Superficially, Dark Matter sounds a lot like Stargate Universe, the last space-based series that creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie worked on together. The main characters are a mismatched bunch who find themselves stuck on a spaceship that’s falling apart with little food and water.
There is even a synchronicity between SGU’s ending – when Destiny’s crew goes into stasis – and Dark Matter’s opening scenes, where we meet the characters as they come out of it.
Beyond its basic premise, though, Dark Matter feels more like Firefly with elements of other space operas mixed in. The ‘crew’ are an argumentative bunch of renegade misfits who find themselves working together out of convenience rather than duty.
Moreover, among them is a borderline-psychic teenage girl who might be more dangerous than the dodgy group she’s hitched a ride with. For it, Jodelle Ferland deserves to emulate Summer Glau’s rise to cult heroine status.
Other characters also feel familiar, such as the ship’s resident android (Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer), the Han Soloesque hothead (excellently portrayed by Anthony Lemke) and a modern samurai (Alex Mallari Jr), who has an impressive range of Japanese sword fighting skills, but only one facial expression.
The early episodes tend to re-tread past ground, too. In one of these the crew finds an android (Ruby Rose) that is programmed to provide various forms of pleasure. Predictably, however, sex gives way to slamming into bulkheads when its true purpose is revealed.
Dark Matter succeeds despite its derivative elements, however, because as the season progresses interesting back stories build on questions about nature, nurture and choice.
Witty dialogue provides the levity that SGU lacked and ensures that Dark Matter takes place in a very different universe from Mallozzi and Mullie’s last stellar show.