27 July 2015 | fung0
Looking very good
I've held off a bit before posting a review. The first few episodes of Dark Matter felt like they could go either way - descent into predictability and mediocrity, or rise into engrossing characters and ideas. After seven episodes, I'm convinced: it's the latter, and then some.
Each episode has been better than the last. Dark Matter is showing the same strengths that made Stargate SG-1 and it's spin-offs so addictive. Strong, likable characters. Solid performances by actors you may not have seen a lot of times before. Story lines that often seem breezy and lightweight, yet conceal a lot of clever writing - courtesy of Mallozzi and Mullie, two of the key writers on Stargate.
The most recent episode is a great example. The crew finds an 'entertainment android' and assembles it. What follows is a nice bit of fencing with our preconceptions. Yes, the android can perform sex - and we get the predictable jokes. But it can also cook, which is far more important, given the crew's short rations. And it also harbors some nasty surprises. The story mixes humor, suspense and even tragedy. Sure, it's 'just' traditional space opera. But space opera deftly handled, to the point where it becomes absolutely compelling.
This is all the more amazing, considering the less-than-promising concept upon which Dark Matter is based: a crew wakes up on a starship, with no memory of who they are. It sounds like a recipe for cookie-cutter tedium. But four or five episodes later, this collection of apparent stereotypes has become a tight group of multifaceted characters, just as likable as Stargate's Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson and Sam Carter. I really didn't think Mallozzi and Mullie could pull it off. But they not only did it, they did it in fewer episodes than I could have imagined.
No, this is not Shakespeare. It's unapologetic genre fiction. If you found Stargate SG-1 too corny, or too silly, then forget Dark Matter. But if you've got a place in your heart for sci-fi adventure painted boldly on a huge canvas, Dark Matter is a must-watch. Don't give up after one or two episodes - give it a chance to build, and it won't disappoint.
The only possible downside is the originating network: SyFy. A network run by boobs who persistently greenlight - then almost immediately kill - excellent new shows. I'm gritting my teeth, and fervently hoping Dark Matter will be allowed to build the cult following it deserves, over many, many seasons.