One episode was provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
It took me approximately five minutes to estimate the kind of Syfy series that Dark Matter would be. None would call the network’s track record unblemished, exactly, so deciding to give a new Syfy show a chance is sometimes a crap shoot. You could win big (last year’s Ascension sure came close), or you could lose even bigger. Dark Matter, the network’s new series based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, fits rightfully on brand with Syfy’s pivot away from quirky ephemerality (Eureka, Warehouse 13) and into the grittier deep space shenanigans of yesteryear – or, you know, when Battlestar Galactica made them a lot of money.
But now, thanks to Dark Matter‘s dramatically preposterous mishandling of both its “adult” themes and that elusive grittiness, Syfy is even further away from the quality programming it so eagerly wants to recapture.
Taking place on an abandoned spaceship, the show focuses on a group of seven individuals, one an android, who must fight to recover their stolen memories, discovering along the way what their ultimate purpose is and why they have amnesia in the first place. If that premise sounds familiar, it’s because from movies (Pandorum) to books (Hull Zero Three), the idea of amnesiacs rummaging about derelict space vessels has been around for a while. And for good reason – it’s a solid, mystery-laden premise, and one that honestly deserves to be mined for all of its inherent kooky potential. After watching the first hour of Dark Matter (the only one provided to critics) though, I’d say that window is still wide open.
After waking up, the crew – names designated by the numeric order upon which each awoke – begins scouring the ship for answers. A few realize they have preternatural skills that circumvent the amnesia, others discover a homicidal android that Two (Melissa O’Neil) quickly reprograms, and all mill about with such little awe-struck agency concerning their mind-numbingly terrifying predicament that you’d swear they were hanging out at their favorite bar. There’s just no truth to anything happening on screen, no cause to care about the outcome. The acting, while never out-and-out awful, succumbs to that same blasé hollowness exuded by everything from the look of the show’s various gadgetry to its opening title card.