Dark Matter

Review: Dark Matter Blasts Off This Friday

The new series starts Friday, June 12 on Syfy

Syfy Channel’s (alleged) return to outer space was highly anticipated and largely disappointing when it premiered in December of 2014: Ascension turned out to be something of a bait-and-switch, as viewers learned in the mini-series’ big twist that those on board the “ship” weren’t actually in space at all.

This week the cable network — which burned a lot of long-time fans with its treatment of the Stargate franchise — makes good on its promise to return to space and traditional science fiction. Dark Matter is everything we’ve been wanting since the likes of Star Trek, Stargate, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica went off the air: drama and adventure in the far reaches of the galaxy, with interesting characters, humor, cool tech, and secrets to be uncovered.

Dark Matter wears its genre influences on its sleeve, and at least in this episode that’s Stargate Universe and Firefly. It’s a pretty good combination (even if Joss Whedon is difficult to match in witty character dialogue), and the script and on-screen production design show off the mature sensibilities and sci-fi street cred of creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (who spent 11 years with the Stargate franchise). As the show continues to roll out its 13-episode first season, though, I’ll be looking less and less for the show’s similarities to my other favorites and more for its own emerging voice.

Melissa O’Neil as "Two"
Melissa O’Neil as “Two”
The first episode — which airs Friday night on Syfy (10/9c) — is only half of the opening story, and it feels like mostly set-up. The first half introduces the crew of a ship in deep space, who wake up with alarms blaring and no memory of who they are or where they are going. They must get to know not only each other but themselves, as well as the ship and its formidable support Android (Zoie Palmer). Since they don’t yet know their names, they identify one another based on the order in which they woke up …

    “One” (Marc Bendavid) is the everyman, who comes out of stasis looking so much like a fish out of water that I wonder if he was originally a passenger rather than a member of the ship’s very capable crew. He tries to take charge but isn’t quite sure what to do with himself — think of an early Daniel Jackson crossed with Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Peter Quill. There’s a lot of story potential here.

    “Two” (Melissa O’Neil) has “female lead” written all over her: leadership skills, a take-charge attitude, and absolutely stunning (… by which I mean that right cross). If she’s reading a phone book out loud for most of episode 2, I’ll be there for every minute of it.

    “Three” (Anthony Lemke) perhaps needs the most work after the end of the first hour. Self-serving, trigger-happy, brash and not afraid to tell you exactly what he thinks, he’s clearly inspired by Firefly‘s Jayne Cobb (– and them’s mighty big boots to fill).

    “Four” (Alex Mallari Jr.) remains pretty much a blank slate after hour one — the strong, silent type, who looks like he has deep well of emotion and history hiding behind a stoic exterior and some serious talents with blades.

    “Five” (Jodelle Ferland) is “the Kid,” something of a blip among the others who awaken from stasis. She looks like she may bring some tech skills to the crew (once they figure out who they are and what they ought to be doing with themselves), as well as perhaps some unsettling psychic intuition.

    “Six” (Roger R. Cross), finally, looks like he should be “the Muscle” but in fact just might be smarter than everyone else around him. If he’s his own little riddle wrapped in a mystery, I hope it has a fun reveal down the road.

The cast of Dark Matter (Syfy)
The cast of Dark Matter (Syfy – Click to enlarge)
The episode’s second half takes this group of strangers to the planet where their ship was originally going — a remote mining colony in desperate need of aid. There’s not much to say here, as the premiere cuts off in the middle of this story … after a fantastic revelation, but little in the way of resolution so far.

Instead, the episode delivers a knock-out, game-changing final moment.

So it’s tough to render a full verdict on Dark Matter after just the first hour. By virtue of the nature of this introduction it seems as though the show will live or die based upon the strength of its seven characters. Are they going to be interesting enough, and well-drawn enough, that we want to come back to join them on their adventures each week? So far there is definite potential in this crew — and the closing twist amplifies that exponentially. Even great character dramas like LOST needed time beyond the first episode to fully realize their characters, most of whom only serviced the plot in the pilot. (Locke wasn’t really our Locke until “Walkabout,” and Charlie wasn’t Charlie until “The Moth.”)

It’s also worth noting that this week Syfy is bringing back a 3-hour “Sci-Fi Friday” line-up of original scripted programming, the loss of which fans have long lamented. WWE Smackdown is now on Thursdays where it belongs. So we’re not only looking forward to a summer with Dark Matter, but with a new Friday night destination: Defiance (2-hour premiere Friday, 8/7c), Killjoys (premieres June 19, 9/8c), and Dark Matter (10/9c).

The Verdict: Dark Matter is going to be a fun ride, and while it inevitably will be compared to other shows hopefully it will prove quickly that it is capable of building its own legacy. The show is off to a good start, and if the goal of a pilot is to get viewers to come back for more … count me in.

Dark Matter premieres Friday, June 12 (10/9c) on Syfy Channel.

Rating: 3 stars out of 4

Follow Dark Matter all summer long with SciFi Stream’s show guide!


Darren is a fan of all things science fiction, and founded the popular Stargate website GateWorld in 1999, followed by SciFi Stream in 2007. He lives in the Seattle area.

