Image courtesy Syfy

Dark Matter: Episode 4 Review – Evil Clones, Corrupt Casinos, and My 3 am Conspiracy

This show has its roots in Stargate with co-creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie having spent many years dialing us home from grand adventures.  Torri Higginson (Elizabeth Weir) has already had a guest spot and tonight, the roots go a little deeper – Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) directed this episode.  There will be more connections to Stargate, probably via wormhole technology, coming in future episodes, but for now you really should read Joseph Mallozzi’s blog.  He updates it daily and it’s a constant source of great behind-the-scenes information on Dark Matter.  His stories about the cast and crew make it kind of like a virtual set visit every day.  How cool is that?

I loved the opening of this episode because it begins with a nod to one of my favorite movies, A Christmas Story. In the mess, everyone’s talking about what they’re going to do with the money they make from selling the guns. Five’s describing a plasma cutter she’s just itching to buy when Three shuts her down with, “You’ll cut your hands off, kid.” Even Five’s description of all the cutter’s extra features parallels Ralphie’s exuberant description of his dream BB gun.  If they’d have managed to sneak in the phrase “a major award” in this episode I probably would’ve put my own eye out doing a spastic celebratory dance.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Preparing to dock at the space station – (Image courtesy Syfy)

I’m gonna buy myself something nice … and limber.” – Three

Did you notice Android filed a false registration with the space station without having to be told by any of the human crew to do so?  She’s more “human” than I think most of the crew realize, but no one seems to acknowledge her talents nor do they take her up on her random offers of assistance. I think this makes Android sad.

When the Raza is docked, everyone leaves her alone on the bridge without so much as saying goodbye. You can see a tinge of sadness in her eyes as they leave. There’s more to Android than just an anthropomorphic ship interface. Hints of sadness crop up again when she asks Four if he’s feeling depressed or lonely. I got the feeling she was trying to say that she’s the one feeling down. I think Android needs a hug.

I also possess psychological and psychiatric subroutines should you feel the need for therapeutic counseling. Are you feeling depressed? Lonely?

It stands to reason that a device as complex as Android would have the ability to feel.  She’s got subroutines for everything and even sensors that can smell human pheromone production.  She’s designed to look and act human and to interact with humans, so her reactions should be very human-like.  But again, I think her abilities go way beyond even that.  I believe Android is actually sentient and is currently operating in a more simplistic mode in response to the crew’s current expectation of her abilities.  She may also be playing it safe since she introduced herself to the crew by trying to kill them all.

On the other hand, if she’s so good at detecting things like human pheromones, why is it she didn’t detect Evil Jace wasn’t one?  Oh, sure, she noticed his hair, but you mean to tell me she can’t tell two people apart, even if they are clones?

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Sadroid (Image courtesy Syfy)

Two creates one of the best comedy teams since Abbott and Costello when she pairs up One and Three. They both object to the decision, but she shuts them up by giving them each the same “I don’t trust him, I want you to keep an eye on him” excuse. The look on her face after they both take the bait so easily is that of an exasperated mother dealing with two unruly boys.

So far, One’s been a little less defined than the others, but he really came into his own in this episode, in large part due to his banter with Three.  Some of the best dialogue was when the boys were tied up by Evil Jace, who was just as confused about seeing his twin as anyone. Their bickering reminded me of why I loved Stargate so much.  Three still has the best one-liners of all the crew, but when he’s paired with One it really ups the ante on fun dialogue.  For example:

You know what your problem is?” – Three
The fact that I’m stuck with a selfish, self-centered, know-it-all for a shipmate?” – One
She’s not so bad.” – Three

You don’t even know what mercurial means.” – One
Sure I do. It means … shut the hell up!” – Three

Was this foreshadowing, a nice little Easter egg, or both?

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Look, it’s mini-clones! (Image courtesy Syfy)

When Two and Five hit the bazaar, my first thought was it had tiny hints of Blade Runner on a cable budget.  The space station is supposed to be the size of a small city, a cable television show’s budget isn’t.  While it showed here and there, like the copious use of drapery in the bar and Transfer Transit advert, all the sets in this episode take place indoors which means everything has to be created.  Add to that the sheer number of sets that were unique to this episode and you’ve got a budget that’s probably spread incredibly thin, but it came out looking good overall.

Five discovers she has a penchant for games of chance and skill, but is it her skill or Two’s she’s channeling? She was fine playing the shell game, but when she and Two get to the casino, she seems overwhelmed by the card game.  Two suddenly feels in her element and racks up so many wins that security take the two in the back “for a talk.” When things get ugly, Two dispatches all the casino goons with a deadly efficiency that shocks even herself. She looked genuinely scared by what she did. Five was absolutely terrified.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Did that just come out of me? (Image courtesy Syfy)

Four didn’t have a whole lot to do this episode, but what he does leads to some surprising revelations that end up being this week’s big reveal.  Basically, his entire focus is a search for information about the mystery ring. A shopkeeper he approaches in the bazaar tells him it looks like a ring from the Ishida family, then, upon realizing it’s not a knock-off, gets very agitated and hurriedly closes his shop window. This just serves to fuel Four’s single-minded mission of discovery.

