Adapted from Dark Horse Comics, “Dark Matter” uses a tantalizing mystery to achieve liftoff, then does a pretty nifty job of establishing its characters to bring the audience along for the ride. Essentially the Calvin Klein ad version of “Lost in Space,” the Syfy series opens with a half-dozen demographically desirable people awakening aboard a spaceship, possessing no clue who they are, but some sets of very particular skills. The big reveal at the close of the premiere is a tad predictable and probably comes too soon, but the fast-paced hour still bodes well for the series to come.
The six – well, what are they exactly? Castaways? Survivors? – all come out of their slumber with a kind of amnesia, which makes them wonder why they’re good at things like, say, wielding a sword or piloting a ship. Lacking identities, they adopt numbers from One to Six (based on the order in which they awoke), before uncovering data that help them start unraveling at least some details surrounding what brought them to this point.
Even playing stock characters, the cast of this Canadian production is solid and attractive, including Broadway actress Melissa O’Neil – who despite being labeled Two quickly emerges as the first among equals – and Roger Cross from “24” and more recently “The Strain.” Heck, even the ship’s emotionless android (Zoie Palmer) has great cheekbones.
As noted, divulging too much too fast threatens to undercut some of the mystery, either within the ship – where there’s an “Alien”-like quality to not knowing what might lurk beyond each dimly lit hallway – or outside it. “Dark Matter” thus derives some of its kick, at least initially, from keeping its characters in the dark.
That said, there’s still an awful lot that the crew – and by extension, the audience – doesn’t understand, offering abundant possible storylines to creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (“Stargate”), who originally developed the concept as a TV show before turning it into a graphic novel. The series joins a Friday roster consisting of “Defiance” and the less-promising newcomer “Killjoys,” with all three hours exhibiting a similar look and tone – a compatibility that mostly reflects Syfy’s limited aspirations in its recent development and acquisitions.
Still, not all of the cabler’s dramas are created equal, and “Dark Matter” feels like it could be a modest cut above. So just to put it in the terms of its no-name crew, on a scale of One to Six, this one rates about a Four.