Third-episode verdict: Dark Matter (Canada: Space; US/UK: Syfy)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

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

The best that can probably be said about Dark Matter is that it’s better than you think it’s going to be and that it gets better over time. A show initially so generic in its grungy, generic sci-fi ambitions, we all had a hard time working out if it was Blakes 7 crossed with Andromeda or Farscape crossed with Firefly. Since then, its essential core – generic characters in a generic spaceship experiencing generic science-fiction plots in generic outer space Wild West – has hardly changed. The characters are the same, the situations are the same and the tropes are the same.

But whether it’s now finding its feet or its original comic source has now been exhausted and the producers (who also wrote it) are trying to work out what’s better for the small screen, episode three felt marginally better. A more generic version of Blakes 7’s Stardrive, it was basically a ‘ship in a bottle’ episode that allowed everyone to interact and reveal more about themselves and the main plot. While pretty much everything went as you’d have expected it, there were a few surprise twists and despite the ‘gritty’ setting, it managed to be amiable and fun enough to maintain attention throughout.

More importantly, the very end of the episode suggests potentially more interesting territory is about to be explored: the crew may have lost their memories but (spoiler alert) they may never have had them and may only be clones of the real crew.

All the same, the show’s put enough of its cards on the table now that we can see there’s a peak quality threshold it’s never going to exceed. Dark Matter‘s generic space opera at best and to be fair to the producers, that’s all they’re aiming for. I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with it, but unlike its equally generic, Friday-night schedule buddy Killjoys, it does at least pass the time nicely and without many dull moments, there are some decent actors in the cast and it’s not stupid. And by both Syfy and sci-fi standards, that’s pretty good.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Could well make it to a second season, but I suspect I’ll have given up before then

Author

  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.