Monday, September 7, 2015

Killjoys Vs Dark Matter - The SyFy Showdown

So that title made this post sound a whole lot more exciting than it'll probably end up being. But what the hey! Let's throw down SyFy's two new shows, and I'll give you my verdict.
There are already more than a few posts floating around the interwebs of people declaring one or the other better. What is very interesting, is that there's very few fans of both shows. People either really like Killjoys and don't much like Dark Matter, or love Dark Matter and think Killjoys is rubbish. This has result in some serious discussion, for example, this lengthy thread on reddit.
Thankfully, as of a few days ago, these discussions can continue for at least another year, as both shows were confirmed as going into production for season 2.
So, let's get down to the nitty gritty. What works, what doesn't, which I think is better and why.

Dark Matter:
As I said in a previous post, this show was put together by the people behind the Stargate TV series, so I was probably expecting waaay too much. I thought Dark Matter had the more interesting premise (6 people waking up on a spacehip with no idea who they are or how they got there), and more potential for edge-of-your-seat, can't-wait-until-next-week tension, but the execution was lacking.
First off, I was a little disappointed by the set, especially the ship. While it was obviously meant to be grittier, I felt like I was seeing a spaceship that could ave easily been slotted into a Stargate episode, especially the later seasons. Okay, maybe there's only so many ways you can design a spaceship, but I was expecting some kind of wow factor I never found. The crew often visited stations and planets, but it wasn't anything you wouldn't find in any other science fiction show.
The whole concept of the universe was never really explained, no real clear picture of government or social class, etc. Week to week, I felt it was lacking cohesion. One week they were all so focused on working out who they were and how they'd ended up on the ship together, but then the following week we'd get bogged down in a particular character's past coming to light or revenge plot. The only one of these stories that really interested me was when it turned out Three had the woman he loved stashed in a stasis pod because she had some incurable illness. After they woke her up for answers, she sadly died, and it added a small amount of depth to Three that the other characters didn't quite have.
And that was the other problem; the characters. There was nothing outstanding about them, and I felt like I was watching a less shiny version of the Firefly crew (and it won't take you long on google to find more than a few people have said the same thing) For instance, Two was the tough female chick, aka Zoe. Then we had Three, who was Jayne almost down to the lines and mannerisms. There was even a scene with him going on about naming his guns, and it was total deja vu of Jayne and Vera. But Jayne was so much more fun, and got way cool liners like "you are beginning to damage my calm." Let's face it, ALL of the Firefly cast got way cool lines.
Anyhoo, then there's Five, who is part Kaylee, part River. The character of One was obviously meant to be the hot guy and has the added mystery of not being who he's meant to be, and then we have the two remaining characters who kind of fill the multicultural aspect.
The only character I really got invested in, the only one who brought any chemistry to the screen and made things a little bit interesting was the android. The android kept me watching week after week when I otherwise would have given up. And easily my favorite episode was one where they found another android, who was technically a pleasure droid (or something) and the original android got jealous and tried to make herself more likable. That episode could have been way more fun, goofy and hilarious than it was, yet the potential was wasted. And I pretty much feel that describes season 1 as a whole. Wasted potential. I'm not all that interested to continue into season two.

Out of the two shows, I enjoyed Killjoys heaps more, and actually became invested in the characters; a team of bounty hunters. While it was better, it still wasn't epic, which is what we all really want in a sci-fi space opera. Its going to be a long time before anything reaches the heights of Stargate, Farscape, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica.
Anyway, while the Killjoys also didn't have really great execution, I thought they did a better job than Dark Matter. For a start, their spaceship was waaaay cooler, and was obviously partial to John, which annoyed Dutch and was a point of comic relief in a few tense situations. I think it was also really great that it was focused around a couple of key locations, which made it much easier to understand how the universe worked. I really liked the gritty, poor working class set of Westerly, often portrayed against the more affluent planet of Qresh and the farming planet of Leith, particularly the Leith Bazaar.
Character wise, one could argue that Killjoys aren't doing much better to escape cliches, but personally I think the cliches on Killjoys are far more interesting. We've got Dutch, a-typical sci-fi tough girl. However, its quickly revealed that Dutch was born in some kind of harem, trained as an assassin from a very young age, and is on the run from the man who trained her, who is also a psuedo-father figure, making it hard for her to simply kill him.
Her partner, John, is the typical in-love-with-the-girl-but-stuck-in-the-friends-zone. Things go a bit haywire for him when he discovers there's a kill warrant on his brother, and goes to rescue him on what amounts to a slave ship. The brother, D'Avin, is a soldier on the run, and it later comes out that he killed his own men and had his memory wiped.
As soon as D'Avin meets Dutch, its apparent a romance is on the cards. Being that I trade in romance myself, I can forgive the writers for not being subtle about this plot thread at all. D'Avin was quite obviously smitten, especially watching Dutch do her thing and kick some serious ass. Though Dutch remained more aloof, it was still clear that while she didn't see John as anything but a friend and business partner, his tall, ex-military brother was a whole different story.
Unfortunately, I felt that Luke Macfarlane took a little while to really settle into his character of D'Avin. While most of his scenes were pretty good early on, there were a few that felt a bit forced. But this was also a little true of the whole team. The cohesion just wasn't quite there at first. However, by the end of the season, they'd all hit their stride and this wasn't an issue any longer.
The romantic arc between Dutch and D'Avin is probably what really sucked me in and kept me watching, but once the season got going, there was a lot to like about this show. It reached the excitement levels that Dark Matter didn't (for me at least) like the episode where they went into a derelict ship and D'Avin was tortured into admitting that he'd killed his men, and Dutch had to take on zero atmosphere in order to get back to their ship. Or when they worked out that D'Avin had been exposed to some kind of mind-control treatment, just in time to have Dutch and D'Avin get together, only for him to go all super-soldier and beat the crap out of her, followed by stabbing his bother. Yeah, that was one heck of an episode. Killjoys is great, but still not epic. If either of them are going to become awesome, I'm thinking out of the two, Killjoys has more potential and showed more promise of growth than Dark Matter.
Either way, its great to see sci-fi space opera on our TV screens again. It was long overdue, and I'm hoping this means we'll see a new surge in popularity for the genre.

No comments:

Incident Report IBC-726A-39

FORMAL INCIDENT REPORT SECTION ONE Incident Date:___ 25 th August 2436 __ Incident Time:___ 22 :30 hours approx ___ Incident...