A Sashurai’s Review: Dark Matter – Season 1×01 (Discount Pandorum or possibly upscale Firefly…without the comedy)

Dark Matter 1x01

Six amnesiacs wake up in a derelict ship, the android walks up to them and says “What is this a show?” I kid. The series premiere of Dark Matter begins its premise with a kaleidoscope of mysteries surrounding six individuals who have had their memories erased and find themselves onboard an empty ship floating in space. Carrying only their abilities and polar opposite attitudes, they embark on a fact finding adventure that lead them to a shocking discovery. Oh, and Lauren from Lost Girl is an android.

Pilots are often cheap and very hit or miss with tone and substance. Stereotypes are unfortunately necessary when relying on the mystery aspect of a storyline so the audience can quickly gauge who the heroes, sidekicks, and annoying anti-hero types are. Dark Matter quickly chose to support this method and hoped that the ends justified the means. While opting for the safe approach, the premiere episode was flexible but altogether a hodgepodge of ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ non sequiturs that threw as many objects of interest as they could before the episode landed on the cliffhanger reveal. There’s just enough to wet the appetite, but for non-comic fans, it could result in a loss of interest if these one-dimensional personalities don’t evolve quickly.

A ship in space is losing life support and several individuals are awoken with no memory of their identity or past. The lead female attacks the lead male before returning life support to the ship. After all six wake (four men and two women) they begin searching for clues as to who they are. Each are given a numbered designation and they split up to search the area. They come across an android who initially attacks the pair that found her. She is eventually subdued and reinitialized with a blank slate memory. Together the ragtag crew avoid an attack from a nearby ship that tried to destroy them and they travel to a planet the ship was originally intended arrive at. On the planet they encounter miners who stress that an alien group known as the Raza(sp?) who work for a multi-corporation, are on their way to wipe them out. The crew return to their ship and debate helping them or leaving them to their fate when the android finds a cache of information including their identities as murders and pirates. They discover the ship itself is called The Raza and that they are the ones who were sent to wipe out the miners.

With the exception of Five and Six, the crew was drop-dead boring to listen to. There’s somewhat of a frustrating angle happening at the start which includes having to throw together incompatible personalities that somehow easily co-exist for the sake of a common goal. This can work on some levels such as the film “Cube” (Also a Canadian-based sci-fi project) where amnesiacs are forced to learn quickly that working together means staying alive. Only these characters on the ship weren’t in any real danger after life support was re-established and the heightened suspense deflates because of it. For the sake of details let’s recap the main traits of our protagonists.

One – The sensible male hero who empathizes with those struggling and quickly finds the lead female character capable and attractive. He is awkward at moments but tries to do what’s right within the context of his situation. He’s bumbling around the lead female because within a few minutes, he’s probably already in love with her.

Two – The strong female hero who assumes command, nurtures the sidekick, and remains straight-faced regardless of the problems before her. She shows no interest in the lead male hero even though they are paired off as the “obvious” but not really obvious sexual tension pair of the show. She’s independent and won’t succumb to flirtation from any character, especially the cocky anti-hero.

Three – The cocky anti-hero. He’s the gun loving sarcastic brute who is out for himself and brutally honest about his self preservation. He thinks he should be the leader because he knows how to point weapons and has no heart for those in need. Everyone is sick of him quickly and he has a 50/50 shot of redeeming himself or becoming so hated that he eventually is kicked off the team.

Four – The quiet and reserve melee expert, or “The sword guy.” He speaks little but supports the team with a neutral code. He’s kind but can easily be misunderstood because of his lack of personality and deadpan responses. He’s likeable because he’s the natural badass with hidden sentiments that will become known once he’s gained the trust of the good-natured heroes of the show.

Five – The melodramatic teen with an unnatural talent for machine knowledge and a shrouded past. She dresses like an angsty rebel but acts demur while carrying worry and pain she doesn’t understand. Knick-knacks interest her and she spouts random factoids that unsettle the heroes which include possible telepathic abilities or other strange phenomena. She’s the sidekick with a heart of gold which the anti-hero will learn to love like a sister, or hate with a passion, like a sister.

Six – The muscle. Simple and well-rounded. He supports the heroes and doesn’t put up with mouthy opposition. Often as sensible as the male lead but with less reservations on making the call on what to do. If he has to punch first and ask questions later, he’s okay with that too. He’s generally nice and caring but can get mean if pushed to the brink.

