A bittersweet trip back to the site of my previous series, Dark Matter, today as we start early prep on this new show. I have, to the best of my ability, sought to reassemble the same behind-the-scenes team that made DM such a great experience. If all goes as planned, I’ll be moving back into my old office and those 65+ bottles of whiskey will be adorning the shelves once again. But FIRST – we have a lot of work to do. 9 of the first season’s 10 scripts are in play (Yours truly will be doing the honors on the finale, but only after those first nine are in solid shape), and all of the pieces of the production puzzle are slowly coming together.
On this day, we did a walk-thru of the stages with Production Designer Ian Brock and Rick Fernandez, Construction…
Awww. I missed these three: Production Manager Kathy Lang, Rick, and Ian.
These phone and lamp collections have coming along nicely since we vacated the offices.
Hard to believe this space once held the infirmary, mess hall, and training room.
Production Designer Ian Brock has a plan.
This area feels so cavernous and empty without The Raza.
I had very mixed feelings about this visit. It’ll be nice to be back in production with familiar faces and on familiar ground, but I won’t be satisfied until we return to shoot that proper Dark Matter finale.
I came across this interesting Screen Rant article today by Toby Symonds which offers up his take on what he felt were ridiculous plot twists (and a few that weren’t) on shows that aired on syfy. Among the culprits was the decision NOT to kill of Ronon Dex in the Atlantis finale and the decision to reveal SIX as the mole at the conclusion of Dark Matter’s first season.
I love nothing more than a discussion or heated debate about the creative decisions made on a production I was a part of. And, while I appreciate Toby taking the time write the article and point out what didn’t work for him, I can’t help but disagree with a few of his points and weigh in –
My response –
First off, thanks for taking the time to feature the series. We didn’t have a lot of money to make the show, nor did we receive a lot of support from TPTB while we were making it, but we had a great cast and crew, and an even greater fanbase that’s still very active online.
Second, I wanted to respond to your take that: a) SIX lacked motivation and b) was an illogical choice to be the traitor.
I started developing Dark Matter way back when I was working on Stargate: Atlantis. The plan was to complete the final season of Atlantis and segue smoothly into the first season of Dark Matter. As it turned out, however, we had two seasons of Stargate: Universe and about a year of development work before Dark Matter finally saw the light of a t.v. screen. Between that gap and the years I spent developing DM while working on SGA, I had a good five years to develop the show. As a result, going into the writers’ room for that first season, I had all of the character and major story arcs mapped out, along with a five-year plan. I approached each season like an installment in a book series, with a beginning, middle, and end. And so, season 1 kicks off with the revelation that our characters are wanted criminals and ends, appropriately enough, with them being hauled off to prison (In season 2, our character come together, finally united, in common purpose – to redeem themselves and do the right thing…only to have it blow up in their faces – quite literally – with the destruction of EOS-7 which ignites a galaxy-wide corporate war).
Before I even sat down to write the pilot, I already knew how season 1 would end – with their capture and the reveal that one of them was a traitor and former mole/agent for the Galactic Authority. And I also knew that character would have to be SIX. It really couldn’t be anyone else given their respective backstories. More importantly, one of the central themes of the series was the nature vs. nurture debate. Are you born bad or are you a product of your environment? Dark Matter, like much of the research that has been done on the subject (check out the excellent Three Strangers) posits the answer is: a little of both. SIX is the crew’s moral center (although you could argue FIVE parallels these values). He is/was a principled law enforcement officer tasked with bringing in this galaxy’s most wanted and, despite the mind wipe, demonstrates these honest and right-minded outlooks throughout the show’s first season. Although he possesses no memories of his past, aspects of who he was inform who he is post-mindwipe (In the same way we see these post-mindwipe characteristics bleed through in, say, TWO’s brutal takedown of the casino staff in Episode 4, and execution of Wexler at the end of Episode 11).
One of the great things about having a detailed game plan going in is the opportunities it affords you to seed in clues that pay off later on down the line. Like the Android’s strange but seemingly innocuous comment to TWO prior to her space walk in Episode 3, a comment that hints at TWO’s reveal as a bio-engineered construct (hinted at in more obvious fashion, two episodes later, when her wound miraculously heals). In Episode 8, SIX flashes back to his past and receives the truth about who he is via an undercover Lieutenant Anders. In one of the episode’s final moments, an overwhelmed SIX sits alone amidst the destruction only to have Anders get the drop on him. In the next scene, ONE and FOUR arrive on the scene – but Anders is long gone. Why did he leave and let SIX go? What happened off-screen? It’s a huge red flag.
In the ensuing episodes, we see a sudden shift in SIX’s character, culminating in his emotional plea to FIVE to leave the ship. At this point, he knows that it’s going to end badly. And, after the delivery of the white hole bomb that ends up destroying the Mikkei facility and the planet, claiming thousands of lives, he finally makes the call on the decision he has been mulling over since Episode 8. These people are dangerous and he has to bring them in. And so he sets his plan in motion…
A second important theme in this series was the notion of redemption. Throughout the show’s first season, we peel the onion on the crews’ histories and they must come to terms with their past lives, their past actions, and look to start fresh, be better. In season 2, this theme is studied in another light, through the prism of SIX who seeks redemption for his betrayal. While the rest of the crew is looking to turn over a new leaf and “do the right thing” (spearheaded by TWO), SIX seeks to regain the trust of his former friends. And it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes theentirety of the show’s second season for the crew to accept SIX back into the fold. In short, like most of the character developments and reveals on Dark Matter, I wanted it to feel earned.
