Dark Matter: Joseph Mallozzi Talks “Hot Chocolate”

Stephen Scott/Syfy
Stephen Scott/Syfy

*** This article contains major spoilers for the Dark Matter Season 3 episode “Hot Chocolate”***

Will the crew’s bitter rivalry with Ryo Ishida (Alex Mallari Jr.) ever come to an end? If this week’s Dark Matter is any indication–not a chance.

“Hot Chocolate,” written by Lawren Bancroft-Wilson and directed by Dark Matter stunt coordinator John Stead, started off with a murder on the Raza Express, but quickly turned into an even more dangerous situation when Ryo hijacked the ship via a hacked Android (Zoie Palmer). Remember the mysterious green wheelchair man (Blair Wilson) from Episode 304? He came back in a big way in this episode.

While Ryo ultimately failed at taking back the blink drive, he did succeed at convincing the remaining independent colonies to support Zairon in exchange for entry into the League of Autonomous Worlds. Meanwhile, the episode ended on the crew losing consciousness after an attempt to fix the blink drive. What’s that all about? The shed light on a few details, we spoke with showrunner Joseph Mallozzi for our weekly postmortem.

 

The TV Junkies: The truth is out there now about what happened to Nyx. We’ve seen Two (Melissa O’Neil) reconsider her stance on Ryo, but she made it pretty clear she’s still willing to take him out. Has this revelation made a difference in the long run?

Joseph Mallozzi: It all remains to be seen. It’s certainly given her pause for thought, however, one has to wonder whether it’s too far gone. The fact is if he hadn’t boarded the ship and taken the blink drive, Nyx would still be alive. Even though he’s not directly responsible, and may regret it, he’s still responsible. And he’s responsible for what’s going on in Zairon, he’s certainly responsible for the deaths of all those people on EOS-7. I’d like to think cooler heads will prevail, but it seems as though we’ve gone a little to far, perhaps.

TTVJ: Just as you promised, the fight between Two and Ryo was spectacular. You mentioned it took an entire day to film. What was the biggest challenge in that?

JM: You know, usually the fights are one level, but John Stead wanted to make use of the entire underbelly. All the levels. So you fight up the stairs, fight on the top level, come down–it was really quite amazing. Also, Melissa and Alex are just so good. The stunt people still do their jobs, but, for the most part, a lot of that fight was Alex and Melissa.

Syfy
Syfy

TTVJ: I could definitely tell, especially in that terrific single take sequence on the second level.

JM: Yes, exactly, it’s a wonder. Again, give it up to John Stead, who is not only our stunt coordinator, but also directed this episode. One of the things I love about John Stead episodes, because he’s so intimately familiar with the show, is that he always gets those small moments. Whether it’s a look or a move, not only in fight scenes, but in dialogue scenes as well. Little character moments, character beats that other directors may miss or take for granted.

TTVJ: I also noticed that this was the second episode this season with a first time writer.

JM: Yep, that was Lawren Brancroft-Wilson, who is our visual effects supervisor.

TTVJ: How does one go from being a visual effects supervisor to becoming a staff writer?

JM: You basically write a lot on the side, then you send me a script to prove you can write, between that and the fact that you’re familiar with the show… and it doesn’t hurt that [Bancroft-Wilson] does a really great job as our visual effects supervisor. All those things together gave him a shot at being in the room with us, coming up with story ideas, and ultimately being rewarded with a script. I thought he did a fantastic job.

TTVJ: This episode also had a cute throwback to 304, with poor Ash still stuck in the wall. Where did that idea come from?

JM: After we finished Episode 304, Paul [Mullie] said we had to write something in where they have to go to the space station and get the wall replaced. I was like, “ehh, it feels like such a cuddly thing to do,” and he said, “what, is it just gonna stay there?” And that tweaked something in me, so I wanted to find a place later on in the season where they were gonna walk by that wall and comment on it. I told Ian [Brock] to hold onto that wall, and I remember after we shot the episode, Liz [Gregg] in costumes, said “if that’s part of the architecture now, are we ever going to see that again?” Then when she read Episode 308 she was very excited. She came up to me and said, “You did! You were good to your word, we did see him again.”

