As I mentioned in a previous post, two my favorite sub-genres of SF television are AU (alternate universe) and time travel. They both allow us to shed light on our characters, and the show’s world, in ways we wouldn’t normally be permitted within the established narrative. “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”, for instance, answers a few outstanding questions, some going as far back as our very first episode, while also teeing up a bunch of future storylines as well. There was A LOT going on in this episode and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if you may have missed a few crucial tidbits even on second and third viewing (which is de rigueur for every episode of Dark Matter).
First off, can I just say what a fantastic job VFX Supervisor (and Dark Matter Supervising Producer) Lawren Bancroft-Wilson is doing this year. That shot of The Raza moving through the debris from the destroyed space station? Wow. Kudos to Lawren and his VFX team, with FUSEFX at the forefront, delivering some truly spectacular visuals this season, from The Raza’s atmospheric entry and landing to…well, the finale. Great, great stuff!
Earlier this season, someone was asking about ship to ship battles. Specifically, why hadn’t we seen any yet? Well, we’ve seen some pretty good ones so far this season, once again thanks to LBW and co. Always fun to see The Raza in action but, in particular, to check out how far the ship has come in its level of detailing.
Android: “A slight variance in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background suggests an extremely unusual possibility.”
I received a fair amount of love for this theoretical conjecture on the part of the Android, but must give credit where credit is due. When crafting a hypothetical explanation for the inter-universe jump, I consulting with the experts – in this case, former Stargate science tech advisor Mika McKinnon who stepped up with the assist (GeoMika).
One of my very favorite guest stars, Torri Higginson, reprises her role as the opportunistic Commander Delaney Truffault. The character was originally supposed to meet her end in Episode 11 of the show’s first season, but a scheduling conflict and some serious reconsideration of her role in the grand scheme of things saved her. When it came time to casting the role I knew Torri would be great – but her performance surpassed my lofty expectations. She played Truffault with such sass and bemused confidence that I instantly fell in love. And, boy oh boy, that shot of her swaggering down the corridor of The Raza after she takes out FOUR and SIX? Perfection.
The crew’s research uncovers intriguing tidbits of information, hints of what could have been and clues to what may come…
There’s a corporate war in full swing, something that has only been hinted at back in our reality.
The war finds its roots in long-standing corporate conflicts, but was seemingly sparked by the destruction of a space station, EOS-7, during a summit attended by representatives from the various corporations as well as the League of Autonomous Worlds.
Ferrous Corp is suspected as being the culprit behind the station’s destruction, although they have steadfastly denied the charge. Oh, hey, Commander Nieman!
Kal Varrick (SIX’s alter-ego) uploaded a virus to the ship’s computer before going into stasis, one that would disable The Raza, thus rendering it “dead in space” (see Episode 1).
He has arranged for the ship to emit a subspace distress call to make it easier to track (see Episode 1).
The Raza’s security system is an Android who can be take offline with a verbal shutdown command.
If the Android perceives an insurmountable threat, she is programmed to wipe the ship’s data stores (see Episode 1).
We learn that The Raza paid a recent visit to the headquarters of Dwarf Star Technologies, killing over two hundred company personnel including company CEO Alexander Rook (see Episode…oh, it won’t be long).
The script’s first draft included another scene, a file SIX accesses prior to the video of his death…
He double-clicks, bringing up various sub-files (SERVICE, MISSIONS, RECORD, COMMENDATIONS) including the one he clicks on: DEATH. We switch to a deposition video – Commander Tarvis of the Galactic Authority (last seen in Episode 106)is being questioned.
COMMANDER TARVIS: He was our best agent up until the incident on Hydaum-12. That mission – it changed him. Though, in all fairness, over ten thousand lives lost – it would’ve changed anyone.
She fields an unintelligible O.S. question –
COMMANDER TARVIS: He requested a leave of absence and we gave it to him. I honestly wasn’t sure he’d ever come back – but he did, six months later. And requested the toughest assignment on book. In retrospect, I should’ve turned him down. He wasn’t ready.
Unintelligible O.S. question –
COMMANDER TARVIS: He went undercover to bring in the crew of the outlaw ship, The Raza.
Unintelligible O.S. question –
COMMANDER TARVIS: He was murdered while sending a data burst back to G.A. Central Command. He died on camera. The visual evidence was logged as part of the inquest into –
SIX freezes the video, enters another sequence, bringing up another video.
This reality’s Ishida Ryo has retaken the throne of Zairon with the help of his step-brother, Hiro, and other loyal agents within the court.
To quote actress Melissa O’Neil on the Portia-Boone “sexy time” scene: “My butt clenched reading it.”
Some awesome twinning sequences in this episode. Kudos again to VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson and director Andy Mikita. Find out how they pulled it off here: The Fine Art of Twinning
Bring on the bad guys! One of my biggest regrets of season 1 was the loss of Wexler and Tash, two psychotic but colorful mercs who met their spectacular ends back in Episode 10. Well, here was an opportunity to bring them back – along with the duplicitous Jace Corso. Scheduling was a huge challenge here as all three actors – Ennis Esmer, Jessica Sipos, and Marc Bendavid – had other commitments we needed to work around. But, thankfully, we were able to make it work in the end and all three delivered delightfully diabolical performances.
