by Madeline Iva
***Yeah, this post is chock full of spoilers. You’ve been warned.*** Dark Matter is a successful comic book made into a Canadian television show that you can binge watch on Netflix–which is what I did. The gloomy ship, the tough characters and the cloudy mystery about their identity sucked me right in until I was devouring episodes left and right.
One. He’s the good guy on a ship of tough criminals. So how did he wind up with them?
WHY I LOOOOOOOOVED DARK MATTER SO MUCH:
The premise is pretty brilliant. Six people wake up in sleep pods on a dark ship in space. Their memories have been wiped. In addition to that, the android that sort of runs the ship wakes up and starts attacking them, so they knock her out and end up injuring her. To get her back up requires a memory wipe, so she too doesn’t know what happened to them all. It’s science-fiction, but it’s also mystery. Who are they? Who did this to them? Why?
Two. She’s hot.
They give themselves numbers and I knew that they’d eventually run into their pasts and get names, but it made me extraordinarily satisfied that they call each other by numbers. It becomes an alternative identity. Later on Three learns his name is Marcus–but if the others still call him Three, it’s like they’re disavowing his messed up Marcus past and saying that he can go back to being their three–i.e. annoying, but not a completely heartless dick.
I like One best. He is a good looking guy–but I mean, they’re all good looking, so really, it isn’t only that. However, in a ship full of tough people, he’s the good guy. Which is a little scary, because the rest (Five excepted) so obviously are not. I usually don’t like the super good guys. I like the maybe-villains. But One is played by a very talented actor, who via subtle expressions and delivery squeezes a three-dimensional performance out of a two dimensional character.
Three is all walking id, questioning every decision that isn’t based on pure selfishness–so of course, he is fun to watch and a bit of a wild card. Later on, we see Three has a real soft spot for women. At one point we think Two has been executed and Three’s face is really something to see in that moment. Three, also, is one of the best actors on the show–at certain moments.
THREE. Also the show’s id character. Also kinda hot. Sometimes. Also a good actor.
Two is the toughest character in the beginning. Played by an asian female with some extraordinary thighs, she takes command of the ship with her bad-ass attitude. One is quickly drawn to her, but when she wants to scratch her bootie itch and have a little meaningless sex, it’s Three she calls upon, not One. Which makes One smart. So there are tensions between One and Two because: love triangle! Not to mention that One and Three are diametrically opposed in terms of morality.
Yet pretty soon, it turns out that One discovers he’s got a BIG secret to keep and Three is right there when this secret is revealed to One. So the two are connected in that way for a while and it’s massively uncomfortable for One. Which is great! (Although I hope you can follow what I’m saying, because it’s starting to sound like weird SFF algebra.)
Four is probably the most handsome guy on the show. But….meh. He adds the most in ensemble moments.
The show delivers Big Secrets every so often and they are mostly yummy. The show is at it’s best when it returns to its gloomy mystery origins: you just don’t know who you can trust. Goodie!
It’s often young Five who circles us around to these gripping plot reversals. I think I liked her at first simply because I associated her with these moments. But I also delight in Five being a Young Adult character–a main character and a girl–in a sci-fi television show. I’m trying to think of another major adult SFF show where that’s the case, and I can’t.
Five aka “The Kid.”
I enjoyed watching the Android–though you and I know her as Lauren from LOST GIRL. She gets dinged up from the git go and starts to go “off program”. For instance, she starts seeking approval from the humans. The “right” thing to do would be to wipe her system and reboot–a kind of android seppuku. At one point there’s the potential to “upgrade her system” to make her feel and seem more like a human and a ‘rouge android’ element is introduced. The program upgrade makes the Android seem like a whole other character. The actress performs this well, but…ugh! (more later below).
So there was something here for everyone–I thought a lot of the ideas in the show were fabulous.
WHAT WENT WRONG…
I’m not saying this show was perfect. One problem I had with five is that she’s so obviously an older actress playing a younger character. She and Two are equally short, and she has far larger breasts, so buying that she was a teen was a challenge (She’s was twenty-two when they filmed). I had to keep squinting to suspend disbelief about her. I mean, it’s not just that they all decide she’s a young teen when she looks anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three, it’s that they keep saying things like: “She’s just a KID!” like she’s only twelve or something…But that’s not saying anything against the actress, who is quite good. Another thing is that she keeps having new clothes to wear when a) she was a stowaway, presumably on the ship without luggage, and b) everyone else on the show seems to be in the same-o, same-old clothes.
Android fail. Every few episodes she’s getting zapped and it’s lights out.
