No one makes sci-fi TV quite like Canadians. Whether it’s the frigid winters that closely resemble the sub-zero temperatures of space or the weird, alien-like creatures that we tout as our official mascots, Canada’s talented writers and directors seem to innately know how to make great sci-fi. Need proof? Just check out Syfy and Space Channel’s current Friday night lineup. Killjoys, Dark Matter, and Wynonna Earp are some of the most quality sci-fi shows out there right now. Not to mention Brad Wright’s freshman series Travelers and the phenomenon that is Orphan Black. All of these superb series are written and shot in Canada.
Canadian sci-fi veterans Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, best known for their work on the Stargate SG-1 franchise, have taken all that concentrated sci-fi magic and injected it into their current series, Dark Matter, which follows the adventures of a crew of outlaws trying to find their place in the galaxy after an accident steals their memories. It’s a show full of surprising twists and turns, mixed with a heavy dose of emotion and character-driven stories, and, put simply, is fun as hell.
Dark Matter’s third season is arguably its best yet. Last year’s finale opened a can of worms for the crew when former ally Four—now going by Ryo Ishida—stole back the blink drive and set off a massive explosion that sparked a violent corporate war that has made life in space a whole lot more complicated.
But what really sets this season apart is the way it has paid tribute to some of the more beloved and iconic sci-fi tropes in film and television. You name it — clones, time loops, alternate universes, time travel — Dark Matter has taken the most well known tropes and not only executed them fantastically, but has done it in a way that still speaks to the heart of the show.
Dark Matter has challenged TV norms and mainstays from its very first episode when One emerged from his stasis pod, playing every bit the typical white male protagonist we expect, to be suddenly shoved to the side by Two, a woman of color who we quickly realized was the real hero of the series. From there the show continued to undermine every old school sci-fi standby by continually empowering its female characters and highlighting the kind of friendships we rarely see on television: not just women supporting each other, but the male characters supporting and happily following the women in charge.
Those same relationships have a lot to do with what has drawn fans to the show. Through the first two seasons of the show, the crew of the Raza have evolved from mistrustful colleagues, to genuine comrades and finally, in its third season, have established themselves as a real family. Each emotional moment between them, and there are a lot to choose from, has gotten us that much closer to the crew, even when we’re still missing a lot of information about their pasts. It’s a journey we’ve been able to take together and, as cheesy as it might sound, it’s what makes the show stand out among the crowd.
Apart from its character moments and raw emotion, Dark Matter has become infamous for its insane, and sometimes a little bit cruel, cliffhangers and surprises. It’s one of the few shows that’s genuinely hard to predict, and the level of continuity in the series goes far beyond most. No plot beat is forgotten–every significant look or lingering mystery has been and will be addressed in one way or another.
Everything that already makes the show great has been taken in Season 3 and amped up to 11 by playing with some of the most iconic tropes. The time loop episode “All the Time in the World,” for instance, was everything you’d want in a Dark Matter episode: mystery, action, unexpected comedic beats, and plenty of heart, delivered expertly by series star Anthony Lemke.
Other great tropes, including dream worlds and alternate reality doppelgangers have been used to demonstrate the writers’ penchant for surprise twists. While all of them are dramatic and entertaining episodes on their own, they also work in tangent to slowly by surely unravel the biggest through lines of Season 3, with the growing corporate war and the onslaught of Zairon’s wrath.
With the world and the characters established, Dark Matter‘s writing team has showcased the best of their sci-fi predecessors through the lens of its very modern series, proving that old school is still a hell of a lot of fun. Better yet, none of these tributes have done anything the undermine the heart, soul and overarching narrative of the season. It’s just making the journey a whole lot more enjoyable for us.
Friday night’s upcoming episode “Isn’t That a Paradox?” is another example of the show having its fun with classic sci-fi tropes in a way that will surprise and seriously entertain viewers. The basic set up: The crew somehow gets sent 600 years into the past, and are forced to go undercover in the small community of Fort Falls, Wisconsin. Simply put, it’s everything you want in a Dark Matter episode, and maybe more, and is another example of how Season 3 is the strongest of the series yet.
What do you think of Dark Matter‘s Season 3? Sound off in the comments.
Dark Matter airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy and Space Channel.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.