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Dark Matter - Pilot - Advance Preview: “Return To Space”

SyFy has been in need of a good space opera for quite some time. For a network that gave us the likes of Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Stargate: Universe, and the finale season of Andromeda this network has been void of any good space shows for far too long. For that reason the expectations and hopes for Dark Matter have been high. They even tapped TJ Scott to direct, and given the brilliant array of work to his name, he only served to raise the expectations even higher. When expectations get that high sometimes a show can let its early fans down.

Fair warning, the characters are referenced by a number instead of a given name, and while it makes perfect sense in the context of the show it would make for some confusion for the rest of this preview if I just used their numbers. I know this as fact because I tried it and it so did not work. SyFy did previewers, like myself, a big favor and posted their show nicknames on the official site, so that’s how I’m going to reference them from here on out. If knowing the characters nicknames is too much of a spoiler for you then please stop reading now.

As someone who was excited for this show from the moment it was announced I can tell you that it does not disappoint. In fact, this show demolished all my expectations within the first minutes. Two/Boss Lady (Melissa O’Neil) ends up taking charge of this ragtag team and she is not at all who I expected would get command and it was a very pleasant surprise. Even more surprising is that it just kind of organically happens and, at least in the pilot, she isn’t challenged for that position. Everyone just kind of follows her lead and the orders she gives. In a genre that is, typically, very male led it was nice to see this show give a woman command.

This show was well cast and they all work very well together. Each character has something special they bring to the group, as do the actors. This may be a pilot, but it feels like they’ve been working together for years. All of the actors have a good grip of their characters and have already mastered the little quirks each have. Some pilots suffer from actors trying to find their characters voice, but luckily that does not happen here. I don’t know if they got extra rehearsal time that aided in this or if this cast is just that skilled at their craft. Given the resumes of these actors I’m willing to bet on the latter.

If you’ve ever watched a show filmed in Canada, especially a genre show, you should recognize all but one of the cast right away. Marc Bendavid (One/Pretty Boy), Anthony Lemke (Three/Sunshine), Alex Mallari Jr. (Four/Slashy McStabberson), Jodelle Ferland (Five/Kid), Roger Cross (Six/Tiny), and Zoie Palmer (The Android) are all Canadian television staples. If you, by some very odd chance, have no idea who any of them are please do yourself a favor and Google them. Then you need to start watching their past work because you are missing out. But before you do that finish reading this preview.

The big surprise of this pilot, for me anyway, was the one actress I was unfamiliar with. Melissa O’Neil, making her television debut, absolutely steals the scenes she is in. There is a particular scene she has with Jodelle’s character where her eyes say more than any words could. You’ll know the scene I’m referencing when you see it. She’s not only very good with line delivery and timing, but she’s exceptional at controlling her expressions and using them to manipulate a moment. I imagine that is due to her long and well respected theatre career. Her introductory scene sets her character up perfectly for the trajectory she ends up on in this episode. Melissa is one to watch in this series as she may very well give the TV veterans a run for their money.

As a long time fan of Lost Girl I was thrilled to see Zoie Palmer land another series so fast. Her character is such a departure from Dr. Lauren that you will have no problem differentiating the two characters. Zoie has a gift for giving even the most subtle moment an underlying level of humor and depth and given the constraints of her character she still manages to do that. Plus, and I can say this because it’s in the trailers, she finally gets to have a great fight scene. Her fight scene does not disappoint and it is as epic as you would hope for it to be.

I think Roger Cross and Anthony Lemke have some kind of deal with the Canadian Film Commission where they must show up, at some point, on anything filmed in Canada. These guys are all over Canadian productions and it’s for good reason. They are both very talented character actors and they can easily handle themselves in fight scenes. As an added bonus, Anthony looks truly badass carrying the weapon he gets to in this episode.

