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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Dark Matter

Dark Matter.

So, Dark Matter's been cancelled. We all knew that, right? We're all entirely clear on it being no more, ran up the curtain and joined the choir invisible, et cetera? It's a bit of a downer, not least because we're now down one space opera, but also because it ended on a hell of a cliffhanger, with space having been torn open to admit the alien Black Ships through.

Well, we're definitely never going to see the conclusion to that cliffhanger, but if it helps, the decision was motivated by Syfy's increased focus on original works that it can have a monopoly over, rather than acquired works where it shares the rights with other companies, and not down to a drop in audience -- in fact, the show still had a considerable audience.

Carrying on from the start of the corporate war, and Ryo Ishida's betrayal last series, this series sees the Raza and its crew surrounded by enemies on all side. Not only is there a war raging around them, and a revolution by machines in progress, but they're also targets for their mirror universe selves, and for Ryo Ishida, who is desperate to get his hands on the blink drive. Worse still, an encounter with a time travel device leaves the Android with a series of prophecies, including a prophecy about the mysterious Black Ships.

You know, despite really enjoying this series, I'd honestly struggle to tell you what actually happened for a lot of it. 

Some plotlines stand out more than others: Everything involving Zairon is instantly more engaging than all the kerfuffle involving the corporate war, by virtue of actually having a compelling villain -- because Ryo, with his mix of familiarity, friendship, and ruthlessness, is easily the best villain of the series, and more than capable of functioning as the sole antagonist if only the show would have let him -- and some actual, concrete stakes ('We need to stop Ryo from getting the blink drive or he'll be unstoppable, and he's already very unpredictable,'). While I'm usually firmly against redemption arcs, I was actually pretty happy to see Ryo join the crew again, having had his empire taken from him. The character dynamic didn't just snap back to what it was, and it was clear that it never would, meaning that it was interesting direction to go down.

No, but seriously, that is the same actor who played Elizabeth in Stargate: Atlantis, right?

Some plotlines, meanwhile, made me roll my eyes: Everything involving the mirror universe crew was intensely boring to me. In many respects, they're the opposite of Ryo: There's no real stakes to any plotline involving them, and there's no real reason for them to keep clashing with the regular flavour Raza crew. This is not Star Trek, where the mirror universe characters are from a hostile imperialistic force -- they're just small time criminals in this case, and any interesting mileage the show could get out of them by having the characters examine their own personalities is entirely lost.

Some plotlines, on the other hand, are interesting but under-utilised: The alien invasion plotline, set up to be very important to that fourth series we're not getting, only really makes an appearance in two episodes, making it feel rather tacked on. It's some of the most interesting material the show has worked with, with there being a genuine sense of ominous unstoppability to the weird aliens, but until almost the very end of the series, it's just not relevant.

Plot twist of the century. Or at least the year.

Meanwhile, we have the corporate war plot, the time travel plot, the robot revolution plot, the independent colonies plot, the plot about Five's past, and the plot about Three's wife being an AI (which I really thought was going to lead to her trying to kill Three, but never did).

Ah, yes, the odd 'Android pretends to be a Southern debutante' scene, I know it well.

You see the problem. In a thirteen episode series, that's nine arc plots. Nine plates spinning, with episodic plotlines like 'Three is stuck in a time loop' or 'Tabor's girlfriend has been kidnapped' worked in. The result is just a blur, and it doesn't really feel like any of those plotlines get even remotely satisfactory conclusions, so much as they just trail off, to be wrapped up at a later point that we know, now, won't ever be coming.

It grates more than a little, and it also means that stacked up against its much more focused counterpart, Killjoys, Dark Matter just doesn't measure up.

Still, it's all we're getting, so I guess it's time for this show's tiny fanbase to start writing their own conclusions to the story. Shouldn't be too difficult to wrap up the seven remaining plotlines, right? You can all just get right on that. Send me links to the completed works at your leisure.

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