It was just a fun little beat, and that’s what the show is all about, callbacks to previous episodes, hints at what’s to come. In [the case of] this episode, we introduced the wheelchair guy in Episode 303 in the background, then 304 he’s actually in Ryo’s office, then in 307 you’re wondering what the heck is going on with the Android, and here is where you find out. Sarah (Natalie Brown) figures into the action and helps in a big way. “Hot Chocolate” is the title of the episode, but it ties in to the relationship bonding moment in a previous season where the Android discovers hot chocolate and apparently has an affinity for it. So much so that Five (Jodelle Ferland) builds in that prompt command.

Next week’s episode takes a 180 degree turn, which is what I love about the show just in terms of tone. We refer to it as Back to the Future meets Stranger Things–it’s our version of it. I actually wanted to do another story to wrap up another storyline, but because of a scheduling conflict I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do, so I had to come up with a new story very quickly, and this is what I came up with. I find I come up with the funny ones faster. The time loop episode, and this episode coming up is, I think, a real treat, especially for first time viewers who may not be familiar with the show, so hopefully we can get them on board. It’s a very sensitive time of year right now where the network is going to be deciding, and, on the one hand, their new motto is “it’s a fan thing,” and a lot of Dark Matter fans would love a renewal, but, on the other hand, they’ve got a lot of original stuff coming down the pipeline and, at the end of the day, who knows. I’m feeling basically 50/50 about renewal. It would be nice to get those numbers up.

Syfy
Syfy

TTVJ: Five kicked a lot of ass in this episode and, really, was the hero at the end of the day. As you mentioned, this was also the first time Sarah has been able to contribute to the team. It was a very unique circumstance, but could it mean she’ll be able to help in the future?

JM: Yeah, possibly. There’s going to be a turn of events that will shake things up in the coming episodes, so stay tuned for that. Things are always changing.

TTVJ: Speaking of that, Zoie Palmer had an interesting challenge in this episode — she played regular Android, the hijacker, and the hijacker pretending to be the Android. Do you remember if that was particularly challenging for her?

JM: That’s a question you’d have to ask her. I just think she did a fantastic job. Especially that one scene where you first introduce her on the bridge. Her head is cocked, she has a weird unsettling look, then Five comes in and she brightens up and goes that to her regular self. Zoie’s always so good and what I love about her and writing for her is her ability to deliver on so many different types of roles. She’s our standard Android, then she’s undercover with various personalities and in this episode she’s the hacker who “mind hacks” the Android. Later in the season, you’ll see a different portrayal for her later on. She does such an amazing job. I’m a big fan.

TTVJ: Did the man in the green wheelchair have a name?

JM: In the script he was called Korvik.

TTVJ: It’s good to put a name to the face, even if we only saw the face briefly. He really did end up with a horrible fate at the end, like the Android said.

JM: Yeah, yeah, it is a horrible fate.

TTVJ: But if you mess with the Android, that’s what happens.

JM: Exactly. So think twice, Kelly. Think twice.

Stephen Scott/Syfy
Stephen Scott/Syfy

TTVJ: We never learned who murdered the other colony leader, so is it safe to say that the independent colonies and the League of Autonomous Worlds still has a role to play this season and beyond?

JM: Yeah, that’s not the last we’ve heard from them.

TTVJ: Thanks to the events of the episode the ceasefire with Pyr was evaded, but without the blink drive it seems pretty unlikely Zairon could win the war.

JM: Correct. Things are going to be coming to a head. We’ve got six episodes left. That Zairon/Pyr/Ryo/Misaki/Teku storyline is going to blow up in a big way in a few more episodes.

TTVJ: In the final moments of the episode saw that in the attempt to fix the blink drive something goes awry and they pass out. Is that connected to the time travel element of next week’s episode?

JM: Chances are good. Magic 8-Ball says “all signs point to yes.”

TTVJ: What else can you preview about next week?

JM: They travel back to the year 2017 and have to go undercover as a suburban family in Fort Falls, Wisconsin.

TTVJ: Somehow that feels very specific and very vague at the same time. I’m really curious how they get themselves into that situation.

JM: Well, imagine our crew trying to go undercover. As to why they go undercover, those details remain [a secret], but it’s a funny episode. Hopefully it’s an episode that those not familiar with the show will want to check out. It’s a fun jumping-on point like Episode 304 was. It’s a nice way to introduce them to the characters and the show. Hopefully people will tune in or after the fact there will be enough buzz that they’ll check it out somewhere down the line.

 

What are your thoughts on tonight’s showdown between Two and Ryo? Sound off in the comments below.

Dark Matter airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy and Space Channel.

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