Dark Matter: 2.10 Take the Shot
The Android's story this season has been one of the most fascinating, watching this synthetic character gradually becoming more self aware. It is something we have seen in many sci-fi shows before - Data's story in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the subsequent movies is all about his progression from android to human - and it is all down to Zoie Palmer's wonderful performance that she has kept this story fresh and intriguing week after week.
Last week's episode ended with the Android waking up in bed, looking very human and Take The Shot picked up straight after, revealing that she was dreaming. Of course, she shouldn't be, but we quickly learned that this was another step in her evolution beyond her original programming. Victor (Brendan Murray) made an encore performance after showing her a better life in We Were Family, playing her husband and posed the question 'is she a human dreaming of being android or the android dreaming of being a human?' I wondered if the episode was going to down the cliche of having Dark Matter the series being all in her head, but fortunately it was more interesting than that.
After waking from her dream state, the crew discovered that the Android had been running the holographic diagnostic on herself after almost making a mistake landing the ship. It was a wonderful scene as Palmer played the new awkward, funny and innocent Android, desperate to explore her new emotions but fearing that she could be reset back to her factory settings. The holographic version was equally brilliant - Palmer doing that thing with playing cold and ruthless and sweet and innocent just through her eyes. The argument between them was hilarious and you genuinely felt for the Android as she was sent into stasis.
I'm not sure how well the subsequent scenes worked as Ryo encountered Misaki Han-Shireikan, Portia found herself attacked by Rook's masked men and Marcus encountered the ghost of lost love Sarah. All had their merits; the sword fight between Ryo and Misaki was thrilling, particularly the shocking stab through Ryo's gut. Melissa O'Neil got show the vulnerable side of Portia as she was held captive and it was disturbing just how close Marcus came to shoot himself in the head - at Sarah's insistence - before Das and Griffin were able to save him. But it all felt inconsequential and a repeat of the mysterious events in earlier season episode I've Seen the Other Side of You as something odd effected the crew.
But at the same time, there were several breadcrumbs laid throughout the series that made the reveal - the virus affecting the ship - far more rewarding. The visions impacted Portia, Marcus and Ryo's because they loaded their neural pathways into the ship's computer before the pilot. The virus was the direct result of the deceitful actions of Commander Truffault from the alternate reality two weeks earlier. And the holographic Android was at the heart of it all, manipulating the crew into destroying the Android before she could save them. Palmer played cold and ruthless well, while her innocent self fought against the dream world she found herself in to finally save the ship from destruction. The final act as Portia battled the virus was certainly exciting and there was a great moral dilemma as the crew debated whether to heed the holographic Android's words and destroy the real version in the stasis chamber.
It's that debate - is she just a machine or something more? - that ran at the heart of the episode and while we might have seen it sci-fi shows before, it was deserving of its focus here. Admittedly, I found some revelations (the dream world, the visions the crew faced) a little obvious but it didn't detract from this solid episode. And the next breadcrumb seems to have been laid; Ryo downloading his old memories. Is this the betrayal the crew were warned about weeks ago?
Take The Shot did loose the pace after the last few weeks and the bottle episode nature of the episode was obviously a bit of a cost cutting exercise before the final run of episodes, but it was still well done. And with a third season renewal finally guaranteed (hooray!) I can appreciate the focus on the characters this week before Dark Matter turns to grander things in the final three episodes.