Several Good Reasons to Save the Galaxy—or at Least Dark Matter

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Would you like to save the galaxy but you don’t know how? Well, you can start by saving the canceled show Dark Matter. (You can sign this petition to show your support and maybe find it a home on another network.)

“Forget about the galaxy!” you say. “If you haven’t noticed, the world is ending! The last thing I need to worry about is another show.”

I was once like you. I didn’t think I could save the world and save the Dark Matter galaxy. Let me just ask you these eleven questions so you can decided if saving the Dark Matter galaxy is for you.

And remember, all the multiverse is made up of Dark Matter.

1) What matters to you most in a show?
A) Strong characters.
B) Diversity.
C) A strong plot.
D) Explaining things well, like the timeline and why the alternate-universe evil doppelgangers keep showing up.
E) All of the above.

Any of these answers may mean Dark Matter (and saving it) is for you!

2) Want to know how Dark Matter holds the secret to real life RESISTING?
A) Yes.
B) No, but what was that about alternative universe doppelgangers?

Dark Matter is a space opera show with a crew who is fighting evil corporations and mysterious alien entities. “So what?” you say. “There are at least two other shows doing that right now.”

Yeah, for some reason it’s in the zeitgeist. Go figure. But Dark Matter has cracked how we resist successfully: We do it by valuing community and respecting individual identity. To see how you must watch and save the story.

In the three seasons of Dark Matter, we learn of a ship called The Raza and its crew of six. The women of The Raza run things and fix things. They do physical and emotional work with the mostly well-meaning men who support them. Perhaps this is a biased view. They also have: time travel paradoxes, samurais, bad boys in love with downloaded consciousness, memory-sharing, a dab of teen angst, casual sex with no shame, and The BEST Android EVER.

3) How do you feel about amnesia?
A) I love it when it happens to other people.
B) Who am I? Am I good person? Why do I know how to kill things?
C) Ugh, that old plot device?

Even if you answered C, give me a second.

I’ll admit I’m the geek that LOVES the amnesia episode of every show, the one where the characters forget who they are. All the Star Treks, Buffy, Gilligan’s Island, Angel and so on.

I couldn’t resist the premise that a whole crew woke up on a ship with amnesia, but I fully expected it to be cheesy. It was not cheese. It was more like a slowly roasted pizza with just the right amount of cheese, placed there only to bring out complex flavor.

They crew is the bread of the artisan pizza of this show. They named themselves with numbers, One through Six, in the order they woke up on the ship. Two (Melissa O’Neil), a woman of color, kicks the ass of One, (Mark Bendavid), when they first awaken. One seems like the kind of guy that would typically become the leader of The Raza, because there must be a leader and he’s number One, right? Wrong. Two steps up to be the leader, and it isn’t because of her ass-kicking abilities. Everyone on the ship, even the android (Zoie Palmer), has fighting abilities, except for Five. Five (Jodelle Ferland) is a spunky, not whiney, teen. If you hate spunky teen girls know that Ferland can also perfectly play the part of Four (normally played by Alex Mallari JR.), a 30-year-old emperor swordsman, when she’s living his memories—just a normal day in space.

… Also, what’s your problem with spunky teens, huh?

4) How do you want the tone of your space opera show?
A) I want to be reminded that abuses of power exist but I want to laugh sometimes.
B) I want to be constantly traumatized by a TV show so I feel numb to life.
C) I only watch shows that respect hard science.

If you answered B, please get help. You won’t want to hear about the incredibly fun season three episode “All The Time in The World.” In it, Three, (Anthony Lemke) the killer with tragic backstory, ends up in a “Groundhog Day” situation. He’s forced to live the same day repeatedly because … science. If you answered C, and need hard science, there was some real temporal theory in this episode for you. The show as a whole has quantum theory and AI throughout. As a person with a social science background, all I can tell you is there is cool, timey-whimey stuff, and bots.

I can tell you “All The Time in The World” helped my dopamine release. I watched it three times and showed it to people who didn’t watch the show. If there is a part of you that likes a little fun in between dealing with war, who gets to have rights, and killing space stations full of people, this is where Dark Matter lives.

5) How do you like your female* characters?
A) Surrounded by different types of people they have different types of relationship with including other women.
B) Complicated.
C) With some pan/bisexual/lesbian storylines.
D) So strong and amazing that the main male character falls in love with her without even meeting her. She then ends up being a sacrificial lamb along with the guy without her consent. For an extra creep factor, I’d like if she was Asian and the guy’s white and he kisses her without consent before they die. I want this to be seen as so tragic and romantic.
E) Um, all but D, please. What’s with D?

*Female = identifies as a female.

If you answered any answer but D, you’ll like Dark Matter.  If you answered D, that’s OK. You might still like it. D is from SyFy’s other space opera, The Expanse, which is relevant here because Dark Matter often is compared to it. The Expanse is often seen as “gritty” and “real,” while Dark Matter is known as “good fun.” Hard science lovers rave about The Expanse. They want to see realism.