The android – At first, she’s the misunderstood enemy, then the tool to help thwart danger, eventually she’ll become a valuable member of the crew and friend to the heroes, possible sacrificing herself in one of the future finales. She won’t understand human sentiments but will be able to retort sarcasm in the face of suspenseful transitions.

Some of these elements work, but most of them are entirely tired personalities that contain all-too familiar flaws and beats toward expunging those flaws. Time will tell if these characters fall under the same patterns or if being in space has a different effect on them. As it stands, the first twenty minutes was a race to get as much information as we could without giving anything pertinent away. Again, some of this works especially Five’s scary knowledge on biology and machine work, along with her interpretation of a dream she had.

While the plot as a whole isn’t fresh or engaging, the secondary mysteries were there as a backup to entice singular moments such as the large door that’s locked and can’t be opened. The android’s seemingly blank memory on anything aside from ship diagnostics and basic functions. One’s connection to the youthful miner who sports the same necklace given by a sage-like character not yet introduced. These are conditioning plot-points that will serve to push the viewers into deeper elements of the arc and as long as they don’t overdue it, can be a successful workaround in case the main storyline isn’t solid.

FAVORITE MOMENT

The end reveal was great and utterly necessary to maintain interest. Even though aliens were mentioned, it’s good to know if they exist they won’t be immediately shoe-horned on screen. I like the idea that these “heroes” are all murders and pirates with the exception of Five, who is still an unknown. Three will likely except his identity quickly and move to embrace it even further while the others struggle to believe what they are told. Does this mean they are actually killers? Or is this just planted information to get them to do the multi-corp’s dirty work?

CHARACTER MVP

Five had the most dramatic performance. Her dream sequence details and strange fascinations on the guts of the machines makes her quirky but the most likeable of the cast thus far. She’s the outcast because of her looks and youthfulness, but she may also carry the biggest secret(s) of them all.

ENDING THOUGHTS

I find the miner’s logic on how they explain their claim a bit flawed only in that if they are killed they lose their claim. Space legalities are tricky business when there’s no universal structure of law and policing to mandate that law. But we haven’t been introduced to anything except one planet’s interpretation on life outside the outer rim.

It’s a minor gripe, but straight swords shouldn’t really be fitted on the waist like where a katana blade is normally kept. They generally are hung over the shoulder and back and this is movie aesthetics I’m referring to, not actual historical warrior depictions, because straight swords (of the ninja variety) are an exotic filming weapon and not a real tried and true piece of history. In any case, it just looked a bit silly. But his sword kata was descent.

Since Five wasn’t revealed as a murderer, she will be stuck with a number designation instead of a real name. Questions will be asked such as, who is she, why is she on that ship, how does she know so much weird stuff. At least they didn’t call the android “Seven”…because an emotionless (robot-like) blonde named Seven was already a thing done long ago on a starship…named Voyager.

So does this mean the ship that attacked them was a good ship or a bad ship based on the information we know? Seems like it could go either way and misdirect the heroes a bit if they are attacked again.

In all fairness, Three had a point about One being the first one to wake up. It’s hard to prove innocence in cases like those and since it was glossed over rather quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be somewhat behind this incident. But a sensible hero-like main protagonist with a dark evil past and full of subterfuge was already a thing done recently on a show…called Agents of Shield.

OVERALL SCORE

5 out of 10. It was a robust start with a lot of hammed moments, but altogether still managed to put a nice bow on at the end. This is one of those instances where perhaps I want to know what happens because I want to know what happens. We still don’t yet know if there will in fact be aliens, dimension hopping, time travel, crazy space battles, psyonic powers, or age-old revenge wars sparked by warring families across the cosmos. I suppose the comic fans know already, so they’ll be ready for the unfolding plot at hand. It’s a cheaply made show with some decent space CGI but very little imagining on the inside. These characters with the exception of Five have a lot of work to do to chisel away their stereotypical traits. Pilots introduce them but they can easily learn to adjust just as fast and make the team likeable and worthy of following. But if Three turns into a Jayne Cobb-like character, just boot his ass out the airlock, or “space” him as he coined it. There’s only one Jayne Cobb, and that was Jayne Cobb.

No more words

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