21 thoughts on “Review: <em>Dark Matter</em> Blasts Off This Friday

  • Why’d you have to compare it to SGU? Not so sure now, I was hoping for more of the spirit of SG1 and SGA. A bit of humor with the drama would go a long way towards restoring Syfy t Sci Fi’s glory days….

  • Pingback: June 9, 2015: 3 Days to the Dark Matter premiere! Videos! Pics! Our hero ship! | Josephmallozzi's Weblog

  • Joseph D. Sardone

    There was NO REASON to go in a new direction, where Stargate was left hanging in dozens of directions. Who ever funded this (NBC/Universal/20th Century Fox/ MGM/ etc.) Should have gone with what has been requested NON STOP for over four years! NEW STARGATE! If this “Dark Matter” show is great, then it will fall short of PHENOMENAL, which is what Stargate was. .. I’m glad the writers of SG have a Science Fiction based income again, but aside from that, I (like MILLIONS of others) are not very happy about this at all. Please give us back our gate travel. That’s it. J.S.

  • Cory LeGrow

    I will give this a chance but as the other comments have stated, I too want my Stargate back on tv.

  • After the way they treated SGA and the fans of the show i swore to never see anothe show of Mallozzi, i will keep my promise, it’s a shame for the actors who did nothing to us but i hope that the fans of the stargate franchise wil remember how bretayed we were after SGA sacrifice under Mallozzi and Bright behaviour.

  • Marie, are you referring to the cancellations of SGA and SGU? Or to creative decisions within those shows? Mallozzi certainly had nothing to do with the cancellation of those shows and his own loss of a job.

    Blame Syfy — which in recent years has had a regime change and recommitted itself to traditional science fiction. I think the show deserves a chance — particularly from Stargate fans, with Mallozzi and Mullie at the helm.

  • Yawn…
    A cross between a dumb “Space Odyssey 2001” (except Hal has a mental age of about 10 and wears tight pants) and Stargate Universe.
    This isn’t SIFI, this is a melodramatic soap opera with guns and tight clothing to distract viewers from a lack of character depth (or an actual plot) and all set in a badly light space ship.

  • Darren, I personally blame Syfy and Wright for SGA’s cancellation so they could make SGU which sunk the franchise on television. Joe M. was kind of a jerk to the fans at times, but I don’t think he wanted SGA to end at 5 seasons either. But that is one reason why I’m not supporting Syfy with my viewership any longer. Get a series with Joe F, Rachel, David H (not even gonna think about Jason M, he’s an A lister now) and some of the others from SGA as an apology and I would be tempted to come back. Not before. So many years and I find I’m still bitter. 🙁

  • Stargate, this clearly is not. And so far, I have the same issues I’ve had with SGU. Why? Let me give the characters nicknames for a sec.

    One aka BlandGuy
    Two aka BossyBuffette
    Three aka 44 (his IQ)
    Four aka Bruce Lee
    Five aka Kaylees Clone
    Six aka The Good Soul
    A robot, that for some reason everyone calls a she.

    Show has me “love” it right from the get-go. One tries to restore life support, Two runs in and beats him to a pulp, and later just says, “You know why!”. So we are just to assume that, hey, he asked for it, must have done -something- to deserve it, right? Of course, she’s beating him up because she’s a victim! Gaah! I’m so done with this sexist crap on TV.

  • I feel like this show has gotten an enormous amount of backlash simply because it’s not Stargate. That’s completely unfair, and rather sickening. Honestly, I loved the premier. I’m super excited that Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie are making television again, and I very much look forward to next week’s episode.

  • I blame the evils of Comcast / NBC for killing the stargate franchise

  • It was an ok start see how it goes i think Stargate run its course on TV for now see how the movie reboots go.

  • Darren,
    Yes i blame Mallozzi who wanted youngers viewers, a more sexy one and totally bashed the old SG1/SGA fans.

  • The amount of salt in these comments is insane. Let it go, stargate has been returned to the hands of it’s original creators Ronald Emmerich / Dean Devlin. Stop destroying this show simply because it’s made by the TV Stargate guys and it’s not new stargate.

  • [ Smiles ] I love the show.

    I cannot wait for their memories to return. Plus, I am eager to find out: who was the person that wiped their memories?

    It contains lots of action and suspense and it is worth watching!

  • Damien Robinson

    it is comparable to sgu, in a basic sense, but sgu was infinitly better…..dark matter is a cliched, terrible show, ascension was brilliant….get dark matter of the air now and bring back sga,sg1, and sgu! especially sga and sg1…..

  • Disappointed, so far..

  • It is Aug 4th as i write this–the series has already shown 8 episodes and i am truly enjoying this show. The beginning ep could have been better but as the series has gone on and we have gotten to know more about the characters, I find myself invested in the story and the characters. It’s not a sci-fi masterpiece but it is a good program the likes of which SyFy has not shown in a very long time. 2014-15 is the year i started to watch this channel once again after years of garbage. This year has brought us the surprising 12 Monkeys and now Dark Matter and i am eagerly awaiting Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

  • danial were not dissing the show because it was made by anyone with a connection to stargate, were dissing it because its S***

  • Bwilderd

    It’s a great show. Get over the Stargate termination. Chill.


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