Tag Archives: Dark Matter

Kept in the dark

The crew of the Raza face new battles as space opera Dark Matter returns for a third season. DQ hears from the cast about why the sci-fi show is resonating with fans.

Six people wake up on a derelict spaceship with no memory of who they are or where they came from. Referring to themselves by numbers one to six in the order they woke up, they secure the ship, the Raza, and begin to try to figure out what happened to them.

So goes the premise of Canadian space thriller Dark Matter, which since its launch in 2015 has been sold around the world after making its home on the Space channel and on Syfy in the US, becoming a cornerstone of the latter network’s renewed focus on the type of genre programming from which it takes its name.

It is based on the graphic novel by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (Stargate) and produced by Prodigy Pictures. The executive producers are Jay Firestone, Mallozzi and Mullie.

Now in its third season, which began on Space and Syfy on June 9, the show launches in the UK tonight on Syfy.

Anthony Lemke, who plays Three, has a theory as to why Dark Matter has proven to be a hit not just in North America but internationally: “Every TV show lives and dies by its characters and I think there’s a unique combination of cast meeting with script and creativity, and the openness to be creative and bring your own stuff to a character.

“That has created characters that are resonating with folks. But also, that first season dealt with a lot of issues that we can all identify with – the idea of second chances, of maybe starting again, being somebody that you couldn’t be before, who you didn’t want to be. We’ve all done that in our lives.”

The theme of escaping your past is one that runs through the series, but Roger Cross, who plays Six, says the creative team manage it without “nailing it on the head too much.”

He explains: “Stuff follows you and sometimes it’s karma and sometimes it’s whatever it is, and so it’s like, ‘Can we outrun it?’ It asks those sorts of questions, and then it’s in space! And it’s at some point in the future that we don’t know yet.”

The fact the show is set in space is another reason Lemke believes Dark Matter has become a success, particularly when it comes to the types of stories the show wants to tell.

Dark Matter stars Anthony Lemke (right) as Three

“The space part is important,” he notes. “It allows for a more thorough explanation of what is a reasonably far-fetched concept, that seven people all wake up with memory loss. It does happen in life that you get into a car accident or whatever – all of a sudden you’ve lost your memory. That kind of thing happens. But for seven people to be going through it collectively can exist in the sci-fi world and almost nowhere else.

“But then that also gives a lot of opportunity for saying, ‘Alright, what would happen if we threw this into the mix for these seven people, and how would they deal with that?’ And that’s sci-fi’s big strength: the fact that you can do almost anything.”

When it comes to acting in a sci-fi series, however, Cross says that a character is a character, whatever genre they’re playing in.

“Staying true to a character is staying true to a character, whether that be drama, comedy or science fiction,” he explains. “With comedy, you’re allowed to be a little bit wilder. In drama, you are more serious. Sci-fi still follows those rules but in a more wide-open way.

“It’s not that it’s sci-fi as a whole but our show treads between the more serious side and being a bit camp. The neat thing about our show is that it walks that line but it gives you a broader range of things to play as an actor, and it also opens the door for episodes that you’re not going to see on Chicago Fire, or something like that, in terms of tone. They can just throw out the tone of the show and say, ‘Hey, now we’re doing something completely different!’ That’s not just in sci-fi, that happens on other shows too, but it tends to happen on shows that are a bit self-referential and have a tiny bit of camp to them.”

The show’s third season began on Syfy in the US earlier this month

But in space, if no-one can hear you scream, that’s probably because there aren’t usually a lot of extras on the set of a spaceship, as Melissa O’Neil, who plays Two, points out.

“A big difference that we’ve experienced [between science-fiction and other types of drama], is usually that, on our set, we don’t have background performers and that’s a bit atypical of a lot of television that we do,” she says. “The fact that we’re in space, it restricts the amount of people that we’re with and the fact that it’s also about a bunch of people adrift on a ship. Sometimes we have a lot of extras, but most of the time we don’t, it’s just us – and half of the time we don’t see each other! So maybe that’s a big difference.”

With science fiction now becoming an increasingly mainstream part of television schedules, O’Neil reserves the final word for fans of the genre who, she argues, are the most passionate.

“Oh my gosh, our fans are amazing!” she says. “We stay in touch with them year-round; it doesn’t matter if we’re shooting or the show’s being aired, there are so many people that stay connected with us through social media platforms. And the [comic] cons; it’s been so incredible going out to all these different cities and meeting the fans from around the world. And sometimes fans travel from outside the country and we get to meet them.

“There are no fans like sci-fi fans! I think that’s universally understood.”

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West spies Korea opportunities

The Idolm@ster is based on a game franchise
The Idolm@ster is based on a game franchise

Netflix has made Korea a priority in its quest for global SVoD domination – and now arch-rival Amazon Prime Video is following suit.