Since the episode was running long, we had to cut some dialogue for time. FOUR’s conversation with the captive Portia and Boone offered a little more insight into Blink Drive’s workings in the script…
Portia and Boone are on their feet when he enters.
PORTIA: You didn’t account for temporal displacement. That’s why you and the rest of your crew are here. You tested the drive without making the proper adjustments.
Off FOUR –
PORTIA: So instead of going from point A to point B in your universe, you punched a hole in the fabric of space-time and ended up here in ours.
FOUR: We didn’t know we had to make those changes to the drive.
PORTIA: Didn’t the scientist you tortured tell you?
FOUR: We didn’t torture a scientist.
BOONE: Rookie mistake. You ARE different from the Ishida we know.
And, oh yeah, we also find out a little more about this reality’s ongoing conflict between Zairon and the Republic of Pyr…
PORTIA: After EOS-7, the corporations backing Pyr had bigger things to worry about than some regional conflict. They pulled their support and we took advantage, targeting your homeworld’s enemy and destroying their fleet.
BOONE: And Zairon welcomed you back with open arms.
Jace Corso’s launching of the nuclear missile, with TWO still on the planet, is a tip of the hat to the AU machinations in Star Trek: The Original Series’ classic “Mirror, Mirror”.
It’s TWO and Tash Round #2 in one of the greatest fights the show has done to date. Let’s give it up for stunt coordinator John Stead, director Andy Mikita, editor Teresa Hannigan, actresses Melissa O’Neil and Jessica Sipos, and their stunt doubles.
Commander Truffault’s double-cross and taking of The Raza results in an exchange between her and TWO that was a little meatier in the director’s cut…
TWO: I thought we had a deal.
COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: We did – a deal you never had any intention of following through on. We both know that. So here’s the new deal: the lives of your crew in exchange for the drive.
TWO hesitates. Beat.
COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: Look at the big picture. You just need it to get home. We need it to save millions of lives by putting an end to a war that has ravaged this reality for years.
TWO: By winning it? How long is that going to take? Ferrous Corp had the drive on their side in this conflict, and you’re still fighting.
COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: I’d argue our enemy didn’t make the most efficient use of a very valuable asset. They also made a mistake by letting your counterparts keep it.
TWO: I’m guessing they didn’t have a choice.
COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: Probably not. Still, it’s hard to win a war when you’re relying on an ally who thrives on chaos. (beat) Look – this universe or your own, what difference does it make? What the hell’s really waiting for you back there?
TWO: Our own mess.
COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: (sighs) Your people in exchange for the drive. So, what’s it going to be?
The final goodbye twinning sequence was, in a word, a nightmare. Director Andy Mikita had planned to shoot the entire thing as a oner, one continuous shot that followed TWO over to a waiting Alt Android and Portia, captured their exchange, then ended on our originals as the doubles left the shot. And it almost all went according to plan. Andy carefully planned the shot. He informed the cast and crew. We ordered the special equipment required which arrived..MINUS a crucial piece that made shooting the sequence all but impossible. They persevered but, when it came time to assemble the cut, it was clear the eyelines were not matching up. Most baffling was the fact that the Androids were surprisingly way off in their exchange. We couldn’t figure it out until VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson realized our new Android outfit includes boots with heels that add another three inches or so. As a result, the entire sequence had to be reshot in the Episode 210 schedule.
A couple of notes on this scene…
Melissa O’Neil loved Portia Lin’s coat so much (she was almost reduced to tears during her fitting) that I rewrote this scene so that her character could actually keep it.
When we originally broke this story, we’d planned for our crew to take the AU Alt Raza back to they reality with them, but ultimately decided against it because it complicated some of the developments we had planned later on down the line.
There’s this exchange between the androids that many of you picked up on:
ALT ANDROID: My presence on the other Raza would be redundant. Besides, my loyalty is to my original crew – and Portia in particular. I owe her a debt of gratitude.
Our Android finds this curious –
ANDROID: For what?
ALT ANDROID: For making me more.
The episode that offers the backstory on this one is going to blow your minds!
With the change in Raza’s, I ended up losing a scene from the original draft that opened with this preamble:
FOUR steps onto the bridge to find the Android standing there, listening to a discordant new age MUSIC that plays over the speakers. She notices him and the music automatically LOWERS.
FOUR: What are you doing?
ANDROID: While going through the new Raza’s database, I discovered a music library. I thought it might be interesting to play a piece and learn what kind of emotions it engenders in me.
ANDROID: Initial confusion followed by slight irritation, then discomfort, frustration and, ultimately, disappointment. I don’t like this at all.
FOUR: Well, there you go – an interesting emotional response.
The music turns OFF. The Android, clearly pleased –
ANDROID: Yes. I look forward to experiencing an equally visceral reaction to more selections.
Finally, the crew returns home…with some unexpected guests in the form of an FTL-capable Marauder that jumps before they have a chance to deal with it, opening the door to all sorts of new potential storylines. Aint scifi grand?