Slowly the first season of Syfy’s Dark Matter is developing to be the space opera that can actually replace Firefly and Stargate. After watching 8 episodes, most of the six characters as well as the Android have a backstory that is interesting and meaningful while none of them have their memories from before they were wiped. So far Joseph Mallozi’s show also resembles Farscape in that details of the wider universe of Dark Matter are known, but there is no clear overall picture. Mallozzi has so far been careful with providing answers to the mysteries revealed throughout its run without first providing character development and more mysteries.

 

In Episode 8 the crew of the Raza once again visit a space station. Six (Roger Cross) uses the opportunity to use Transfer Transit. With TT a clone is made somewhere else in the galaxy and your mind is transferred to that clone. Six intends to go after the resistance leader that made him complicit in the deaths of ten thousand people when a space station was blown up. After Five discovers his intention the rest of the crew decide to go after him, to help him and to get answers.

 

Meanwhile, Three is uncharacteristically silent, as he still is resentful of the loss if his life and the failure to retrieve his memories. It is One and Four that go after Six. Both are forced to bribe the employee at Transfer Transit to uncover where Six is headed. Once there Four (Alex Mallari Jr.) discovers One looks different forcing One to admit he may be a fake Jace Corso. Six manages to confront the leader of the rebels but after killing him, he discovers it was a clone just like Six.

 

Two (Melissa O’Neil) and Five also attempt to re-integrate The Android (Zoie Palmer) into the crew after she was damaged in last week’s attack by the fake entertainment droid. Both Two and Five realize The Android has emotions that are not otherwise attributed to androids. None of the crew have yet speculated whether The Android knows more about the memory wipe than she lets on, or about the possibility she is a full member of the crew. Two confides in the Android that morale is low onboard the ship. She blames it on all the secrets they have been carrying. The Android suggest Two reveals her secret to the crew, Two leaves with a look of shock on her face.

 

After everybody returns to the Raza One is confronted with his unwitting deception. He states he doesn’t know why he is impersonating Jace Corso. The crew has no choice but to accept the status quo. During the last few scenes, the story for the remainder of the season is set up. Four contacts his brother regarding the murder of their father, the emperor. Five tries to reconcile with Six about her spying on him. Six continues to struggle with his part in the destruction of the space station. One discovers more of the person he was before he impersonated Jace Corso. He was the CEO of a company whose wife was murdered. A small video fragment shows a news article discussing the perpetrator. It is Four.

If you wanted to present a depressing look at the future, well this show and this episode specifically is the one you want to see.  While other shows (Star Trek for example) have medical suites and robotic attendants along with cortical simulators and tricorders, Dark Matter gives us a waiting room.  One that’s no different to what we’d see going to any Doctors office today.  When you have to “take a number” to be served you know that they’ve not advanced that much and while the technology might have changed, the pain of seeing a Dr. definitely hasn’t! In addition to this, we’re exposed to a market similar to a Chinese bazaar and a Casino.  I don’t know if it’s possible to paint a more dismal and depressing picture of what we can expect.  While I’d be the first to admit that some of our mistakes and failures are bound to follow us into space, it’s really sad to see that according to the writers of Dark Matter absolutely NOTHING will change and in fact not only will they stay the same, they’ll get darker!

Anyways, getting to the meat of the episode, the crew decide that they need to dock at a nearby space station to effect repairs and refuel the ship.  While there is some initial concern that they (or the ship) will be identified, they are allowed to dock and they each set off on separate missions to either conduct repairs (Two and Four), negotiate the sale of their weapons (One and Three), go to the Doctor (Six as mentioned earlier) or just be by themselves (Five).

If you recall from my previous review, One seemed to have a clone on a space station that was asking after the ship.  The clone or duplicate however seemed to have all of the memories of the original Jake Corso and this is explored in greater depth in this episode when he manages to capture One & Three in their negotiations for the weapons by posing as a buyer.  After knocking them out, Jake relates the story of the initial mission that he signed up for – joining the Razza to take out a group of miners (basically what we learned about them from the pilot) – and questions why One seems to have his face!  It turns out that the individual we saw in the last episode is not a clone but is in fact the original and One is actually someone else!  Jake gets onto the ship and while he’s questioned by the Android manages to take all of the guns and weapons from the ship and proceeds to sell them while pocketing the funds from that sale for himself.  Meanwhile One and Three manage to escape from his custody and run back to the ship before Jake can get back to the holding cell and kill them.

