Starring: Roger Cross, Zoie Palmer, Anthony Lemke
Dark Matter starts out a little bit like “Lost” in space as six people (and an android) wake up on an ailing space ship with no recollection of who they are. Mutual suspicion reigns as they realize that one of their number must have wiped their memories on purpose, to be followed by consternation as the things they do find out about themselves all seem to be bad news.
Any keen sci-fi fan will discern in Dark Matter echoes of futures past – the memory loss plot device has more than a hint of the first Ultraviolet movie, while the characters are the usual suspects previously encountered on shows like Andromeda: the sensitive one who wants to help the needy, the jokey cynic, the kickass alpha female, the gamine stowaway who is innocent yet mysterious. Likewise, the situations have a ring of familiarity – beleaguered miners terrorized by mercenaries in the pay of big business, dodgy salvage operations, space viruses.
However, the basic set-up puts a nice twist on things. Just when the show seems about to settle into a Firefly-like rhythm, with the team taking on various crappy jobs to pay their way, the past comes back to the bite them. Their ship, the Raza, harbours various nasty secrets in the form of mysterious dead bodies in storage holds and persistent gremlins that might be sabotage. The creative team behind the show handle the smoke and mirrors very well, paving the way for some bold reveals in a season finale that has plenty of dramatic urgency.
Visually, the show aims for a dark, gritty Ridley Scott-esque look – very successfully in the case of the main Raza set, with its spooky neon lit corridors, but the planetside sequences show some obvious penny-pinching. Thankfully, there’s no stinting when it comes to the action, and scarcely an episode passes without some well choreo’d (and surprisingly bloody) fisticuffs and gunplay.
This hard edge doesn’t quite extend to the characterization. The crew of the Raza might have their dark side, but compared to your average Celebrity Big Brother house they seem like a bunch of pussycats, and there are times when they positively seem to vie with each other for nobility. Still, there’s grist here for a couple of excellent performances – from Roger Cross as the most avuncular yet dangerous member of the team, and from Zoie Palmer (who generated an unexpected chemistry as the lesbian doctor in Lost Girl) as an android with a touch of passive-aggressive ‘tude. 8/10
33 minutes of featurettes talking about the sets, fight choreography and character arcs. 7/10