Anyway, all this to say that, perhaps despite appearances, we were never making it up as we went along. There was always a good reason (at least so far as I was concerned) that we did what we did. Every narrative decision was tied to character or thematically linked. As for that Ronon decision on Stargate: Atlantis…
My response –
The only thing I can say to this is that Enemy at the Gate was never intended as a series finale. In retrospect, yes, we could have killed off Ronon, perhaps even destroyed Atlantis itself, but the plan had always been to come back for a sixth season. Had we done so, AND killed off the Ronon character, the show would have been poorer for it.
Just a few nitpicks –
Regarding SG-1 – The plan was not to have the show bow out after two seasons. The show had a two season order but the plan was always to go the full five. When Paul and I joined the show’s writing staff in season 4, it was with the understanding that the show would go one more year and conclude with its fifth and final season.
Also, the creative dream was not to end the show after season 7 either. We were simply under the assumption that season 7 would be SG-1’s last – but, in all fairness, we made the same assumption for season 4, 6, 8, and 9. The show’s tenth season, ironically, was the only one I felt confident would NOT be its last – so, of course, it was.
And finally, on a show I never worked on – but watched the hell out of and loved…
Could let this one go without putting in my two cents –
Regarding the critique of the final moments of the Farscape finale (a show on this list that I was not a part of but I watched and loved) – in all fairness, I’m sure it didn’t seem like such a gamble at the time because, from what I understand, they had already been informed they’d been picked up for another season…only to have the pick-up rescinded.
Check out the article. There are takes on other productions as well: SGU, Wynonna Earp, and BSG to name a few.
When Dark Matter was cancelled a little over a year ago, I was left somewhat frustrated, kind of annoyed, a more than a little pissed. For various reasons. I was frustrated because I wouldn’t be able to complete the story I’d mapped out, annoyed by what I felt was a petty and vindictive decision, and more than a little pissed at how it all went down. In the end, it was a Clueless Exec Sucker Punch to the show’s cast, crew and, chiefest of all, its fans who had supported the series for three seasons.
An ensuing online campaign to save the show proved ultimately (frankly, surprisingly) unsuccessful and so I redirected focus to other projects. Whenever fans have asked me about the prospect of a Dark Matterrevival, I’ve been honest with them. It’s unlikely, but I still hold out hope for a mini-series that would allow me to wrap up as many of those narrative loose ends as possible and, hopefully, offer fans some closure. That, I honestly felt, was the best case scenario.
Until today after my conversation with a very determined individual with connections to a group of equally determined, forward-thinking individuals who have proposed an atypical but very intriguing approach to getting it done. And the more they talk about it, the more convinced I become that, maybe, the odds of a fourth and fifth season of Dark Matter may not be as long as I’d initially assumed.
Ambiguous, no? Alas, for now, all I’ll say is that the wheels on a resurrection are – surprisingly – in motion again. There is, of course, no guarantee that anything will come of this, but the strategy is crazy-brilliant and certainly worth pursuing.
Anyway, I followed up this afternoon’s call with an email outlining the game plan, the questions we needed to answer, and my proposal for a schedule moving forward. Conversations to follow.
Let’s just file this one away for now but I’ll leave you with this. Prior to this afternoon, Magic 8 Ball said “Outlook not so good”. After my chat, it had revised it’s prognostication to: “Ask again later”. Read into that what you will.
It’s been approximately one year since Dark Matter was cancelled.
Truthfully, it’s hard to pin down an exact day because syfy never gave us a “Thanks for three years” official announcement, but I like to peg the date at around this time last year when, buoyed by the show’s relatively strong overall viewership, I sold my home in Vancouver and moved to Toronto to finish up what I assumed would be the final two seasons of the show – only to learn on the day I arrived, jet-lagged and exhausted, that we were done. Read more
Looks like we’ll convene the writers’ room sometime in September. Before then, the show’s creator and I will map out the first season game plan covering all ten episodes, character and story arcs. We’re also aiming to have the pilot co-written by then. After that, it’ll be smoooooooth sailing!
All that will be left to do is get those nine other scripts written, rewritten, prepped, shot, then have the episodes edited, mixed, color corrected and delivered…and we’re done in time for Sanno Matsuri. Yeah! Read more
The other day, I did a rundown of the top ten episodes I had the most fun writing. Today, I switch gears to focus on My Top 10 Toughest Episodes. Why were they tough? Well, the the issues varied, ranging from script challenges to productions issues, scheduling headaches to post-production problems. Read more
Oh, sure. As a viewer, your mileage may vary. But, looking over the list of 100+ episodes of television on which I’ve been credited or co-credited as a writer, THESE were the ten I had the most fun writing… Read more
I first came across Andy W. Clift’s work while perusing Comixology’s new release section, taking notice of the lovely retro cover for the first issue of his Captain Cosmic comic book –
I ordered that first issue, loved its fun sensibility, and followed him on twitter. Recently, I reached out to Andy to find out if he’d be interested in rendering Dark Matter in that same lively style. Well, he was more than happy to oblige and here is an initial sampling of his take on the The Raza and its crew…
The Raza in FTL (black and white).
The Raza in FTL (color).
Our favorite gunslinger, THREE (black and white).
Our favorite gunslinger, THREE (color).
Our resident swordsman, FOUR (black and white)
Our resident swordsman, FOUR (color).
More of Andy’s work in the coming days. In the meantime, if you want to check out his creator-owned comic book, The Adventures of Captain Cosmic, you can do see by purchasing it here.
Tomorrow: Answers, answers, answers!
Ideally. But problem more questions.
Oh, and dinner with Dark Matter’s THREE, Anthony Lemke.