While all of this has been going on, the other members of the crew have also been busy.  Six sitting in the Doctors office is eventually called in, and during the course of his checkup the Doctor discovers that he’s a wanted fugitive.  Calling the police (? <- actually not sure if they are the cops as there was mention of subject # under his profile picture and they don’t look like cops) the Doctor fixes him up, but Six knocks him out when he starts to get suspicious.  Two and Four meanwhile have sold some random trinkets from the ship and while it looks like Four is a cardshark/savant of some sort, Two eventually is caught out counting cards in the Casino.  When she’s told to leave she fights back and kills 5 security guards and the casino owner/manager.  She’s a very dangerous lady!

With everything going wrong for everyone, they all rush back to the ship and escape back into hyperspace before they can be run down by the mob/police/corporate stooges or Jake … basically everyone in space at this point!

Five meanwhile has not been completely forgotten … while he didn’t go onto the station with the crew, he did go on himself and discovered that a ring he found is owned by the Emperor and his family.  Reviewing some news files he sees himself as the prime suspect in his father (the Emperor’s) death.

The team is definitely jelling more and there is quite a bit of good humor present in this episode.  Right from the start with the Android continually providing updates about the ships’ arrival at the space station and they are even discussing plans for what will happen afterwards.

When number Three wants to sell the ship the rest of the crew all dispute this arguing that they need to find out who messed with their minds and to do that they need to stay together. Number Five starts to try and find somebody to play with, but the rest of the crew don’t want to have anything to do with her so she decides to go exploring on her own unfortunately she almost immediately comes across a dead body stuffed in a crate. It actually kind of makes you wonder and have some questions as that seems to be quite coincidental.

The boy that she discovered has no identification & number Five suspects that she might have actually known the boy. In fact as the episode progresses she seems to explain the fact that she found the body and it wasn’t just a coincidence and in fact there was something behind her decision to go in that room – quite nice that the writers aren’t ignoring the coincidence here and are willing to examine it head on.  Number Five continues on to explain where some of these dreams are coming from & that Number One suspects that all of their memories have not really been lost, but rather they’ve been jumbled up and downloaded into Number Five’s subconscious.   The sad fact is that one of the dreams actually is applicable to someone sabotaging the ships stasis pods.  As soon as this message is delivered to the rest of the crew however and before they can really explore the implications of it, an emergency ensues and the ship is dropped out of hyperspace – it looks like the saboteur is still at work!

On a personal note – I’m not sure if I like the Android character on the ship.  I feel that she’s quite annoying and the way her eyes are always shifting is completely unnecessary.   While I realize she’s meant to be unemotional, Data (from Star Trek) had these same limitations, but Brent Spinner really made him live and breathe, whereas the Android here is just boring. By contrast the ship itself seems to have quite a bit more personality as its got a huge fish-tank that is as unexpected as it’s cool!
Number Three shows number Four the locked door in the hold of the ship and indicates that he Four is one of the few members of the crew that he trusts.  He  asks him for help in opening the door, and while  number Four initially seems to  consider this and meditates on it,  he ends up saying NO and just walks away leaving Three standing in the hold all alone.
Trying to determine whether the emergency that kicked them out of hyperspace is real or not, the Android indicates that she (it) can administer a lie-detector test on all of the crew & not only will this help with the current apparent sabatoge, but might also determine who is responsible for removing the memories from the crew.  Everyone submits to this fairly willingly but Three is forced to do so by the rest of the crew when he is the last one and everyone else has been determined to be telling the truth.  As Three is being tested however the test is interrupted by an external influence on the ship – it is being bombarded by gamma rays which will kill all the crew if they do not do something about it!
The Android states that the only way to save the ship and crew is if she was to go onto the hull to determine if the fault is real or if the sabotage was to just the diagnostic program.  She does however make a very strange comment when she is leaving the ship  – number Two states that she needs to come back safely as they cannot escape without her and the android comments that actually number Two can do it by herself … there’s obviously some knowledge that she has.
Green screen effects in overall CGI actually is quite good on the show the set pieces are pretty standard any other sign for a show would have the same but for early run episodes with expect a smaller budget they’ve actually done quite a very good job here with the extra set pieces in and effects as well which is quite good I would’ve expected the android or any suit however to have some sort of propulsion system versus having to just use  walking to the affected area it seems a little bit too low tech and I expect that to be rectified in future episodes or future in the future anyways.
Due to the gamma radiation very sensitive electrical discharge in the hull of the ship and even though the android is in a suit she is impacted by this impact this actually means that somebody else from the crew has to go out and fix her however she has fixed the problem and the ship could actually escape.  While Three and Five attempt to hijack the ship now that its repaired and escape the gamma rays, One and Six go out onto the hull to save the Android.  As Six is coming back into the airlock he is hit by an electrical charge which almost kills him (well it does but the Android reboots and zaps him with electricity restarting his heart).
Once the ship returns to FTL they also complete number Threes lie detector test and it seems that everyone was telling the truth and no one actually does have their memories.  While neither One or Two believe in his innocence, right now it seems like we’re still stuck with the mystery and will have to wait for answers.
But that actually it isn’t the end seems that the real Jace Corso (the person we know as number One) is searching for the Rossa that obviously calls into question whether all of the people on the ship are who they think they are or whether there perhaps clones or something like that.  Hmmm – Interesting!

