I’m constantly up for trying out new sci-fi shows because I believe we can never have enough of them on the small screen, but I’ve always been afraid of getting near the Syfy channel simply because I’m aware of the Firefly backlash (thanks to Sheldon Cooper). But I thought I’d try Dark Matter because the premise seemed full of potential. Sadly, it was a disappointment. But surprisingly, I’ll be sticking with the show.
The show, based on the Dark Horse comics, starts with six strangers who wake up from stasis and find themselves stuck on a spaceship with no recollection of who they are or what they are doing there. The debut scene literally wastes no time and delves right into its central mystery just seconds after we’ve met the characters, and that’s partially what made the pilot feel like so lackluster. There’s no time to absorb all of this in, but instead we’re immediately thrown into action sequences which are a little embarrassing to be honest and some less-than-admirable CGI. Since the first two episodes are directed by T.J. Scott (also known for his work on Orphan Black and Gotham), I expected to see some neat visuals but the result is pretty standard, and Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie’s script doesn’t really help either.
Heavily stepping into the mystery this soon unfortunately comes at the expense of character development. While I loved the idea of keeping these people nameless and mysterious (instead naming themselves in the order of which they woke up), the fact that they easily took the news of being stuck on a spaceship with all of their memories wiped was quite unrealistic, even for a show like this. I needed at least one character to be freaking out in the corner or wondering if this was all a dream. They could call that character Chris for all I care for because that’s sure as hell what I would be doing if it were me.
With that aside, even the rest of the hour was pretty generic and fell through almost every lame pilot trope I could think of. The android (Zoie Palmer) was very much disappointing, but that’s nothing when compared to how cheesy the rest of the characters were. In typical form, we have the moral, favorable lead who they decided to call “One” (Marc Bendavid), the strong and pinheaded female “Two” (Melissa O’Neil), the self-absorbed jerk “Three” (Anthony Lemke), the quiet Asian swordfighter “Four” (Alex Mallari Jr.), the quirky tech wiz “Five” (Jodelle Ferland) and the abysmal no-clued guy “Six” (Roger Cross).
However, even with all the cheesiness and the extremely underwhelming characters, there’s something quite entertaining about this show. The cast does a fine job with the material they’re given and the episode was very fast-paced, moving the plot way further than I would have anticipated. There are some exciting subplots that definitely have potential if they are stretched out properly in future episodes (and a very awkward sexual innuendo that we must not speak of). Plus, I love how it takes place on a ship (ironically a la The Last Ship), and there’s an unexpected nifty twist in the end that had me engaged and desperately wanting to see episode two.
Okay, not “desperately”. But I’ll give this show the benefit of the doubt with a couple more episodes. If the writing improves (drastically), the characters get a little fleshed out and the twists keep pouring in, there’s a slight chance Dark Matter can turn into a fun little summer affair.
This isn’t bad television, but it isn’t good television either. The characters’ shallowness is very off-putting, but the show’s serialized premise and initial mystery is full of potential. Sometimes, mindless television can still be entertaining.