Last week, it was revealed that Amazon had boarded The Idolm@ster, a Korean TV series for 2017 that is based on a popular Japanese game franchise from Bandai Namco.

First mooted in spring 2016, the live-action series is about a group of aspiring female singers trying to establish their music careers. As such, it sits at the crossroads of two Asian obsessions – K-Pop and television drama. The TV drama is a no-brainer given the success of the franchise across various platforms. Since launching in 2005 as an arcade game, The Idolm@ster has inspired animation and manga versions, as well as live concerts and hit singles. It has also been adapted for digital platforms including smartphones.

The series will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video from early 2017 and will be localised into several languages, including Japanese and English.

James Farrell, head of content at Amazon’s Asia Pacific Prime Video, called Idolm@aster “the perfect combination of Japanese idol culture and Korean drama power. The idols include K-Pop sirens, as well as Japanese and other international singers, and we’re confident fans and viewers alike all over the world will become addicted to watching their careers bloom.”

The news continues a growing trend for global companies to exploit the Korean drama phenomenon. Recently we reported on the fact that NBC Universal participated in the financing of Moon Lovers. And this week South Korean media group CJ E&M has formed a partnership with Warner Bros-owned streamer DramaFever to coproduce local dramas for the international market. Under the terms of the alliance, called Studio Dragon, the partners will produce two original series over next three years.

“Studio Dragon is determined to become Asia’s number-one drama studio. To achieve that goal, we plan to work with industry leaders to provide unrivalled content for audiences,” said Jinnie Choi, president of Studio Dragon.

Killjoys focuses on a trio of bounty hunters
Killjoys focuses on a trio of bounty hunters

Away from Korea, US channel Syfy has announced that sci-fi series Killjoys and Dark Matter will both be returning for third seasons. Killjoys, which follows a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters, is produced by Temple Street Productions, the Toronto-based firm behind Orphan Black. The show also airs on the Space channel in Canada. In line with the Syfy announcement, Space revealed that it too would be on board the third season of the show.

In terms of audience ratings on Syfy, Killjoys attracts around 650,000 viewers per episode, which makes it a mid-ranking performer on the network. It’s a similar story for Dark Matter, which comes in at around 690,000 per episode. Interestingly, this positioning and ratings differential is broadly reflected by IMDb rankings, which come in at 7.1 and 7.4 respectively for the two shows.

Syfy has struggled to secure a bona fide hit series in recent times and is shifting towards series with built-in brand recognition. This week, it debuted Van Helsing, a reimaging of vampire mythology in which the central character has been switched from male to female (similar to Wynnona Earp).

There was also news this week about Syfy’s planned Superman prequel. Called Krypton, it is set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s home planet. The show is based on a pilot by David S Goyer and will feature British actress Georgina Campbell.

Winona Ryder in Stranger Things
Winona Ryder in Stranger Things

Last week, we discussed the success of 1980s-set thriller Stranger Things on Netflix and suggested it would only be a matter of time before a second series was greenlit.

In fact, a second season was announced the next day. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer and starring Winona Ryder, season two will debut in 2017 and will consist of nine episodes, one more than season one’s eight episodes.

We’ve also looked at Marvel’s expansion recently. The latest news on this front is that Marvel and ABC Studios are plotting a new series called New Warriors. Although a cable/SVoD home is yet to be found for the show, the plan is for it to be a comedy about a superhero squad made up of teenagers. This will follow a recent trend in the superhero genre towards irreverent franchises including Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool and Suicide Squad.

In terms of shows that won’t see a greenlight, the big news of the week is that AMC won’t be bringing back its restaurant drama Feed the Beast. Despite having a cast headed by David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess, the show attracted pretty modest ratings.

In a statement, AMC said: “We have great respect and admiration for the entire team associated with Feed the Beast and our studio partner, Lionsgate. Unfortunately, the show simply didn’t achieve the results needed to move forward with a second season.”

Jim Sturgess (left) and David Schwimmer in Feed the Beast
Jim Sturgess (left) and David Schwimmer in Feed the Beast

In number terms, season one of the show averaged around 447,000, making it the second lowest-rating scripted show on the network. Interestingly, the show it beat, Halt and Catch Fire, has been renewed through to season three.

However, AMC clearly decided it couldn’t carry two scripted series on such low ratings. This presents a slight conundrum for AMC, which is that it is heavily reliant on dystopian fantasy/horror series (The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Into the Badlands, Preacher) and could do with establishing a different editorial beachhead to appeal to a new audience subset.

Finally, DQ’s sister publication C21 is reporting that Spanish producer Boomerang TV has opened a new scripted production division in Chile. The arm will produce dramas for Chilean broadcasters and follows the arrival of Boomerang in the country in 2014. Veteran Latino producer and former Chilevisión drama chief Vicente David Sabatini becomes fiction director, while Cecilia Stoltze, formerly at TVN, has been named general producer.

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