Continuing on from the previous episode we find that while our characters have some idea of their past, they almost all immediately dispute them choosing not to believe the negative allegations.  However they quickly turn around as the proof is somewhat incontrovertible … it is somewhat strange that they don’t make a point of pointing out or discussing the fact that number Five (psychedelic punk girl)  doesn’t seem to have a bio or history or purpose on the ship at all … it seems kind of odd as you’d think that would be one of the first things mentioned?!

While this is only the second episode I actually have to admit that there is quite a bit of humor already and the characters are definitely showing some quite recognizable (albeit predictable) quirks and characterizations. Number Three continues to make jokes about his personality & how he would “rate himself” in terms of badness in comparison to the rest of the crew.  Number Six continues to act very serious and the Android utilizes her “stealth subroutine” to sneak up on members of the crew. I know it’s still early days and they’re still in the character building phase but I really have some high hopes at this point which might be a little bit premature.

Three: Which one of us do you think’s got the baddest rep?

Six: What?

Three: Yeah, I mean, just based on what we know about each other, which is not a lot to go on, I know, how would you rank us in order of Most Wanted, from like “super bad-ass” all the way on down to “cause for concern”. Hmm?

[Six just stares at him]

Three: For instance, I’d put me in first spot, you’d slide right there in second. Boss Lady, well, she’d be third on account of her badattitude, ol’ Slashy Stabberson fourth. Pretty Boy and the kid tied for last place cause it looks like she’s got a bit of a temper.

Six: You being serious?

Three: You’d rate her higher?

[Thinks]

Three: Yeah, maybe.

Elizabeth Weir (Stargate)
Elizabeth Weir (Stargate) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This episode picks up immediately after the previous one ends with a discussion about what to do with the “extra” weapons on the ships … while Number One wants to help the miners defend themselves, he is overruled by Number Two who indicates they need to stick with the original plan and just deliver the goods and then get away.  Unfortunately while they are in the midst of the delivery a destroyer sent by their corporate paymasters arrive and they are forced to make a decision and pick a side.  Could this be the road to redemption that they have been seeking?

Some Questions still outstanding

  • Who or what is the Android and is it really on their side? Seems like even though the Android says she has no recollection or memory she seems to know something that’s for sure. If you remember correctly from the previous episode she indicated right from the get go that she wasn’t able to recover any files or details of the crew members of the crew however at the end of the episode she had quite a bit of detail that was supposedly recovered from the system … I think the comments she makes to number Five in regards to being “happy that at some point she might wish she wasn’t a member of the crew” seems to imply definite prior knowledge.
  • Considering that Number Two had “no knowledge” of who she was … she seemed to have definite knowledge of the galactic situation as not only was she able to find another rival corporation (extremely quickly) she was able to speak to the right person their and get them to come back with her to help diffuse the situation.  Could she be lying about her memory loss?
  • Who else from another SciFi show will show up next? I think I mentioned in my review of the previous episode the character number 6 being somebody that you seeing her this way. In this episode we find another character that we’ve seen in previous scifi shows. This time – Torry Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir) – from Stargate Atlantis!
  • Who erased their memories in the first place and what was the real reason … the comment that Five makes at the end of the episode implying their memories were erased “because they are dangerous” seems a bit silly really as we know they are mercenaries already.  Someone must have seen something I suspect and that’s what necessitated the need for erasure.
  • Who is Five?  Not only is she a bit weird but she’s getting quite creepy with her dream memories that aren’t her own and her somewhat strange abilities.
  • What is in the box that Four opens and what’s behind the doors that Three cannot open?

