the space­ship drama finds it hard go­ing in its sec­ond sea­son.

SFX - - Contents -

UK Broad­cast Syfy, fin­ished US Broad­cast Syfy, fin­ished Episodes Re­viewed 2.01-2.12

You know how in DVD mak­ing-ofs sci-fi scriptwrit­ers will in­sist that their show is ac­tu­ally all about the char­ac­ters and not space­ships, or zom­bies, or mu­tant gi­raffes or what­ever? That must go ten­fold for the writ­ers of Dark Mat­ter. Not be­cause the char­ac­ters are par­tic­u­larly great, but be­cause out­side of the charis­matic main cast the show has very lit­tle new to of­fer. It’s just a great­est hits megamix of pre­vi­ous space­ship­based shows with dif­fer­ent faces.

Sea­son one at least had the con­ceit of its am­ne­siac crew to stop it be­ing a mere Bat­tlestarTrek-Blake-lac­tica com­pos­ite. But with sea­son two a lot of the mys­tery sur­round­ing their var­i­ous back­grounds has been cleared up, while the re­main­ing mys­ter­ies are be­ing ra­tioned in a way that sug­gests the writ­ers’ room is well aware the show’s USP is in dan­ger of van­ish­ing down a black hole. So what we’re left with is a show that’s mostly about a mot­ley group of rebels on a ship – in­clud­ing an an­droid who wants to be more hu­man – bat­tling against cor­rupt BIG OR­GAN­I­SA­TIONS. And, yes, half­way through the sea­son the crew even ac­quires a handy new in­fi­nite im­prob­a­bil­ity drive which makes their ship, the Raza, the most pow­er­ful ship in the galaxy.

It does all sound aw­fully fa­mil­iar doesn’t it? The weekly plots have a sim­i­larly warmed-up left­overs feel (yes, we get the al­ter­nate uni­verse episode with evil ver­sions of the reg­u­lars!). And while the show’s fa­mil­iar­ity doesn’t ex­actly breed con­tempt it does breed reach­ing-for-your­mo­bile-to-play-Soli­taire-halfwaythrough-each-episode. You don’t want to switch it off, but it’s dif­fi­cult to keep pay­ing full at­ten­tion.

Pro­duc­tion de­sign feels stuck in the ’90s

It doesn’t help that the pro­duc­tion de­sign and di­rec­tion feel stuck in the ’90s. Okay, Dark Mat­ter clearly doesn’t have the big­gest bud­get, but the sim­i­larly low-bud­get Killjoys em­ploys funky cam­er­a­work, punky de­signs and slick edit­ing to pa­per over the cracks. Dark Mat­ter in­stead re­tains a Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion aes­thetic; sets that look slightly too small, bland light­ing and work­man­like cin­e­matog­ra­phy.

There are some sur­prises. One (Marc Ben­david) – a ma­jor player in sea­son one – is killed off in the first episode… and it isn’t a ruse! This leaves room for two new mem­bers of the crew, though one, Nyx, re­mains un­der­used for most of the sea­son while the other, a drug ad­dict medic called Devon, just kinda gets for­got­ten about then left for dead. The ac­qui­si­tion of the blink drive – hoary old SF cliché though it might be – at least gives the show a new di­rec­tion. And rev­e­la­tions about both Two and Four have you splut­ter­ing into your co­coa.

So the oc­ca­sional plot bomb com­bined with the charm of the cen­tral cast keep the show watch­able. It just rarely feels like es­sen­tial view­ing, es­pe­cially now a lot of the mys­tery has gone. Sea­son two re­places “who are we?” with “what do we do now then?” and doesn’t ever come up with a de­cent an­swer. The Raza flies through a se­ries of dis­jointed ad­ven­tures against a vague back­drop of con­spir­acy and in­ter­ga­lac­tic war be­tween shad­owy power blocs. Mini-arcs for each char­ac­ter try to fill the void – the an­droid and Two go through some par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing de­vel­op­ments – but they don’t hide the fact that the show lacks a sense of di­rec­tion. The more the main char­ac­ters re­mem­ber the less mem­o­rable the show be­comes. Dave Golder

Con­trol your ex­cite­ment, view­ers – it’s meal­time!

Five (Jodelle Fer­land) is lov­ing ev­ery minute.

Cor­ri­dors and brown clothes, ooh yeah.

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