Back on board the Raza, Four does some Space Googling on the Ishida family.  He finds a news report about Emperor Ishida’s recent murder at the hands of his son, Crown Prince Ishida Ryo.  Remember, Four’s supposed name from the recovered ship data is Ryo Tetsudo.  The first rule when picking an alias is never use any part of your actual name.  Ryo sucks at that game.  Anyway, the news report says he’s not only armed and dangerous, but unstable to boot.  Well, yeah.  Just look at that crappy alias!  You’d have to be crazy to use that.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Unstable, you say? I KEEL YOU! (Image courtesy Syfy)

Six’s story was the least adventurous, but also the most interesting in terms of hinting at what may have happened to the crew and their memories.  While waiting in a doctor’s office to get his arm examined, he watches a commercial for the “Transfer Transit” system. How many alarms went off in your head when the commercial started talking about cloning, copying memories, and transferring them via hyperspace?

Here again, the doctor’s office didn’t look all that futuristic to me.  Though after looking at some of the trappings, this may have been by design.  The nurse was wearing a hat that resembles vintage headwear – the kind of thing that’s outdated by even today’s standards, the pick-a-number system and its blocky display, and the barebones waiting room all spoke of working on a budget.  But I’m not necessarily talking about a real-world show budget, but instead a space station world budget where everyone’s just scraping by.  After all, space stations are often remote outposts where you get the basics and not much else; they’re more akin to a wild west trading post than a shopping mall department store.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

This doesn’t look like it could be used for evil at all. (Image courtesy Syfy)

The idea of cloning is approached again when Evil Jace tries to figure out how One looks exactly like him. He dismisses cloning since they only last a maximum of 72 hours. But one thing about rules is they can be broken, right? Especially by someone very smart, like maybe Five.  Clones seem like the obvious choice here, which is why I feel so uncomfortable saying that.  With a show like this, the obvious choice is usually the wrong one.

(Image courtesy Syfy)

Clone, surgery, or sorcery? (Image courtesy Syfy)

Do you know what this is?” – Evil Jace
I want to say ‘curling iron.’” – One

Evil Jace tells his captive audience how he was approached to do a job working with the “legendary crew” of the Raza, but was ratted out by an anonymous tipster and had to go on the run. This is important because we learn he works solo and wasn’t a member of the Raza’s crew. I’m not exactly sure how it’s important – I can only speculate with my nutty conspiracy theory below.  It’s highly likely said theory will be both wrong and … very wrong.

Finally, Six points out that the system flagged his DNA even though there are plenty of other wanted criminals on the station. Somebody set up these specific people for reasons we’ll learn about in future episodes.


My 3:00 am Conspiracy Theory

I call it that because that’s when I started thinking this whackjob nugget up.  For all I know, none of the following will make any sense, but it should confirm that I have lost my damned mind. – Tom

As has been revealed, Ferrous Corp wanted Miner’s Planet and for plausible deniability they needed the baddest-ass criminals in space to do their dirty work. They decided that instead of paying them, they’d secretly use Transfer Transit technology to copy the crew’s memories and DNA, then kill them and take the Raza. Once done, they could make disposable clones of the crew every time they wanted a dirty deed done dirt cheap. But to make this happen, they’d need an inside man.

Enter the call to Evil Jace (Dontcha think he needs a goatee?), who’s invited to work with the infamous Raza crew, only it’s a trap set by his new employers. Somewhere along the way, his DNA and memories are copied. Next, Ferrous sends an anonymous tip to the authorities alerting them to his whereabouts. This sends Evil Jace on the lam and out of the picture. Ferrous is done with him and it didn’t cost them a cent.

Ferrous Corp then grows their own Jace Temp-A-Clone, implants it with Evil Jace’s memories, and “hires” it to work undercover for them against the Raza crew. He’s given a virus to implant in the ship’s systems to wipe all data and everyone’s memories right after they take Miner’s Planet. Finally, he’s to kill the amnesiac crew and Evil Plan is complete, but an unexpected variable is introduced.

Five, whoever she really is, knows the Raza crew, especially Griffin Jones who’s looked after she and her brother for years. She knows they’re not bad people, just people who were forced into bad situations, perhaps out of desperation and need. Somehow, she gets wind of this evil corporate plan and decides to intervene.

Five uses her skills to board the ship with the Marauder, hence the very different look of the small craft from the Raza itself, using the mysterious key card to gain final entry. She reluctantly brings her little brother along since he’s got no one to look after him except his big sister. They hide in the room where his body is eventually found until the crew go into stasis pods. Five then reprograms the virus to transfer everyone’s memories into her head, giving them all a fresh start, including Jace Clone, but also keeping their memories safe in case they’re needed.

Five knows Jace Clone won’t live long. She puts her knowledge of biology to use modifying his physiology so it would have a normal human lifespan – possibly using some of the same rapid-regenerating biotech that was used on Six’s arm by the doctor.

While she was busy doing this, her brother, being a bored kid, starts playing with the pistol she brought aboard for protection. He accidentally shoots himself and Five can’t help but feel responsible. Overcome with grief and guilt, she decides that in addition to transferring the crew’s memories into herself, she would wipe her own both as a penance and to rid herself of the emotional trauma.

For the rest of our extensive coverage of Dark Matter, CLICK HERE.  You don’t want to piss off the android, do you?

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Dark Matter airs Fridays at 10/9 central on Syfy

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