Sci-Fi TV: Dark Matter, Rain, and Canada’s Role

Sci-fi TV seems to be going through something of a renaissance these days. After Battlestar Galactica and the Stargate shows ended, the future of science fiction on television seemed rather bleak, but these days there’s a pretty good crop of shows, with more on the way.

Two upcoming titles in particular have caught my eye, and one of them has got me thinking about how much my own country is playing a role in the future of the sci-fi genre.


Katee Sackhoff in her role as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on Battlestar GalacticaI think it’s pretty much a safe bet that if you have any interest in sci-fi, you probably love Katee Sackhoff. As Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, she was one of the highlights of Battlestar Galactica, and that’s saying something considering how much great acting there was on that show.

Since then, she hasn’t fled from the sci-fi genre, earning more fans through her roles in the Bionic Woman remake and the Riddick movies. Anecdotally, I’m also told she’s a very kind person who is quite good to her fans, and she does a lot of charity work.

So when I found out she’s planning to not only star in a new TV series but is also its creator, my ears immediately perked up.

The show is titled Rain, and it stars Katee as the title character, a soldier in a world ravaged by global warming and ecological disaster.

Now, granted, we have no idea how good she is at working behind the camera — we only know she’s a great actress. But Katee’s awesome — I can’t imagine this not going well.

A photo of Katee Sackhoff at Comic ConMy confidence is further bolstered by the fact Rain is being produced by the same company and many of the same people behind Continuum. With Star Trek, Stargate: Universe, and Battlestar Galactica gone, Continuum is carrying the torch for intelligent sci-fi these days, and doing a pretty bang-up job of it. The expertise behind it plus Katee’s charisma and acting ability seems like a match made in Heaven.

Let’s hope Rain is picked up by a network soon.

Dark Matter:

This is one I’ve just started paying attention to. Scheduled to premiere the same night as Defiance’s third season, this series follows a space ship crew who awaken from stasis with no memory of their identities or their mission.

That’s not really the greatest premise in the world — I fear the potential for stringing the viewer along with lots of mystery and no pay-off. But the pedigree gives me hope. The series was created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, who headlined the Stargate TV shows.

This leads me to believe that Dark Matter may be the closest we ever get to a third season of Stargate: Universe, and that thought alone is enough to get me interested.

Even if that assumption proves wrong, it remains a fact that Mallozzi and Mullie are both talented writers and producers, and they haven’t disappointed me yet.

There’s also a Continuum connection in that Dark Matter will star (among others) Roger Cross, who plays Travis Verta.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any info on when or where Dark Matter will be shown in Canada, but hopefully I’ll be able to give it a try before too long.

Canada: The new leader in sci-fi?

Something else that’s interesting about Dark Matter is that it’s being filmed in Toronto.

It seems to me that Canada has become quite the sci-fi Mecca all of a sudden. Orphan Black is both filmed and set in Toronto. Continuum is both filmed and set in Vancouver. Defiance is set in Missouri, but it’s actually filmed in the GTA. The recent mini-series Ascension was shot in Montreal. Although it’s not sci-fi, Once Upon a Time is still definitely speculative fiction, and it’s filmed in BC.

The cast of ContinuumWe could even talk about video games a bit. Bioware is a Canadian company, and I always appreciated the nods to their roots in the Mass Effect games. Whereas sci-fi often ignores Canada, in Mass Effect, Alliance headquarters are in Vancouver, Kaidan Alenko is Canadian, and some fans believe Commander Shepard is meant to be of Canadian stock based on the fact both voice actors who play the character are Canadian.

Of course, I suppose this isn’t entirely new. There’s always been a lot of good sci-fi coming out of Canada. Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, the Stargate shows, and Sanctuary all come to mind.

It just seems a little more widespread to me now, rightly or wrongly. Maybe it’s that these days we have shows that are truly Canadian productions — like Continuum — rather than American shows filming in Canada to save money. Maybe it’s that shows are starting to wear their Canadiana on their sleeves. Continuum embraces its Vancouverite identity, and while Orphan Black doesn’t explicitly state where it takes place, we see characters reference locations like Parkdale and Scarborough, so it’s not exactly a secret that this is Toronto.