This show while cool is also somewhat depressing right off the bat (but for purely personal reasons) that I’ll get into later.  The premise of the show is that 6 strangers wake up on a nameless ship with no memory of who they are or what they are doing there.  While they are able to converse with each other (they’ve not lost language skills) they each seem to have a different ability or gift that helps them in some way (this is the annoying thing I was talking about … I’m sure that if 90% of the world ever lost their memories, they would not have a “special ability” remaining) and while they are similar to some of the caricatures we’ve seen on shows like Firefly, Stargate and Star Trek there is the potential that this crew could be quite interesting given enough time.

Episode Recap

The crew (who name themselves one-six) gradually awaken on a seemingly derelict ship hurtling through space.  Sparks fly and steam hisses, and a robot voice announces that “life support is at 15%.” when one & two find the bridge.  Here a quick little battle ensues where two kicks one’s butt and presses a bunch of buttons on a console restoring life support to the ship.  As the others gradually awaken or are woken by the others they discuss what might have happened and why they are where they are.  They try to compare notes to figure out if anyone remembers anything (by the way not sure if its a give away or not, but when they woke up six (played by Roger R. Cross who you might remember from Arrow, Continuum, Eureka & First Wave) they “assumed” that he’d lost his memories also as they didn’t really let him ask questions at the start … makes me wonder if perhaps he was involved in the whole memory loss thing up front?) and try to compare notes about what each of them know … very little as you might guess!

The group surmises that they are the crew on a transport vessel doing a long range haul and their ship encountered technical difficulties … although this does not explain their lack of memory. Three opens a crate in which there are a bunch of firearms. Two tells everybody to pair off and explore the ship.  As the group continue their explorations throughout the ship, six and four come across another pod containing what looks like another member of the ships crew.  One the bridge, two and five are talking when she notices that some sort of security protocol has been initiated – this in fact turns out to be the woman that four found … she is busy pulverizing the rest of the crew and is able to easily disarm them and sends them flying all over the place with well placed punches, kicks and throws.  Two figures out that she must be the security protocol mentioned and manages to figure out a way to disarm her by turning her off!

Two reveals that the formerly sleeping woman is an android whose “biosynthetic physiology” is similar to that of the ship’s outer hull. Two is smart. Three wants to lock The Android away, but two says that she’s de-programmed her security command and re-booted her so that she is no longer a threat to the gang, and could prove useful. She apparently has a neural link to the ship’s mainframe, allowing her to repair the ship and potentially its computer’s memory.

After waking the android up, they try to determine why she/it attacked them, but android informs them it has no memory of this & that it also doesn’t know who the members of the crew are or why they are on the ship.  When two asks the android for assistance in restoring the ships systems, the android informs them that the ship is currently emitting a distress signal and it looks like the ship was holed by a meteorite.  Its during this lull that the gang all seem to discover some additional secrets – in some cases scary secrets … for example five telling six that slashing the carotid artery is a good way to kill someone!

Attempting to fix the ship, the android informs two that they are under attack from another ship and with her direction initiates evasive maneuvers which overload the grav plates of the ship and the intertial compensators causing the crew to float in the air.  However she’s eventually able to initiate a hyperjump to the ships original destination and the crew are finally on their way!

Arriving at their destination, they travel down to the surface in the ship’s shuttle.  Here they are confronted by a group of miners that have been extracting “terrium” however the miners while kindly request that our crew escape as quickly as possible as the evil Ferrous Corporation has contracted the Raza – a gang of assassins – to kill everyone on the planet so that they can take it over.  One of the miners (Rothgar) had gone to acquire weapons to help but he has not yet returned and one thinks that the weapons on the ship are actually destined for the planet.

Back on the ship, five tries to fix one of the damaged consoles. She tells Two that she had a dream that she was walking her brother back to the palace where people murdered her father and then came for her. Instead of murdering them, she carved out their eyes and left them for her bitchy stepmother to find. What’s even weirder is she claims that the dream wasn’t hers, but somebody else’s.

After some debate on the ship with regards to the weapons, the crew agree to leave half the cargo with the miners and keep the other half to help them survive but before they can shuttle the weapons down to the surface, the android discovers the identities of one – three and five and six … it turns out they aren’t the benevolent souls we thought them to be, but rather they are murderers, thieves and kidnappers & the Raza is not a gang of assassins, but is rather the name of the ship itself!  They aren’t here to help the miners … they are the ones that have been sent to destroy them!!!