What’s not to love about the concept and pedigree behind Dark Matter? It’s got the brains behind Stargate, an innovative return to space sci-fi that’s been sorely missed, and actors like Roger Cross, Zoie Palmer, and Jodelle Ferland whom audiences have enjoyed in other genre fare. However, my high hopes for the series only serve to heighten my disappointment in this latest installment. I found myself lamenting far too many moments of squandered potential. Putting aside the stilted dialogue and slow pacing, some of the best plot elements were sidelined presumably for future episodes while the more mundane occurrences were pumped full of false suspense.
Things were on track for awhile there. Three was talking about selling the ship and splitting up to start new lives (a logical if unpopular choice); Four was revealing interestingly self-serving aspects to his character; and – most intriguing of all – Five discovered the body of a young teenage boy, presumably with the assistance of her implanted memories, which Two had been keeping secret from her shipmates. The characters we saw develop last week were getting even more depth, and I was totally on board.
Thank goodness Five’s dreams were not some unexplained magical or psychic power! The idea that a saboteur might place everyone’s memories in the young girl’s subconscious is a much more novel idea and allows for endless possibilities as facts about the crew’s past become known. Sadly, this far more compelling story arc came to a screeching halt as the android laboriously questioned each member of the crew about their knowledge of how their memories had been wiped.
The interruption of Three’s robot polygraph test would have been welcome if not for the utterly opaque nature of the ship’s emergency. Aside from the abrupt drop from FTL, the “faster-than-light” travel taking the ship to the nearest space station, there was no outward sign of danger. The clandestine nature of Two’s earlier solicitation of the android’s services initially led me to believe that the ship’s leader was surreptitiously creating a team-building exercise, an invented emergency to bring them all closer together.
But is that what happened? I still can’t decide. The android merely narrated the danger stemming from the gamma radiation of a nearby nova, and the electrical discharge that disabled her and almost killed Six was definitely real if not all that visually exciting. Replacing the faulty ship part carried all the excitement of a routine oil change, and I almost agreed with Three and Four that rescuing the robot wasn’t worth the risk, given how unendearing Zoie Palmer has made her character.
In fact, the android is quickly becoming my least favorite character on the show, and that’s saying something considering how unlikable Three is. Her delivery fails to achieve the quaint inquisitiveness of other artificial humans in television and movies and instead comes across as… well, robotic. And that voice! I love you, Zoie, but it just doesn’t fit for me.
I’m genuinely sorry to say such things considering how giddy I was in anticipation of Dark Matter in the lead up to the premiere. Honestly, though, what’s with the horrible dialogue? Why such a static (pun intended) conflict? The answer to such questions reminds me of Four’s approach to the large, mysterious, unopenable cargo hold. “So you think you can open this door?” asks Three.
After careful consideration, Four responds, “No,” and walks away.