Review: Dark Matter 1×1 (Canada: Space; US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)

90% Blakes 7, 10% Andromeda with just a sprinkling of Firefly

Dark Matter

In Canada: Fridays, 10e/7p, Space
In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy. Starts tonight  

They say there are no original ideas any more and that everything has already been done before – it’s just a question of how you take elements of what’s gone before to create a new mixture.

If this statement is true, it’s doubly true of science-fiction, where for any given show, it’s almost certainly possible to name a very similar if not identical predecessor. A case in point is the new Canadian-US co-production Dark Matter.

Adapted from their own comic by the brains behind the TV version of Stargate, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, the show is roughly 90% Blakes 7 for starters – a group of six misfits, four men, two women, wind up on board an advanced spaceship. There they meet the seventh member of the crew, the ship’s artificial intelligence, and come together to fight oppression from a huge federation.

The remaining 10% of the show is pure Andromeda, with the ship’s artificial intelligence having a robotic avatar and the crew having turned good relatively recently, originally being a bunch of criminals until they had their memories taken away. And then there’s the slightly enigmatic woman with funny coloured hair who’s on board the ship but wasn’t one of the criminals and who has strange powers.

So far, so derivative. There’s even a little sprinkling of Firefly on top. The question is – does Dark Matter stick all these components together to create something decent?

The short answer is: not really, but at least it’s fun.

About
The crew of a derelict spaceship is awakened from stasis with no memories of who they are or how they got on board. Facing threats at every turn, they have to work together to survive a voyage charged with vengeance, betrayal and hidden secrets.

Is it any good?
The show’s about as predictable as they come, but it’s never egregiously bad and it has a few fun moments.

Even once they start to get their memories back, the ship’s roster is pretty standard, dull and even a bit stereotypical. We have 24/Continuum’s Roger Cross forced back into the tough black guy role after managing to spread his wings a bit on Motive and The Returned. He heartily approves of the cool name for the ship’s shuttlecraft, Marauder. We have a nearly silent, cryptic Asian guy who’s good at martial arts (Alex Mallari Jr). There’s the tough female leader (Melissa O’Neil), who’s also sexy and likes to show a bit of navel, much to the appreciation of the men. There’s a Southern guy who doesn’t like to play by the rules (Anthony Lemke). And it’s the geeky girl (Jodelle Ferland) who’s good at electronics and mechanics (cf Scorpion, NCIS), of course. Then there’s The Android (she’s a gynoid) in the silvery catsuit (Zoie Palmer).

To its credit, the show does play a little with these stereotypes and adds the occasional nuance. Cross may be a big growly guy, but actually, he’s the brains of the operation; the waif-like Ferland may be a bit geeky and hides when there’s action, but she might potentially have been a complete sociopath before she lost her memory (cough, cough, Firefly/Serenity) and she also the ability to acquire other people’s dreams – or are they memories?

But that’s it for subtlety. After that, it’s business as usual, with some quite generic, averagely shot and choreographed fight sequences, and people doing obviously stupid things because it’s that kind of show and people need to do stupid things for the plot to progress. The big bad guys are, as usual, big mining corporations telling people to get off their land in an outer space wild west (cf Firefly). The big twist – (spoiler alert, if you need one: the goodies are actually mercenaries doing evil things for the corporations) – is pretty obvious. And enough of people’s identities are revealed that there’s not much hope for any of them turning out to secretly be intergalactic pro-celebrity Lacrosse champions or embittered puppeteers.

All the same, there’s a sense of fun to it. There’s nothing here that you won’t have seen before, particularly if you’ve watched Blakes 7, but you won’t be bored while you watch it and the cast if reasonably appealing, even if I managed to explain this entire episode without mentioning one of them at all, he’s so superfluous (sorry, Marc Bendavid).

Give it a go – it’s summer.




  • Andy Butcher

    Hehehe, was just writing about this in 'What have you been watching…' while you posted this.

    As I said there, I got a lot more Firefly-with-a-dash-of-Farscape than Blake's 7 and Andromeda, but that's probably just an indication of how generic most of it is. 😉

  • Mark Carroll

    I'm not sure it's going to successfully compete against that now I have to mow the lawn again.

    That reminds me, I seem to keep hearing about Blake's 7 remakes, but they never seem to actually appear.

  • benjitek

    Initially, I found it annoying… if they all had amnesia, how did they know so much… like language. Then, one of the characters spoke the same thing out loud, questioning how they knew what they knew. Amnesia, as a central plot element, is hard to do well — like time travel. Depending on where they go with it, might be halfway decent — Defiance airs right before it, so that'll help.

    They renewed Dominion, so anything goes…

  • tobyob

    Thanks for the heads-up. Going to On Demand to catch the premiere and set the DVR to record Killjoys as well to check it out.

  • Farscape I'm not that familiar with, as I wrote it off as 'Pigs in Space' but with more diverse Muppets after a few episodes. But the first episode of Dark Matter felt almost exactly like the second and third episodes of Blake's 7, just jiggled around a bit.