The Expanse is great sci-fi, and I’m not mad at it for its realism. But, in The Expanse so far, “realism” involves the vast majority of episodes failing The Bechtel-Wallace Test.

This is not the case in Dark Matter, which has all kinds of female dynamics. I guess that’s what happens when half of your cast is female, and they’re allowed to sit together.

6) How do you like your spaceship crew to be led?
A) By a tough Captain Janeway type.
B) By someone like Seth MacFarlane.
C) By scary aliens that are in my leader’s body.
D) Some other option like maybe group leadership.   

With the way the Dark Matter ended, any of these answers could work. But, let’s hope the show gets picked up so we can continue exploring option D. With a ship, we always expect a leader. It’s a very tradition masculine model of thinking about the world. In Dark Matter, Two is the leader officially, but her individual opinion only matters as much as anyone else’s, in the spirit of democracy. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, anyway. But, on The Raza, each individual’s opinions hold weight in more of a cooperative leadership style then a traditional democracy. Dark Matter does this so subtly and naturally that you won’t even notice. (Maybe it’s a secret Canadian plot.)

7) How do you like your side characters?
A) with character development but their story isn’t as important as the hero’s.
B) They have to die.
C) In an ensemble cast, isn’t everyone important?

If you said C, you may be happy for the first time ever. At first I told people: “Dark Matter is Firefly with amnesia.” Now, I’m a binge-watch older, I would only compare it to Whedon’s cult classic show if forced into a six-word pitch. I would feel dirty inside because I wasn’t giving the show justice—not because Dark Matter is superior to Firefly, but I think Dark Matter succeeded in something Firefly only pretended to attempt: Dark Matter makes all of its characters important. It has continued throughout three seasons to keep every crew member not only essential to each other, but to the larger world around them.

Often, writers are told we MUST write a story with a one-hero focus or “it would be too complicated,” or you’ll get accused of making everyone Han Solo. There can only be one winner, and everyone else is jockeying to get in behind him (or her or them, but it usually ends up being a him.) Dark Matter never followed the lone-hero-with-side-characters model, and I would be surprised if it ever fell into it if it was allowed to continue. Two is the leader, but there are essential plots that don’t revolve her.

With Dark Matter, community is what matters, along with individual identity. Android and Four’s search for their individuality advances the plot in completely different ways. Four is the only one of the crew to choose his old memories to identify with after figuring out he was an emperor, and he leaves the community of The Raza. Nothing could be more “one male leader” than emperor, right? He becomes his pre-amnesia ruthless self, only to discover he’s actually manipulated and powerless.

Meanwhile, Android is thought of as powerless. She could never exist without the community of The Raza, but with community assistance, she creates her identity completely of her own choosing. Both of these characters’ journeys become essential to saving the galaxy. (Now we just have to get to see it!)

8) What kinds of twists do you like in shows?
A) Unexpected main character deaths.
B) Unexpected betrayals.
C) Unexpected twists that aren’t what everyone has been doing for the past seven years?

I won’t give spoilers. What I will say is that regularly-scheduled gruesome main character death is no longer the “new” thing. Do you know what would be even more surprising and less cheap? If a main character dies unexpectedly and you really didn’t see it coming because it doesn’t follow a pattern, and actually changes the whole structure of the show!

9) How do you feel about androids?
A) LOVE them.
B) I’m so over them.
C) It depends. Am I going to get an android crush?

If you answer is B, I was once like you. My first reaction to “Android,” as they call her, was, “Really? Another Android?” But, a binge watch later and I can’t tell you how many times I fan-girl tweeted Android actor Zoie Palmer.

Android has all the feels while seemingly having no feels. She starts the show as a kick-ass placid bot, but as Dark Matter progresses, so does she. Her everyday mannerisms and speech patters only change subtly, so she appears unchanged on the surface while her desires change. You eventually realize she has change completely. When you notice she’s filled with emotion despite little expression, you want to cry. (Or I do.)  You want to give her a hug. You are excited when she comes into a room. While it’s written well, I don’t think it could have worked without Palmer’s masterful work in the role.

10) Do you want to let the evil corporations and aliens win?
A) No.
B) Yes, I am a secret evil alien and my plot is working.
C) Aren’t they already?

The evil aliens and corporations won’t win if you help renew Dark Matter!

11) Are you in to help Dark Matter find a home?
A) Yes.
B) No, I told you I’m an evil alien. Nothing can stop us!

If A, give the show a watch—and sign that petition!

If B, know that the rest of the fans and I—and even my doppelganger from an alternate universe—aren’t giving up.

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Jody Sollazzo is a published science fiction/fantasy author of short stories. She is also licensed mental health therapist with a Master’s in psychology. She has worked with survivors of trauma and abuse and has performed research on disability, women, and sexuality. She is working on a novel about witches with disabilities and the fairies who love them. Follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>