‘Dark Matter’: TV Review
Six strangers (and one android) attempt to uncover who they are in SyFy’s middling space opera.
This is no way to wake up from hypersleep — to the sounds of an ear-piercing alarm and one of those serene-voiced supercomputers in the vein of Alien's "Mother" noting that your spaceship’s onboard life-support systems are at 15%. The numerically monikered One (Marc Bendavid) is first on the bridge, but before he can work a fix, Two (Melissa O’Neill) comes up behind him and kicks him to the ground. She’ll solve the problem, thank you very much. (Futureworld feminism in action!) And so she does, but not before both she and One find themselves staring down some gun barrels at jocky hothead Three (Anthony Lemke). Only in this moment do the trio realize their shared dilemma: They have no idea who they are or what they’re here for.
Credit Stargate SG-1 writers Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (adapting a run of Dark Horse graphic novels) with their deft handling of the in media res curveball. But as the introductory installment to this 13-episode SyFy channel series unfolds (only the pilot was made available for review), interest quickly wanes. Our first trio are soon joined by a second trio, Four (Alex Mallari, Jr.), Five (Jodelle Ferland) and Six (Roger R. Cross), so named according to the order in which they woke up, as well as an android (Zoie Palmer) who can roundhouse kick with the best of them and may be the key to the answers this strange sextet is seeking.
Each character seems particularly suited to a given task: Five knows how to work with wires, Two is a natural leader, Four is adept at samurai swordplay (yes, there are samurai swords on board). Aside from Palmer’s intriguingly blank mechanoid, no one stands out in any interesting way (Lemke’s don’t-mess-with-me machismo is especially one note). So it’s correspondingly difficult to get involved in the overarching mystery of “Who?” and “How?”
The “identity” plot actually appears to be resolved by episode’s end (though this could be a cliffhanger cheat), leaving the rest of the series to deal with other concerns. There’s a massive, password-protected door in the ship’s hold that seems like it might house something gargantuan. There’s a cache of weapons onboard that could either be a delivery for someone or a means to a genocidal end. And after getting the ship back up to speed, the crew makes contact with a planet whose inhabitants fear that a war-mongering race of reptiles will soon descend from the heavens. So, yeah, that should happen.
It’s all standard space opera stuff, none of it given any particular charge beyond some atmospheric production design by Ian Brock that allows for an occasional visual flourish (especially in the cavernous ship’s hold) that makes the series seem like the series might actually have money to spend. Otherwise, Dark Matter is a dud, and likely to make as much of a dent in the pop-cultural consciousness as the invisible substance it’s named after.