A Fly on the Wall to the Save Dark Matter Campaign

As there so often is when a good sci-fi show is cut down too soon, there is of course a fan campaign to try to save Dark Matter.

A promotional image for Dark Matter season threeThis has been a bizarre thing for me to watch, stirring up odd and vaguely nostalgic feelings. As longtime readers may remember, I was very heavily active in the campaign to save Star Trek: Enterprise for many years, until it became glaringly obvious that the last hope was gone.

For that reason, I haven’t been able to bring myself to be too heavily involved in Dark Matter’s campaign. My days of crusading for sci-fi TV are behind me, I think. I simply don’t have the heart for it anymore.

But I have been following the campaign here and there. Most of the efforts seem to be focused on Twitter, which does bring out my inner curmudgeon a little bit. “Back in my day, we had to track down the email addresses of CBS executives and send them personally written letters. Uphill! In the snow! Both ways! And we liked it! Now all you have to do is use a bloody hashtag?!?”

But in all seriousness, I do wish them the best. I’d love to see Dark Matter survive for another season or two, or at least get a mini-series to wrap up the story as happened with Continuum.

It does seem the campaign has a lot of momentum, so they’ve got that going for them. They’ve even received support from a number of media figures. The one that really surprised me is that Ed the Sock has apparently been quite outspoken in Dark Matter’s support. Did not see that coming.

Five being badass. Again.But then again he has been championing the cause of Canadian TV for a while now, and he’s always had an interest in nerdy stuff, so I guess it isn’t too strange now that I think about it.

If you’re not Canadian, Ed the Sock is… Actually I have no idea how to explain Ed the Sock. You’re on your own there.

The best place for updates seems to be Joseph Mallozzi’s blog, and if his most recent post is to be believed, today will probably be the day we know for certain whether the Raza will rise again or be silenced forever.

I’m expecting bad news, but I hope to be wrong about that. It’s a show that deserves to continue.

I’ve been thinking about Dark Matter a lot over the past couple weeks, and while it’s easy to write it off as a simple but fun action-adventure, I can’t escape the feeling there is something special about this show.

For one thing, while Dark Matter doesn’t go out of its way to beat the drum of diversity the way, say, Star Trek does, the fact is you’ve got a show with a multi-racial cast of characters with a more or less even gender split led by a badass queer woman. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it.

Left to right: Alex Mallari Jr. (Four), Roger Cross (Six), Anthony Lemke (Three), and Melissa O'Neill (Two)And of course, the characters are all excellent, displaying some real sophistication to the writing that belies the show’s pulp feel. As always, being I’m a dude you can take my view on such things with a grain of salt, but I think Two does a great job of being a strong female character without being written as a “strong female character,” if you get my drift.

The thing I really about Two is not so much that she’s the leader, but why she’s the leader. She just sort of naturally assumed that position through the sheer force of personality. She’s a natural born leader. It’s rare for a show to be able to sell that concept entirely by showing and not telling, and far rarer still for that kind of role to be given to a woman.

And of course Five is simply a triumph, for all the reasons I’ve enumerated whenever I’ve gushed over her in my various episode reviews. It’s so rare that the geeky, smart characters get to play the hero every bit as much as the fighters. That deserves so much respect.

The others are excellent, too. Really the cast doesn’t have a weak link. In the past I might have said Three, but after the latest season even he’s wormed his way into my heart. But Two and Five are the ones who deserve the most recognition, in my view.

So yes, I hope against hope that Dark Matter will somehow survive.

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Review: Arrival + New Article

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Jodie Foster movie Contact. It’s actually kind of a boring film in some ways, but I always find it so thought-provoking. I enjoy where my mind goes after the movie more than the movie itself.

An alien ship in the movie ArrivalWhen I saw the first trailer for Arrival, I got excited. I hoped it might be a similarly thought-provoking piece of sci-fi. It didn’t seem like a theatre movie, but I resolved to see it as soon as it came on Netflix.

Now that it has, though, I find it’s not nearly as compelling as I’d hoped.

Arrival begins with a dozen massive alien vessels landing at various random points around the globe. When the aliens make no immediately hostile actions, efforts begin to open a dialogue with them. The film follows a linguist (Amy Adams) as she attempts to learn the aliens’ language and what their mission on Earth is.

Great premise, but it’s got a lot of problems.

For one thing, this is an extremely slow movie. I wasn’t exactly expecting Arrival to be a breakneck thriller, but there’s slow, and then there’s tedious, and this is definitely the latter. A great deal of this movie is taken up by nothing but long, long shots of the actors staring morosely into the middle distance.

Something else that really got under my skin was how “AMERICA **** YEAH” the story is. While the ending rectifies this (a little), most of the time this is a movie about enlightened Americans saving the world while evil or incompetent foreigners risk ruining everything.

Sigh.

I would have expected a movie like this to be a bit more open-minded, a bit more forward-thinking, but no.

The alien written language in ArrivalI mean, I realize it’s an American movie, so they focus the story on American characters for the audience’s benefit. I can live with that. But did they really have to make it so the Americans are literally the only people on Earth who aren’t either miserably ineffectual or actively sinister in their interactions with the aliens?

I mean, America is a relatively homogeneous country linguistically. If anyone was going to excel at talking to aliens, you’d think it’d be one of the countries with multiple major languages. And I’m not just plugging Canada here, because at only two official languages, we’re still lightweights compared to some places.

It should also be noted that this a long way from the cerebral science fiction I had expected. It’s really pure science fantasy — pretty much just space magic. Now, I like me some space magic, so I’m not opposed to the idea on principal, but it’s not what I was expecting, and even as far as space magic goes, it doesn’t add up very well. This is one of those plots that only works if you don’t think about it too much.

There is some merit to Arrival, though. Mainly, the aliens are very well done.

For all the plethora of aliens and other non-humans in fiction, it’s really quite rare to find any truly well-executed examples of the idea. Arrival, I’m glad to say, is one of them.

Unfortunately, to explain what makes the aliens of Arrival so interesting in any detail, I would have to pretty much give away the entire plot of the movie. Figuring out how they think and what makes them tick is the core arc of the film. I can say that there’s some genuine cleverness here (even if, again, it’s best not to think about it too much), and that their art design is fantastic.

For me, the aliens saved what is otherwise a pretty bad movie, but I’m still not going to class Arrival as a must-see.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

In other news…

For my latest article at MMO Bro, I look at alternative progression systems to gear. Because seriously, this treadmill is exhausting.