Dark Matter: 2.01 Welcome to Your New Home
Once upon a time, sci-fi shows set out in the farthest reaches of space were a common occurrence; the 1990s saw the golden era of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Farscape and Space: Above and Beyond. But then they died a death, in no small part due to the over-saturation of the Star Trek franchise and only Battlestar Galactica and Firefly managed to recapture the magic in recent years.
So when new SyFy production Dark Matter burst onto our screens last year it was both a breath of fresh air and a return to the classic space-bound feel of TV sci-fi. As Colin Polonowski noted in his review of the pilot episode, it has an intriguing premise - the crew of the Raza waking up with no memories of who they were and why they were there - but it would need to deliver answers quickly if it was going to keep fans interested.
Fortunately it did. It started with the premise that these protagonists were actually some of the galaxy's most wanted (think Firefly but a little less quippy). Bt with the offer of redemption, the crew turned against their mission to eradicate the populace of the colony they were sent to destroy and fight the sinister corporations that had sent them on their mission.
Over the course of the first season we learned that One (Marc Bendavid) was Derrick Moss, the son of an industrialist who had himself surgically altered to impersonate criminal Jace Corso in order to find his wife's killer. That suspect was Three (Anthony Lemke), a mercenary for hire called Marcus Boone - but it soon turned out that he was not the murderer. Five (Jodelle Ferland) was a street kid Das who snuck onboard the Raza while Six (Roger Cross) discovered he was a wanted terrorist Griffin Jones before the bigger twist revealed that he was an officer sent undercover to infiltrate the vessel. Most interesting of all was Two (Melissa O'Neil) as Portia Lin, who survived a virus and being blown into space with the revelation that she was a genetically-created killing machine and Four (Alex Mallari Jr) as Ryo Tetsudo, a skilled master of the blade and son of the slain emperor, framed for murder by his step mother. Zoie Palmer's android was obviously inspired by Star Trek: Voyager's Seven Of Nine with her journey to discover a personality beneath her programmed nature. Over the course of the thirteen episodes the crew were forced to work together, navigating characters that knew who they were, evading the authorities and learning the truth of their identities. The season ended with Jones discovering the truth about his identity and leading crew into a trap and imprisonment.
Still with us? Okay, on to season two...
If season one had to prove that it could keep up the momentum of discovering the identities of the main cast, then season two has to prove that it can keep audience hooked now that we know who the crewmembers are. Welcome to Your New Home plays the fine line between reintroducing audience to these characters and establishing a new plot thread for season two. Portia, Marcus and Ryo find themselves prisoners in the Hyperion-8 Maximum Security Galactic Detention Facility, Griffin tried to adjust to his life as an officer, Das found herself out of prison but with nowhere to go and Derrick was scooped back to his old life by a lawyer from his father's company.
Having the three best characters in maximum security allowed the show to have some fun, even if the situations were a little obvious at times. I did enjoy seeing Marcus almost being beaten up by a girl in his cell, complete breaking his macho persona. Melanie Liburd's Nyx was eerily similar to Portia in many ways; evenly matched in a fight and with similar personalities which suggest she may too be the result of some genetic manipulation. The scenes in the imaginary world inside solitary confinement were an interesting twist on the holodeck and allowed both women to bond over their situation. Given that Portia suspects Nyx knows a way off the prison, I can see her being another addition to the crew of the Raza when they make their inevitable break for freedom.
Ryo, cool as always, got to test out security by picking a fight with two groups of inmates and came face to face with prisoner bigwig Arax Nero. I am looking forward to seeing Ryo take him down without breaking a sweat. Marcus naturally got to lightly comic storyline, proving that he is as skilled with laundry as he is with weapons and realising that injuring himself to live a better life of luxury in the medbay is never going to end well. The prison scenes were fun to watch, but I hope they don't drag out too long into the season.
The governor being a nasty piece of work is nothing original. It feels obvious that Griffin will be forced to save Das as she is led into a trap and rescue the others by breaking out the Raza. I just hope Dark Matter keeps things interesting - and season one proved it could do that.
One crew member who won't be making it back to the Raza is Derrick. His uncle-like figure is likely to be the one who was really responsible for his wife's death and I did genuinely feel sorry for Derrick as he remained clueless to the powerplay for the company he has inherited. His shocking murder at the hands of Jace Corso was a great twist; it allows the show to keep Marc Bendavid while murdering a pivotal character. Added to this the backstories of Portia and Ryo, the plans of the warden and the fun of seeing Jace inevitably impersonate Derrick and there is sure to be plenty to keep us hooked.
The android got just one scene this episode, but her blackmail of the technician by threatening to wipe her program made for an amusing interlude and showed just how far she has progressed as a character too.
Welcome to Your New Home spent the majority of the time reintroducing us to the crew of the Raza as they acquainted themselves with their new situations. There were some fun moments and intriguing plot lines but it was the cliff-hanger murder of Derrick that made the episode. I'm looking forward to seeing the direction Dark Matter takes this season. Apparently the writers have a five year plan - let's see how that plays out this year...