I had problems with the android ‘upgrade program’, although it was more like an epiphany. The plot of this particular episode struck my robot-romance fixated nerve. It made me realize that the ‘upgrade’ shortcut would never work for a successful robot/human romance. What do we love about idea of a cyborg/AI/robot/android romance if it’s not that the android represents the most difficult challenge of all? Huge boundaries (impossible boundaries some would say) exist in terms of getting a cold and emotionless being to develop attraction, love, and passion. That’s a HUGE obstacle. A quick upgrade to the system???? That’s just cheating. )
I delighted in watching Six waiting in a doctor’s office for a very long time where they continuously ran ads about adventuring off world via clone proxies. Your body and mind are scanned in a pod, and your look-a-like clone wakes up on some other world. Your clone enjoys your vacay and then all the memories from your clone are downloaded back into your memory while you’re in the pod. You wake up and come out of the scanner remembering the events and sensations of your vacation. Meanwhile, the cyborg that looks like you and is walking around as you, is taken somewhere, has a memory wipe and is put into a vat for recycling…
Six. Nobody trusts nobody–not even the android.
I thought the show was creating an ironic situation in which Six was ignoring a bit of information crucial (and funny) in terms of unravelling the core mystery. My hope was that someone had wanted a bad guy dream team to go do bad deeds across the universe. So they made clones of the original criminals and when those deeds were done, wiped the clone memories–but for some reason the clones weren’t put in the vat. Instead they ended up in the sleep pods on the ship — To me this TOTALLY explained the mystery of how they wound up on the ship together and why they had no memories…
Six wakes up as a clone from the pod…
Alas, that was not the actual solution to the mystery. This was the writer in me, weaving together my own plot soup based on ingredients provided by the show.
My sweetie hated the clone device. He hated it because real clones (one day) are/will be real people. This show perpetuates the idea of clones as objects to purchase and discard. The clone thing is used as a plot device later on in other ways, but the clones when badly hurt tend to simply disintegrate a la Buffy stabbing the vampires and making them go poof. Why would a clone do that, he asked? It’s stupid. A clone–because it’s an actual human body–would go splat, not poof. It would not disintegrate into a cloud of clumpy dust.
Yeah, so that was kind of a regrettable choice. Meanwhile, I loved my idea of the crew being memory-wiped clones. The show has them on the ship starting from square one in a state of distrust, but circumstances make them pull together. We know they were probably very bad in their former lives, but rallied by the influence of Five, aka ‘The Kid’, they have a chance to become new, better people. (Insert here your own philosophical discussion with a friend over the role of memory in personhood and if one can change merely by starting over. This is the good kind of sci-fi.) As they slowly pull together to become a unit they build loyalty to each other and we know that many of the forms their enemy will take are elements of their past coming to haunt them. Everyone knows karma is a bitch–but it’s very enjoyable to watch.
One finds out that there is indeed a very bad guy out there with One’s face. (See! One is a clone!) Unfortunately, however, for my pet theory, the bad guy Derek Moss says something like “I’d think you were a clone, but someone would have had to scan my body to do that, and no one did.”
However, I was still delighted that One had this evil Doppleganger out in the world that could cause him no end of trouble.
But here’s the big problem. They f**king killed One. Whyyyyyyy? It seemed gratuitous and unnecessary given that they never really followed the conspiracy plot path the killing seemed based upon. You eventually find out where the crew’s memories are stored and I knew that Evil One aka Derek Moss was still out there. So my FTL plotting muscles realized ‘the gang’ was going to kidnap Evil Derek and stick One’s memories into him. But that didn’t happen either. 😦
But! When Derek reappeared, I was like: Yay! Evil Derek is better than no One at all. Alas, in that very episode the show killed off Evil Derek.
Oh people. I was so disgruntled. One was the glue that kept my interest in the show at super-high levels. Yeah, I liked all these ideas about the others and sometimes their interactions were okaaaaaay, but for me, One was the secret sauce. Yes, the whole prison break thing was good. Yes, finding out Two’s backstory was pretty cool.
Frankly, since One/Derek’s death, I’ve only made it through about four more episodes while mostly folding laundry and checking email. I just don’t care anymore–Maybe other audience members, more familiar with the comic books than I am, are looking forward to what’s around the corner. Maybe they know stuff that I don’t. Apparently DARK MATTER has a very loyal following. But I, good people, am done.
If you know the Dark Matter comics, tell me — is there reason to hope? Should I give the show another chance?
Have you ever suffered torment from the character you were rooting for being killed off? (I’m looking at you SLEEPY HOLLOW fans.) Did you slog onward or just give up? I’ve resorted to writing DARK MATTER fan fic as a way of detoxing. Sigh. It’s premised on my rogue clone idea…Maybe it’ll become its own thing one day.
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Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.