While all the characters have their skills I was most intrigued by Kid whom has a truly impressive skill. I look forward to finding out more about her background. Boss Lady and Kid get some fun scenes together in the pilot. I’ve already come to like them as a team and I hope the show plays that dynamic more in future episodes. Several times through the pilot Boss Lady acts very protectively over Kid and it’s a good big sister/little sister dynamic. Kid and Tiny get some great scenes together as well and I like the dynamic they’ve setup between them too. On the SyFy site they reference Kid as the mascot of the group and that is a very good way to describe her place on this team.

The show seemed to zero in on actor chemistry with the way they divided them up in this episode and I hope they realized how well those groupings worked. In the midst of everything going on, and there is a lot, we get a funny scene between Pretty Boy and Boss Lady that jaded TV fans will expect to go one way and then the show zigs when you expect it to zag. Sunshine and Tiny are an odd couple because they are on completely different ends of the personality spectrum, but the duo works because of that very same reason. Slashy is the silent type which just makes his time with chatty Pretty Boy hilarious. The Android seems to enjoy pushing Boss Lady’s buttons, and the inside joke of that statement will make sense once you see the episode, so it’ll be interesting to watch those two have to work together. And as the boss and the link to the ship that is one duo that will have to remain intact.

The guys get some great stuff to do on a little group adventure. The guys consist of a badass, a charming good guy, a skilled warrior, and a menacing looking softy. As to be expected with that type of grouping there is some tension in the ranks. I can’t tell you what they are doing, but it leads to an interesting group dinner that aids in the solidification of the personality of each character.

The end scene of the episode gives the show a great launch point to start to delve into the mystery behind our amnesiac crew. I for one will be anxiously awaiting the next episode to see where they go next with this last minute bombshell.

This episode gives the show the launch it needs to succeed. Here is to hoping this show does well and we have many seasons to watch the evolution of these characters.

Schedule a spot in front of your TVs at 10pm on Friday, June 12th and tune into SyFy to watch the network gallantly launch us all back into space. Then come back to SpoilerTV and read an excellent in-depth review by my colleague, Lindsey Salazar. She will be your review captain for this show and I am anxiously waiting to hear her thoughts on Dark Matter. I will return with previews whenever SyFy gives me the opportunity to do so. Until then I will be live tweeting this show every Friday on my twitter account so join me on this fun space adventure.

Here are five memorable quotes to hold you over until June 12th:

“Wonder if I know how to fly this thing?”

“Is somebody going to die?”

“The least we can do is give them a fighting chance.”

“Do we really have to have a vote to decide if she gets to vote?”

“Oh, except for the part where you nearly killed us all!”

Bonus Quote (Because it was too funny to leave out):

“We’re about to enter orbit. I suggest you wear pants.”

Can you guess who says what?

Time to get the chatter going about this show, so post your thoughts and speculations below.

About the Author - Aimee Hicks
Aimee works for a local newspaper and has a BA in Broadcasting and Cinema. She has been a TV lover since before she really understood what TV was. She has a long list of shows that she loves to watch and can be found on twitter (@ahicks83) live tweeting about each new episode whenever she can. A list of her favorite shows includes (but is not limited to) the following: 12 Monkeys, Orphan Black, Outlander, Chasing Life, Scorpion, The 100, The Night Shift, Bitten, Black Sails, 2 Broke Girls, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Continuum, Lost Girl, Faking It, Falling Skies, Finding Carter, Once Upon A Time, Orange Is The New Black, Switched At Birth, The Fosters, The Flash, The Originals, Teen Wolf, Under The Dome, & Z Nation. The upcoming shows she is most excited about are: Supergirl, Dark Matter, UnReal, Blindspot, Lucifer, Legends of Tomorrow, Stitchers, Recovery Road, Shadowhunters, Quantico, Code Black, Heartbreaker, and Chicago Med. She has a large and passionate dislike of ""reality"" TV, espeically ""reality"" dating shows, but has a weakness for Americas Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance. But those two don't really count as ""reality"" shows, at least that's how she justifies those guilty pleasures. She was the original creator and co-founder of LOST Video Island ( which is still operting under the management of the very capable and skilled group she turned it over to.
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