Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Warning alarms sound for the crew of the starship Raza. It’s suffered serious damage and life support is almost gone. Slowly, the stasis pods containing its crew open and the first two crewmembers race to the control bridge to fix the problem… only they’re not quite sure how. Then the third arrives, pointing guns at them and asking who they are. Their answer is confusing: they don’t know. Worse, the third crew member can’t remember who he is either.
After getting the life-support back on-line, they revive their three other crewmembers, but the results are the same. None of them knows who they are, what they’re doing there or what their job is.
Struggling to make sense of any of this, all that they can do is name themselves in the order with which they came out of stasis. One is a young man whose only skills seem to be charm and a kind heart. Two is a young woman with piloting and fighting abilities. Three is a wise-cracking gunman. Four is a martial artist and swordsman. Five is a teenage girl who has a way with machines. Six has size, strength, and knows how to pilot a shuttlecraft. Other than that, their lives are a complete blank.
This is the core mystery of Dark Matter, a TV show based on the comic book series from Dark Horse which, ironically, was originally meant to be a TV series to begin with.
The concept is fascinating, with the characters being just as baffled by the mystery as the viewers, and they soon have to decide what sort of people they are. Are they heroes or villains, and when they find out who they were before will they return to their old lives or start brand new ones? Before long the answers start to surface and they’re not the ones the crew were hoping for, but each of them still has secrets in their pasts which are unknown even to them. But mysteries still remain, and with each episode they scramble to uncover the truth… and which of them betrayed them.
In plot this show is similar to Firefly and Farscape, while touching on some ideas raised in the original Star Trek series and with Babylon 5’s bleaker outlook of the future, all of which benefit this show. Yet it still maintains its own identity as being far darker and harder-edged than any of those others, and with flashes of humour too. The characters are morally ambiguous but appealing, the acting is good, the effects are high quality and it’s a show with attitude. It’s like a B-movie production with A-list effort, which means there’s hardly a scene wasted on pretentious waffle.
Not every episode works, unfortunately, but most do. Two of the weaker ones involve a derelict ship full of space zombies, and a psychotic pleasure-droid named Wendy who spends her time keeping them occupied with weird sexual practices like “dunking the cosmic doughnut” and trying to kill them. However, the action and adventure of the show still keep the viewer engaged because you want to get to the heart of the mysteries on board the Raza.
Special mention has to go to Zoie Palmer as the Raza’s standard android, simply known as Android. From her action-packed introduction to her child-like manner and comedy timing, she’s always fun to watch and manages to breathe new life into an old sci-fi cliché. Plus, if it’s cameos you want then Stargate Atlantis’s David Hewlett and Torri Higginson and Star Trek/Big Bang Theory/all-around cool geek Wil Wheaton show up and do what they do best.
Dark Matter isn’t the best sci-fi show or comic book adaptation ever made, but it’s still one of the most entertaining and enjoyable ones in recent years and fans of both should find it a treat.