5 reasons to start watching ‘Dark Matter’ (even though it’s cancelled)
Dark Matter is one of those special shows with a dedicated fanbase that will forever be in mourning. The sci-fi series ran for three seasons on Syfy with a grand total of 39 episodes that chronicled the mystery of the spaceship Raza and its occupants. The group of six woke in the vessel with no memories of their past lives and a whole web of mysteries to untangle.
While equally beloved sci-fi series The Expanse nabbed a last-minute save by Amazon, Dark Matter wasn’t so lucky. In the season three finale, there was a major cliffhanger and then . . . nothing. Fans across the world screamed out in pain and campaigned for someone to save it, but it was for naught.
It’s a little baffling, to be honest. Dark Matter had solid ratings for the Syfy network, with a strong hold on the all popular overseas markets. Series co-creator Joseph Mallozzi has indicated the fact that the series was an acquisition – not an original series – was its Achilles’ heel. We’ll probably never get a satisfactory answer.
Even if Dark Matter ended on a cliffhanger and the series being revived seems unlikely, you should still check out this epic space opera. Who doesn’t love a mysterious conspiracy in space? Prepare to log onto your Netflix or Amazon account and settle in for some serious binge time: we’re going to tell you just why Dark Matter must be seen to be believed.
A brisk story is the best story
One of the more annoying parts of a scale as epic as Dark Matter’s is the need creatives feel to draw out its mysteries for as long as possible. Done carefully with a clear end goal in mind, a show can live up to its epic concept – think Breaking Bad or the first half of Game of Thrones. Most times, however, this mode of storytelling is handled improperly and leaves fans frustrated (a la Lost).
Luckily for us, Dark Matter moves along its plotlines in a brisk pace. Mysteries are unveiled in a timely fashion rather than being held back. The crew, who name themselves One through Six for the order in which they awake, learn of their lawless past and their reasons for being on the ship in question.
Of course there are layers to Dark Matter’s reveal that go to the show’s core questions surrounding identity. Who can people be when they are given a clean slate via amnesia? The crew of the Raza makes the conscious choice to be better people than they once were, which lends every solved mystery more weight.
Mallozzi reports he had a five-year arc for Dark Matter planned from the outset, which shows in how its story unfolds. The depth on display gives credence to the industry practice of requiring every serialized television pitch to provide a detailed “series bible” from the word go. A properly thought-out plan makes for a more enjoyable and engrossing viewing experience.
Character over spectacle is rule number one
Don’t get us wrong; Dark Matter is a wonderfully produced show. The space shots are very impressive given its budget and the lack of interest from Syfy. Rather than focus on spectacle, the crew behind-the-scenes chose smartly to focus on character. There’s something strangely compelling about watching a group of people rediscover themselves, cooped up in deep space.
Dark Matter’s cast bounces off each other with amazing chemistry, selling their circumstances in the most effective way. But not everything is sunshine and rainbows among these stranded characters. Teenager Five (Jodelle Ferland) retains the memories of the others in her head. She gets flashes of these memories, fractured and out of context, and informed the others. This helps sow tension within the group early on.
In subsequent seasons, the scripts follows a split-up crew, allowing for the groups to create varied dynamics and add new characters as well. The switch-up allows audiences to see how the crew function away from the ship.
A world as interesting as the story
What is amazing about Dark Matter – and most other great sci-fi – is the world feels lived-in. And due to the characters’ amnesia, there’s no overly complicated history audiences need to learn right off the bat; the characters come into it along with the audience. As the series unfolds, we learn along with the characters.
Dark Matter is a true ensemble piece. None of the characters know what is going on, so their reactions are just as real and genuine as ours, the viewers’. We learn about the Galactic Alliance, rebel leaders, and corporate factions all with their own agendas and missions. In the center are the six amnesiacs and their android, trying to get by and help as best they can.
Clones, time loops, and evil doubles – oh my!
Some of the best parts of any science fiction series are the explorations of the genre’s tropes. Dark Matter episodes play with an evil alternate universe, an interplanetary heist, and more. That’s part of the fun of the genre. An unoriginal concept handled great can be extremely enjoyable – after all, that’s the point of tropes. Tropes in Dark Matter are not only entertaining, they provide some great character development along the way.
In the grand tradition of sci-fi stories, Dark Matter uses its setting to explore real-world themes. Capitalism, increasing corporatization of public facilities, nature vs. nurture, fate vs. free will, the nature of personhood: all these subjects come into play over the course of the series. Dark Matter explores deep topics in surprisingly meaningful ways.
As anyone who has seen a television series cut down in its prime with nearly no hope of revival can tell you, it hurts. Syfy did the beloved series plenty dirty – none of those loose ends were tied up. There’s a well of an unrealized potential in Dark Matter in all its untold plotlines.
The series finale cliffhanger was one of Dark Matter’s biggest. The gradual rising of stakes over the show’s final season promised a true space epic. Fans, bless them, have tried to continue on with fanfic and theories, but the mystery remains. However, the unrealized potential of the show’s unproduced final seasons may actually be a draw for some people.
There are those who are drawn to cancelled TV shows. Why else do we remember Freaks & Greeks or My So-Called Life? If you’re drawn to that kind of thing, get ready to fly into the mysterious space epic of Dark Matter.