‘Dark Matter’ (Season 1): The Balance Between Plot and Character

For me, episodes six through nine have brought Dark Matter from being another enjoyable summer sci-fi show to something a bit more special. Though its perhaps still not to the level of a truly worth Firefly successor, the comparisons to the Joss Whedon classic I continually hear are certainly warranted and favorable.

So what’s the show done over the past month that’s pushed it to a higher level of esteem in my eye? Simply put, it comes down to the impressive balance the show has struck. There’s a balance between the ongoing narrative and fun, one-and-done adventures, as well as a balance between fun sci-fi storytelling and quieter moments of character development. Oftentimes, shows will favor story over character, or vice versa, but Dark Matter has successfully found a way to marry the two like some of the best genre shows out there.

Take the Transfer Transit system that featured heavily in episode 8. The idea of clone travel across the stars is probably the most intriguing idea the show has explored so far, and proof that the show has a writing team dedicated to coming up with cool new sci-fi concepts the audience might not have seen before. At the same time, though, the Transfer Transit system came about in service to Six’s ongoing revenge story, allowing him to chase after the man that made him a killer. It also provided an opportunity for One’s true identity to come, as well as giving One and Four a chance to spend some time together.

That’s the balance the show has struck from the beginning, but it’s only gotten better over the past few weeks. Episode 9 in particular felt like a culmination of a lot of different story arcs so far, with the tension between One and Three boiling over, Four reconnecting with his past, and Five doing her best to argue her right to a place among the crew. There were strong moments for every member of the crew in this episode, which is exactly what you want from an ensemble show. Even the Android got a fun and heartfelt moment of recognition from Three.

Ultimately, though, what really sold the show for me wasn’t even that big of a moment. It’s the scene in episode 8 where several of the crew members are simply hanging out and bonding, however slightly, over a meal of mealworm burgers. However briefly, we got a glimpse of the characters relaxed and enjoying each other’s company between flights. It wasn’t much, but it suggests that once the characters all come to grips with their unknown histories, they’ll have the chance to come together as a real crew and possibly even a family.