Or maybe I’m just noticing it more. Either way, as a Canadian sci-fi fan, I’m glad to see my country making such a contribution to the genre. In a time where most of our country seems devoted to being backward and turning a blind eye to science, it’s nice to see that Canada still looks to the future in at least one way.

I wonder where Rain is going to film?


World Spectrum Inspirations: Story and Themes

In the past, I’ve talked about the inspirations behind the more tangible aspects of the World Spectrum series. Today, I’d like to discuss what inspired the broader aspects of the books, the overall feel of the world and the stories.

Books of the World Spectrum bannerBattlestar Galactica:

These days, my feelings toward Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica reboot are decidedly mixed. My view is that it was three seasons of pure brilliance… and then the fourth season.

But when I started on the World Spectrum books, I was deep in the throws of BSG fandom, and I think it shows in my writing. Apocalyptic danger, killer robots, the fate of humanity on the line, a reckless female protagonist.

Now which am I describing there? BSG, or the World Spectrum?

By the way, in the unlikely event these books ever get turned into movies, Katee Sackhoff is probably my first choice to play Leha.

I really loved the apocalyptic feeling of BSG. The idea that humanity is teetering on the brink, and every single life is precious. It allows you to ratchet up the tension so much more than you could in a story where worlds and nations are still thriving.

Kara "Starbuck" Thrace in Battlestar GalacticaBut I think what I admired even more about BSG was the message that survival alone isn’t enough. One needs to be worthy of survival.

So that became one of the main dramatic questions of the World Spectrum series. Not just will humanity be saved, but is it worth saving? Can we create a world where we live in peace, or are we doomed to forever be our own worst enemies? This theme runs throughout the entire series, and if I’ve done my job right, there isn’t a clear answer. This is something I want readers to decide for themselves.

I’m not the biggest fan of clear moral messages in fiction. It has its purpose, but I think it’s more valuable to raise questions and leave it the consumer to decide what to make of them. It’s easy to agree with an inspiring message without really thinking about it — I believe this is why there are so many bigoted Star Trek fans despite its message of tolerance. I think, at least in theory, you can achieve more by making someone reexamine their beliefs than by simply telling them what to think.

The Three Worlds:

I’ve talked before about my great admiration for Ian Irvine’s Three Worlds Cycle. They’re an absolute masterpiece of epic fantasy.

I’ve already mentioned how the spectrum of worlds draws a lot of inspiration from the three worlds of Irvine’s work, but his books had other influences on my writing. In particular, the overall look and feel of the World Spectrum universe, as well as the way magic is treated, are very much inspired by the Three Worlds books.

Cover art for "The Well of Echoes, book one: Geomancer" by Ian IrvineYou see, before he was a professional writer, Ian Irvine was a scientist — a biologist, to be specific, though he also studied geology a fair bit — and this shows in his writing. He has what I can only describe as a scientific approach to fantasy. Instead of just falling into the “because magic” trap, he’s thought in great detail about the biology, technology, and culture of his worlds, and it makes his works feel so much more real than other fantasy books.

Magic, in particular, is treated more as a science than an art in the Three Worlds novels, often being assisted or facilitated through complex apparatuses.

His books aren’t exactly steampunk, but they do feature a lot of spectacular mystical technologies. In particular, I recall the multi-legged war machines called clankers, which served as inspiration for the Quadramatons and Sextamatons of the World Spectrum.

I’ve tried to replicate this feel of science fantasy in my books. Truth be told, I’ve always tended to think of fantasy worlds from the perspective of real world scientific logic. I was a bit of a science geek growing up, and I can remember pondering things like why Elves evolved pointed ears even at an early age.

Ian Irvine showed me how awesome scientific fantasy could truly be and inspired me to run with the idea.