Dark Matter: Season 2
As the older cousin of comic books, graphic novels explore significantly more mature themes than what we were accustomed to which makes them ideal as source material for movies and television. One such series that is increasing in popularity is ‘Dark Matter.' Based on the limited run graphic novel from one of the publishers of this creative art form, Dark Horse, it is superficially another in a long series of space operas similar in general construction to hundreds we have enjoyed throughout our lives. The main difference with this example is how the writers have imparted it with fundament plot elements that ensure a degree of versatility for seasons of novel and exciting entertainment. The problem with most of, much of this type of science fiction is the premise is insufficiently robust to support an ongoing story. ‘Dark Matter’ began with an incredibly simple premise. Six people awaken from cryogenic hibernation on board a small yet powerful spaceship. The catch is all their personal memories were erased. Using numbers instead of their forgotten names the six humans, joined by the ship’s android (Zoie Palmer) they for a team that eventually resembles a family. The potential problems with this scenario are there is a limited number of episodes that can be driven realistically by resolving those initial issues. According to expectations the crew members slowly learn who they are and are forced into surviving off the grid supported by various illegal activities. By the conclusion of the first season, the audience has been led to believe the story was headed to a predictable season finale. An appropriate cliffhanger is presented as the team is betrayed by one of their own. The season concludes with the authorities apprehending them leaving them to an unknown fate. The sophomore season is crucial for any television that hopes to continue. The difficulty is always the same. The goal is to retain the qualities that initially attracted the fans while incorporating differences to keep the characters and circumstances fresh. Most shows are such one trick ponies lacking the versatility to carry forward. Fortunately, this series is an example of an exception.
Season two begins shortly after its processor with most of the crew held in the Hyperion-8 Maximum Security Galactic Detention Facility. Six (Roger Cross) sold them out leaving Two (Melissa O'Neil), Three (Anthony Lemke) and Four (Alex Mallari Jr.) were placed in the facility’s general population while Five (Jodelle Ferland) was separated due to her status as a juvenile. It turns out that One (Marc Bendavid), was Derrick Moss was a billionaire CEO who underwent reconstruction surgery to make himself look identical to the criminal, his motivation, and circumstances that led him to a memory wipe and place on the ship, The Raza. This was a convoluted story that included Number Three, Marcus Boone, who apparently was responsible for the murder of Moss’ wife, Catherine (Jessica Huras). While this storyline progresses, the rest of the principle cast begins to diverge, heading towards an emerging set of fundamental plot devices. The mode of action shifts to an old school prison break motif, naturally with a futuristic slant. After securing the freedom of Five and, the Android events are such that they are rejoined by Six. His return to the status of a crew member is a result of his experiencing a major change of ideology on his part. Once a member of the police his time as a member of the Raza has shown him the corruption in the company run government. His return is provisional permitting several plot points concerning a powerful theme, redemption. A new person joins the group altering the basic social dynamic. Nyx Harper (Melanie Liburd), initially joins in the hope of freeing her younger brother who was forced into a company research project.
Five, as the youngest crew member, can provide a unique vantage point to the events and alter the narrative in an emotion fashion. Five, real name, Emily Kolburn, grew up on the street surviving through her expertise as a pickpocket. Her ability to think effectively during a crisis and agile fingers made her a perfect fit as the ship’s engineer. Comfortable with getting around through tunnels and ducts, five knows the Raza from the inside out. Five is the emotional center of the group, the very heart of this odd but tightly bound family. Frequently overlook because of her age, Five is capable of decisive action when required. She has bonded with the captain of the crew, Two, as an older sister, as position also afforded to the Android. Five has learned much about the technical workings of the ship through this relationship with the Android. Under most circumstances, the Android would be an ancillary character at best. Usually devoid of emotions and motivated by her programming her design was as an interface between crew and ship. She was given a major storyline which became crucial to the overall progression of the story. The Android encounters a cadre of other androids that have been modified with a patch that provides them access to emotions and sense of individuality. Some of this thread may seem familiar from Star Trek: TNG with Data. The difference is significant since the small size of the crew and urgency created by her complete control over the ship’s vital systems make this incarnation of these themes much more intense and immediate. During the first season, I was impressed with the way Ms. Palmer handled the role playing the Android with a certain innocence from her lack of emotional experience juxtaposed with a complete dedication to performing her programmed functions. Ms. Palmer was previously a principal cast member in the supernatural fantasy series, ‘Lost Girl. There, her character was a scientist and medical doctor who is largely motivated by her emotions. Ms. Palmer could let a bit of that character out to play whenever her emotion chip was active. This provided a refreshingly vital aspect to her character as well as a dynamic, fresh perspective to the overall narrative.
Some of the side plots are expected such as Two was revealed as a human that had been augmented by nanobots giving her enhanced strength, endurance, and agility. The most important aspect to how the writers handled these special abilities rest in how frugally they are deployed. There are no Deus ex machina moments. When the abilities are utilized, it is with restraint and strictly within predefined parameters. Thankfully the tired old standby of discovering an amazing new ability, ideally suited to extracting the characters from their dire circumstances is expertly avoided for solid story design and believable character development. The pervasive feel achieved through this style of storytelling is like each season serving as an individual novel in a progressing literary franchise. The initial set of motivators and obstacles are dutifully addressed over the course of the season, but in doing so, the stage is reset for the adventure to take on a new course. It was revealed some time back that Four was Ishida Ryo, a member of the royal family of the planet Zairon. Caught in the middle of coup his place as the next emperor was stolen and he was framed for the murder of the current emperor, his father. He was trained in several forms of martial arts and is expert in most types of weapons. Prizing honor above all else he is a stalwart ally but a lethal opponent. The end of this season returned home to regain his rightful name and royal position. Season three has started, so it is time to catch up on the story so far.