Exclusive interview with Dark Matter showrunner Joseph Mallozzi
Dark Matter, the sci-fi series based around a band of mercenaries on a ship called the Raza, was originally a four-episode miniseries for Dark Horse Comics before Stargate executive producer and writer Joseph Mallozzi developed it for television. It is now airing its second season on Mondays on Syfy here in the UK and we've been following the show each week (you can check out the latest review here).
I had the opportunity to ask Joseph Mallozzi about Dark Matter, his long term plans for the show and his time working on the three Stargate series.
TDF: I’m really enjoying the direction Dark Matter has been taking this season,particularly the tease of the upcoming war between the corporations. You’ve mentioned before that you have a five-year plan for the show and the characters. Are we seeing that plan come to fruition over the course of the season, or have things changed?
Mallozzi: I had a fairly detailed five season arc going into the series. That included big picture developments, individual season storylines, and character progressions and pay-offs. Of course once you’re in production, you’re constantly making adjustments, usually in response to how that initial vision plays out onscreen.
A great example of this is the Android who was initially intended to have a less significant role in the series, but Zoie Palmer’s performance was so delightful it inspired us to craft a more detailed arc for her character.
In addition to those performance-driven adjustments, things like scheduling, assorted production demands, and the creative input of other parties can influence planned developments.
TDF: We’ve also had two new characters in Nyx and Devon. As the show continues, will the crew of the Raza continuously change or will the focus be on the core characters from season one?
Mallozzi: The crew of The Raza has always been akin to a sports team (or the Avengers roster) in that it is ever-changing. Mercenaries come and go but “The Raza” remains. Our show captures a snapshot of a certain lineup, one cemented after the addition of its three latest members: Griffin Jones, Jace Corso, and a young stowaway.
TDF: We’ve seen the evolution of several characters over the last twenty episodes. Which character has been the most fun to write?
Mallozzi: As I often tell interviewers, picking favorites on this show isn’t as simple as picking your favorite child. There are no disappointments in this group. Each one of them brings something different to the table and each one is fun to write for different reasons.
TDF: Dark Matter is a return to spaceship-based sci-fi and will soon be followed by Star Trek: Discovery. Did you feel that now was the time to return to that medium after it fell out of favour?
Mallozzi: I don’t think that space-based science fiction ever fell out of favor. With executive decision-makers maybe, but certainly not with longtime fans of shows Stargate and Star Trek franchises.
TDF: Beside the comic miniseries itself, what were your biggest influences when developing Dark Matter?
Mallozzi: My influences were many and varied: Stargate, Farscape, Cowboy Bebop, The Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, Thunderbolts.
TDF: Can I talk a moment about the Stargate TV franchise? You had a very successful run with three shows. What was your favourite to work on?
Mallozzi: I loved working on all three shows for different reasons but, if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Stargate: SG-1, especially during the last two seasons with Ben and Claudia. Seasons 9 and 10 of SG-1 were probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing.
TDF: And Stargate: Atlantis, my personal favourite. I remember there were plans to follow up the fifth season ending with more TV movies like Stargate: SG-1. Can you tell us what transpired to stop that from happening?
Mallozzi: The studio, MGM, had seen so much success with the direct-to-DVD releases of the first two SG-1 movies, Ark of Truth and Continuum, that an Atlantis movie seemed a logical next step after the show’s cancellation. My writing partner (Paul Mullie) and I wrote a first draft while Executive Producer Carl Binder wrote a draft for a third SG-1 direct-to video feature…at which point the bottom fell out of the dvd market. As public interest in dvd’s waned, so did the studio’s interest in financing the movies.
TDF: Dark Matter feels like a much more intimate show compared to the Stargate series. How does it feel to be working on a smaller show and which do you prefer?
Mallozzi: I’ve always enjoyed working with ensemble casts and, in that respect, Dark Matter is very similar to the Stargates. Yes, Dark Matter is a lot more intimate in terms of cast and story, something that appeals to me as a writer, but the fact that DM is my show makes it extra special.
TDF: Now that we’re entering the second half of season two of Dark Matter, what do you think has been the defining moment or episode to date?
Mallozzi: It’s hard to answer that question because one of the things we set out to do from the get-go was to craft a show in which “stuff happens EVERY episode”. No fillers. Each episode progresses either the character and/or big picture arcs in some way. Season 1 was all about peeling the onions on the various backstories while season 2 focuses on galactic scale developments. Every episode is pivotal in that it’s a crucial piece in an intricate puzzle.
TDF: And is there anything you feel hasn’t worked?
Mallozzi: Sure, but I leave that to the viewers to decide. And they DO let me know.
TDF: Are you already mapping out a third season or is this dependant on the show’s renewal?
Mallozzi: As I said, I had a five year game plan from the beginning. Each year, it will just be a matter of getting into the writers’ room and filling in the details - something we’ve already done for the show’s third season. Now, all we have to do is write those scripts and it’ll be smoooooooth sailing!
TDF: Finally, is there anything you can tease Dark Matter fans with regarding the rest of season two and beyond?
Mallozzi: More twists and turns, shocks and surprising coming your way in season 2 as we ramp up to our BIG finish - an alternate reality, Dwarf Star headquarters, a return to Zairon, and a bid to head off a massive corporate war that threatens all of colonized space.
A big thank you to Joseph Mallozzi for taking the time to answer our questions. You can continue to catch new episodes each Monday on Syfy UK and fingers crossed for a third season renewal!