    But very generic. To their credit, the producers have said they're aiming for generic space opera, so they've pretty much accomplished what they set out to achieve 😉

  • Only ever on audio, never on video

  • Dominion's renewal is at least proof of the existence of fallen angels

  • benjitek

    Saw an outstanding bit of SciFi yesterday, at least I thought so — but then I enjoy Defiance 😉

    Humans on Channel 4 — which was the opposite of 'copied-from' and more 'influenced-by'. I found it to be a unique story with a slight dash of Stepford Wives and a drop of AI. I needed something after endearing all of Sense8. I only had a couple issues with it:

    1) They didn't do a 2 hour opening episode
    2) I have to wait a whole week for more

  • GYAD

    FARSCAPE was one of the better TV space operas – or so my teenage self remembers – not least because it understood how silly it all was and therefore had fun.

    In contrast, I only made two minutes of DARK MATTER before it's sheer generic-ness made me fall asleep. At least ANDROMEDA had the charmingly rubbish Kevin Sorbo.

  • JustStark

    I watched Humans and it wasn't going too badly until they used the word 'singularity' — now I've read of this idea, and it's way past my bollocks threshold.

    Still, they didn't make too much of it, so it's too early to tell whether it's going to be bollocks or just use the bollocks as ignorable dialogue fluff. I'm going to give it a chance.

    But when oh when am I going to be able to watch The Americans? Are they not even going to bring it out on dick over here until some channel has bought it? that could take for ever.

  • The start is quite egregiously bad but gets progressively better as the episode goes on. Never better than 'quite generic', though.

  • Still watching the first episode of Humans – being on Channel 4 put me off. Not bad so far and different enough from AI, Bicentennial Man, I, Robot and Ex Machina that I'm not bored

  • benjitek

    A nice summer surprise — wish Netflix had bought it and given Channel 4 dibs on Sense8, I could easily binge all of Humans in 1 sitting.

    Can't wait for Sundays 🙂

  • It's a remake of Sweden's Äkta Människor so if you can ferret out the original (and some subtitles), there's two seasons waiting for you. Oh wait, what's this…? 😉

    ..

  • benjitek

    Wow… now initiating my day-old Roku 3 — oh wait, a Vimeo channel 🙂 Can't help but think there's a better wait than adding them all as 'watch later' on my PC first instead of adding the album as 'watch later' — 4 clips for each episode. Great find!
    [EDIT] found season 2 is there also… I'm seeing a sleepless night in the immediate future…

  • Mark Carroll

    I shall have to give Äkta Människor a try. It gets great reviews.

  • Hope you enjoy – and manage to get some sleep…

  • benjitek

    On episode 3 of season 2 — was able to find both seasons with subtitles @ 720 resolution which play well with Plex/Roku. It's good, but the remake is definitely different. Watching the first episode I thought I'd selected them out-of-order. What happens at the end of the remake's episode 1 never happens in Äkta Människor.

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  • ITV Encore has just acquired seasons 3 and 4 of The Americans

    http://worldscreen.com/article

  • JustStark

    YAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Though I suppose it means I'll have to add 'ITV Encore' to my channel list so I can see on the guide when it comes up. Oh, the travails of modern technology.

  • Locate TV will email you a weekly schedule of your favourite programmes, which episodes are currently airing and where you can watch them, if you ask them nicely:

    http://www.locatetv.com/tv/ame

  • JustStark

    ARGH ITV ENCORE IS NOT ON FREEVIEW WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER TO GET A HARD DISK RECORDER

    I guess since I won that Xbox in that raffle though I can do a NowTV trial, even if that does mean I have to give them my e-mail address.

    But, oh for the good old days when TV was something you either watched or recorded on tapes in your house and there was none of this over-the-internet faffing.

  • Catch-up's where it's going to these days, apparently:

    http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/

    Certainly, I've stopped recording things on the Sky box and use Now TV instead. It seems more convenient than having to set the pesky things to record, remembering to allow overlap in case they overrun, etc, etc, remembering to hit them with a stick when they forget to tell you something clashes with something else so doesn't record one of them and so on

  • JustStark

    It seems more convenient than having to set the pesky things to record, remembering

    Well yes yes there is all those things (though the hard disk at least has stopped the 'having to make sure the right tape is in the machine', sometimes new technology does not change the world exclusively for the worse) but on the other hand if you quite often don't get around to watching things until six months, a year, whatever, after they were on, catch-up doesn't help much. That's why i want them on my hard disk in my house where they aren't going to evaporate (well, unless the hard disk machine goes kaput like the TVonics one did last year, lost almost eighteen month's-worth of stuff there, but that's rarer than stuff going off catch-up).

    (One of the reasons I don't like the idea of Sky is that I don't want to record stuff on a box I don't own, when I know if I ever cancelled the contract I'd have at least a couple of years' stuff still stored on it to watch).

  • JustStark

    … Except now it's started, and they've broadcast episodes one and two as a double-bill, but only the first one has actually shown up on catch-up (and according to someone on a forum, that has the aspect ratio wrong).

    I'm not going to be subscribing to Now TV if they aren't even going to put the episodes on catch-up; I shall just have to hope that having had the UK broadcast première, the series will at some point come out on disk that I can rent.

    Very annoying. Not хорошо at all, ITV.

  • JustStark

    Well to be fair they seem to have fixed it — fingers crossed it doesn't go wrong again — and having now seen up to the third episode, it is definitely up to the high standard of the previous series.

  • Mark Carroll

    Glad you're liking it. (-: I had my doubts a little in the middle but it picked up again.

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