Joseph Mallozzi wants to put the fun back in sci-fi. And if you’ve watched the first two seasons of Syfy’s Dark Matter, which he co-created with Paul Mullie and is the executive producer of, you’d say he’s succeeded. This criminally under-watched series is everything you’d want in a pulpy space show: mercenaries, sexy robots, time warps, space zombies and evil mega-corporations. But it’s also produced with the kind of skill, nuance and characterisation you’d expect to see in a prime time prestige genre series.
Think Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or even Stranger Things. But injected with some old-school zany fun that we think has gone missing from television these days. And, if you’re the sort of person who cares, the series is also led by impressive female characters who pass the Bechdel test with flying colours — in every single episode.
For the uninitiated, the show follows six people (and an android) who wake up from stasis on a derelict space ship with no memories of who they are or how they got on board. They name themselves in the order that they woke up — One to Six. The rest of the series is them having to work together, trust issues and memory deficits aside, while fighting off intergalactic threats. “The show’s central theme is redemption. Are we born bad or are we products of our environment? Can even the worst people change? What does it take and how far is one willing to go to start over,” said Mallozzi over an email exchange with Gulf News tabloid!.
And bypassing an original pilot script, Mallozzi and Mullie first created a four-issue comic book series with Darkhorse comics. Impressed by the reviews the comics then received, Syfy decided to pick up the series, the first season of which released in 2015 to, again, rave reviews.
Season three is currently airing in the Middle East. Following are excerpts from our conversation with Mallozzi.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us how you came up with the idea for the show.
I wanted a story that started off with a clean slate of sorts, a start point that would allow us to build a narrative in which our characters and audience progressed as one. In other words, throughout the show’s first season (and beyond) our characters are finding out about themselves and their world [and] at the same time our audience is discovering their secrets. The fun of this “reverse-formula” is that it allows you to create stock first impressions and then slowly undermine them as the show progresses.
What can viewers expect from season three?
Thirteen all new episodes for starters! We resolve the big cliffhanger, obviously, from season two. The last we saw our crew, they’re all getting blown up on EO-7, presumably kicking off this corporate war. And season three will be very much about that — the corporate war — and picking up where we left off, in terms of our crew. We’ve got some surprises in store, in terms of characters who are coming back. There’s one character who’s coming back at the end of the first episode that will be quite a surprise — I think!
You’ve previously produced Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. How has working on those shows influenced Dark Matter?
The shows are very different in terms of premise but one way they’re very similar is in tone. One of the things I loved about writing for SG-1 and Atlantis was the underlying sense of humour in both shows, and that’s something I set out to recapture in Dark Matter. In addition, after all the action and adventure, the Stargate shows were very much about family. I think it’s much the same way with the Dark Matter crew. They are mercenaries, this galaxy’s most-wanted, but, when all is said and done, they’re family.
How important has it been to make this show with Syfy?
I love working in sci-fi for Syfy. The world of science fiction definitely allows you to tell such a wide variety of stories. One episode could be heavily techy while another could be more action-adventure driven. Another could be character-centred while another can be a comedy. The genre offers you amazing opportunities — and I can’t thank Syfy enough for giving us the stage to tell these stories.
What would you say is going to be a standout episode this season, and why?
Depends on what you like. If you’re looking for humour, look no further than Episode 304, ‘All The Time In The World’, that sees Three trapped in a time loop. Yes, it’s a standard SF story but it’s treated in a fun and unexpected way — and Anthony Lemke is hilariously brilliant. Another episode along the same lines is Episode 309, ‘Isn’t That A Paradox?’ that sees the crew travel back in time to the year 2017 where they must go undercover as a suburban family in Fort Falls, Wisconsin. I describe this episode as Back to the Future meets Stranger Things. On the other hand, if you like episodes full of revelations, surprises, and shocking character turns, you’re not going to want to miss Episode 310, ‘Built, Not Born’, that, as you may have guessed, deals with the Android’s back story. In a similar vein is Episode 312, ‘My Final Gift To You’.
How many more seasons of Dark Matter can we expect? Do you have an end game planned for the finale?
I have a five-season plan for the series, each with its own beginning, middle and end. Season one begins with the crew discovering they’re wanted criminals and ends, appropriately enough, with them being hauled off by the Galactic Authority to pay for their crimes. Season two begins with the crew deciding to be more proactive and taking the fight out to their enemies, seeking redemption by trying to avert a galactic war — only to have their efforts blow up in their faces, literally. Season three is all about the past coming back to haunt and ends with an episode that sends the series off in a wild new direction. Every little mystery we’ve set up will have a pay off. We’ve sprinkled little clues here and there because I know where we’re going. In fact, I already know the final scene of our final episode. Fingers crossed we get to finish our story!
‘Dark Matter’: Meet the characters
For newbies, here’s an introduction to the primary crew of the Raza.
One/Jace Corso/Derrick Moss played by Marc Marc Bendavid
Role: The mediator
Traits: The moral centre of the team, One is constantly trying to get the crew to choose the path of righteousness, as a way to get past their criminal pasts. He prefers doing the right thing, even when it may not be the smartest move or will put the entire crew at risk.
Two/Portia Lin played by Melissa O’Neil
Role: The unquestioned leader of the crew.
Traits: She took charge when nobody stepped up and while she lets everyone speak their mind, she has the final word on big decisions. She also acts as Five’s adoptive big sister, always keeping a protective eye out for her.
Three/Marcus Boone played by Anthony Lemke
Role: The weapons expert.
Traits: Hotheaded, snarky and a cad, Three’s also almost always looking to split up from the group and make his own way in the world. He doesn’t play nice and loves a good fight. However, subsequent episodes also show a well-hidden softer side to him.
Four Four/Ryo Tetsuda/Ryo Ishida played by Alex Mallari Jr.
Role: The swordsmaster and interrogator.
Traits: The strong and silent type, Four is not big on sharing emotions or spending time socialising with the crew. However, his well of patience allows him to wait for an opportune moment to make his move.
Five/Emily Kolburn played by Joedelle Ferland
Role: Tech wizard.
Traits: The youngest of the crew (she’s 15 in season one) and the only one who is not a wanted criminal, Five is often treated as the baby, especially by Three who is annoyed that she gets to vote in crew matters. But her tech geek ways have helped the crew out of a pickle more than once.
Six/Griffin Jones played by Roger R. Cross
Role: The pilot and backup weapons man
Traits: Six, more often than not, finds himself acting as the mediator. He’s the voice of reason when Three gets too temperamental or One is being his naive self. He’s also always the first person to volunteer when it comes to dangerous quests, so the rest can be spared.
Don’t miss it!
Dark Matter airs on Syfy every Tuesday at 10pm.