Dark Matter a Welcome Sci-Fi Romp

Dark Matter crew

Full disclosure: I am seriously head over heels with Joseph Mallozzi. The man has chops. When Vancouver film production started to cough, stutter, falter and fold, Mallozzi, better known for his executive producer titles on Stargate SG-1, Universe, and Atlantis, looked to creating something new and exciting, and together with Paul Mullie, created a new comic book series, Dark Matter. Soon after, SyFy channel picked up the show, and Dark Matter the television production was on its way.

Yes, it did require Mallozzi to pack up his life and move his countless dogs, a lovely girlfriend, and what I suspect an impressive array of books and media and move it all to Toronto, but hey! That’s Vancouver’s loss.

Dark Matter premiered this week, and it is both hellishly entertaining, and largely uninspiring at the very same time. How did we accomplish this? My guess is, through the magic of Canadian television. The premise is set on a space ship traveling with a crew that awakens with more questions than answers, suffering a complete memory loss. As they seek answers to who they are and where they are heading, the rag-tag team encounters the ship’s security mechanism: an android in the likeness of Zoie Palmer, better known for her portrayal of Lauren in Lost Girl. The android assists as only androids do and uncovers a portion of who and what they are, and to everyone’s surprise, they are quite possibly the bad guys. The roster, it turns out, is made of misfits and murderers, but the universe which they occupy seems also cruel, manipulative, and punishing. Somewhat resembling the beloved Firefly the crew of Dark Matter, which may or may not become a cohesive team, faces many tough moral choices ahead as they have to negotiate their impulses, survival instincts, desires, understanding of their pasts and want of different futures.

A bit of a shaky start for Dark Matter, but a start of something that will successfully entertain and amuse, and perhaps aid in healing some of our cumulative open wounds left after cancellations of many fantastic and beloved television shows. It is also worth keeping in mind that imperfections need a bit of time to get ironed, and this show needs time to grow into its own.

Casting however, is not bad, but suffers from “Canadiana”. This strange phenomena refers to how Canadian productions generally choose their stars. I am going to tell you the big secret of all Canadian productions. For some reason, Canadian actors are chosen not for their ability to stand out, but rather for their ability to meld into the background of a set. The ones that have wallpaper faces, those are the ones we’re after. We don’t like interesting and memorable faces, or god forbid, “dramatics” in actors. No, no, after all that would be not very Canadian or very polite. Instead, we prefer to see actors in leading roles who will also fit very well as minor characters in US-based shows, or simply appear as extras in feature films. Those are the ones we love!

Here’s an example. Actors like Anthony Lemke have been in tons of things. What? You don’t know who Anthony Lemke is? Don’t you remember his memorable guest appearances as Michael Martin in Warehouse 13, or as Tim Engels in Flashpoint? Is Anthony Lemke a man resembling Patrick Stewart? A tall, statuesque actor with a bold face and a baritone voice that makes men stand up straight and ladies swoon? No. Does Lemke make a memorable Adama, or a Han Solo? The trick with Lemke is that he could be literally anyone you don’t like and don’t care for, and least of all remember. Canadians refuse to celebrate personalities, memorable faces, eccentricities, the weird and the odd. In fact, Canadians don’t even like actors who are above average in articulating their speech and facial expressions because it makes the other ones feel bad. The actors who are mediocre, yet familiar – now, those are our top picks!

What Dark Matter does offer is a classic science fiction mixed with a tinge of a good adventure and such things are becoming rare these days which is why you should definitely tune in and enjoy. We may run into a few cliches, but they too will be a welcome respite.