodies to move). And Five’s dream was freaky – I think she may be the breakout character of the show. “I see things… in my head. Like when I was sleeping, I saw a dream, I was walking on the beach with my little brother. He was crying because he’d gotten lost, but I found him and I was bringing him back to the palace.” “The palace? That sounds like a nice place to live,” Two responds. “It was,” Five continues, “Til they murdered my father and came for me, but I was too much for them. And even though I could have killed them, I didn’t. I just carved out their eyes and left them there for my stepmother to find. Bitch. I hope they bring back some real food, I’m starving.” “You, uh, carved out their eyes?” “It was me in the dream, but it wasn’t really me, because it wasn’t my dream.” “Whose was it?” “I don’t know. It was somebody’s.”
With the help of the ship-connected Android (Zoie Palmer) who initially brings down the four male crew members without breaking a sweat, they escape an unknown attacker, jump to Faster Than Light speed, and find themselves on what the Android has determined is their original course, to a planet occupied by a small group of already reached the bottom, down on their luck miners. (Side note – watch for Rob Stewart, who plays the leader of the miners, to appear in Killjoys next week.)
Three jumps in with a semi-truthful by still misleading explanation of their presence, as they learn that these people are anxiously awaiting a hit squad – but they’ve scraped together their last coins to buy weapons, supposedly coming any minute now. Wait, what, weapons? Like the ones found on the ship? Yep. And could they be…? One thinks so. Three doesn’t, or if he does, he doesn’t care. He refuses to help move the portion of the weapons that they’ve decided to give the people on the planet – “After the way I voted, it would be hypocritical,” he says.
And what will it mean – now that they’ve found something that indicates their real names, all except Five? And that they’re fugitives, deadly, rough, ruthless? Are they really? I’m betting on a frame job. Could they really be good guys, set up by the evil MultiCorps? What’s behind the big door that Three tried to blast (great wire work!)? Who was trying to attack them, before the jump to FTL? The pendant that One found in his room, that’s the twin to the pendant that Planet Girl was wearing – is it a key to something? The symbol of a resistance that maybe they’re really part of? There’s frankly not too much to say about introductory episodes, much of the time – set up the characters and the story, give a hint to the twists, I’m ready for next week. I could really use a Don Pardo to end the episode off – “Is our ragtag crew really a band of murderous pirates? Can they be the dreaded Raza? Which one is really half-lizard? And What About Five???”
Dark Matter held a press conference phone call earlier this week, talking with several of the actors and creator Joseph Mallozzi. That discussion, which you can find in two parts here and here, gives you a lot more information about the plans for this season and beyond, the characters, and the direction. Plus, we’ve got a photo gallery of ship schematics and drawings – take a look!
Dark Matter airs on Syfy on Fridays at 10 pm eastern/9 pm central
Follow me on Twitter: @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
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