Dark Matter: Episode 1.5 (recap and review)

Four, Two and Six in Dark Matter
Last week’s episode of Dark Matter focussed on Four and included a major plot device that owed much to The Sixth Day, Philip K Dick and Total Recall as well as the crew being broke. This week, episode 1.5 of Dark Matter starts with Three complaining about the quality of food again and having no money.

The plot on episode five is a huge nod and wink to Event Horizon and Pandorum, along with more than a passing homage to the cult classic 1993 video game Doom. As the crew discuss ways of making money, Five mentions the vault that she, and Three, found on the ship and they all head down to discover that they need an alpha-numeric code, that no one knows.

As they stand frustrated in front of the vault door, Android tells Two that someone she knows is trying to contact her. It is the team’s handler, Talbor Calchek (played by Stargate alumnus David Hewlett who also starred in the overlooked and underestimated 1988 Canadian horror film Pin) Calchek manages to upset Android and Three dislikes the man on sight.

He does, however, have a job for the group, a ship salvage for the ISS Far Horizon. Two accepts the job and they head for the freighter’s coordinates. Once there, Five stays on board the Raza with Android and everyone else boards the ship. One and Three are teamed up again, Four and Six head towards Engineering and Two goes to the ship’s bridge to hook up the FTL drive.

Five asks Android to help her identify the item she found in storage, where she also found the dead boy in an earlier episode, and it turns out to be an inter-dimensional device that opens up pockets of space in another dimension. Five asks, “Why would somebody want to do that?” Android replies, “I ask myself that all the time…Rarely do I get a satisfactory answer.” Five then asks Android to keep the information secret. She does not, apparently trust all the crew, logic points to the ever annoying Three being the one she trusts least.

One and Three are searching for overlooked contraband and despite One being dismissive of his teammate’s arming up, both men need the weapons when they stumble across a violent creature. Before that, however, the two continue to bicker and, in their own way, bond. Although One is disturbed that Two and Three apparently had sex.

As Two begins hooking up the FTL, Four and Six find a lot of dead bodies. The injuries on the dead were caused by “bare hands and teeth.” Two decides that the rest of the FTL hookup can take place off the ship. She tries to contact One and Three but there is too much comm interference. Two is attacked by a Michael Berryman lookalike that takes a lot of putting down. After a protracted battle, where Two is bitten by this zombie-like creature, Six and Four come in and shoot it. After falling, the thing reaches out for someone’s foot and more rounds are fired into the creature.

Three and One talk about how they feel about one another and Three explains that Two came on to him and that his “nice guy” act won’t “cut it” with women like Two. The dead “zombie” turns out to be a former crew member on the ISS Far Horizon and Two tries to warn One and Three. Android finds disturbing information that reveals the crew of the freighter were affected by a viral contagion that may have been transmitted by saliva and blood.

They take Two back to the ship after Android tells them that their bitten leader can be isolated and scanned. Six asks that Android find out why One and Three cannot be reached on their radios. Four volunteers that the two men could be dead, attacked by other zombies and Six disagrees. Two says that if anything, the two may have killed each other. Four and Six agree.

The two men left on the freighter continue arguing, One swears that they are lost and going down the same corridor over and over when they hear something. At the end of the hallway, they encounter a woman chewing on a human arm. Three fills the munching zombie with rounds while One tries to get him to slow down on putting more holes in the ship’s hull.

After killing the zombie, they come to a door that is locked. One begins to open the door saying, “I’ve seen Five do this. How hard can it be?” More zombies show up and Three shoots them down as they appear. He also puts enough holes in the wall that the hull is breached and the two men are almost sucked out into space. One saves Three’s life by pulling him through the door he just opened.

Six learns that the comms problem is probably due to the men’s location near the blast site and he heads that way to find them. Four calls Android back to the infirmary; it looks like Two may be in trouble. One and Three are trapped in the room they just opened and One refuses to move till they come up with a plan.

As the two men talk, One actually embarrasses Three into thanking him for saving his life and tells him that they are now even, Three gives a breakdown of the rest of the crew that is pretty spot on, with the exception of his irrational dislike of Five.

In the infirmary the scan shows the presence of a virus. Android reveals that the freighter’s last port of call was to an unauthorized location, Taurian Alpha, a research pharmaceutical station that was quarantined. It seems that this is what caused the problem with the crew. The research lab was working on something to make humans immortal. Two learns that she has just a few hours before turning into one of those zombie creatures.

Six finds One and Three and attempts to get them out. Four offers to give Two an honorable death, she declines. Five is horrified by Four’s suggestion. Android contacts Six and tells him that if the two men on the freighter don’t leave soon, the life support system will shut down and kill them. As the oxygen levels drop the two follow a route to Six.

They find a way out, only to discover that the area has around eight zombies who are also suffering from the lack of O2. One convinces Three to just walk past them since the creatures dying. As Three reaches the room, via a ladder, Android turns on the emergency oxygen and the zombies begin to stir. One shouts for Three to get out of the room and he replies it is too late.

With a pistol in each hand Three clears the room of zombies quickly. He calls up to One, “You can come down now.” The two men escape and once back on the Raza they are scanned and there is no sign of the virus. As the time for Two to change gets closer, One convinces the crew to destroy the Far Horizon preventing the virus from reaching civilization. Two does not change and they scan her again; the virus has disappeared.

Later, Two heads to Three’s room for a repeat of their earlier activity and Three nervously declines the invitation. Two goes to her room and removes the bandage, the wound made by the zombie has disappeared.

Dark Matter continues to pile on new mysteries and introduces questions that beg to be answered. Anthony Lemke as Three is becoming a firm favorite as is his character. Three’s idiosyncrasies are truly funny and the fact that he automatically hates anyone who shares his personality traits is priceless and very revealing.

Zoie Palmer as The Android continues to be the comic relief and at the same time appears to know much more than anyone one else about the crew and their current situation. This is a winning combination of actor and script that propels both Palmer’s performance and the series into true brilliance.

Dark Matter is part of SyFy Fridays and is truly entertaining. Those who love good writing, great acting and mystery should not miss this show.

Pin (1988) Overlooked and Unloved

With no less than eighty-six horror films released in 1988, it is no wonder that Pin got lost in the shuffle. This quiet psychological horror film had to compete with the likes of Phantasm II, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Maniac Cop, and a slew of “Slasher” films, sequels and the re-make of The Blob.
 Sandor Stern directed and wrote the screenplay for Pin. Adapted from a novel byAndrew Neiderman and if you’ve never heard of him, I’ll just point out that he was the ‘ghost-writer’ for V.C. Andrews from 1986.
Pin aka  Pin a Plastic Nightmare – Is about  a family that is just about as dysfunctional as you could want. Pin is an anatomically correct plastic dummy. He is life sized and covered in clear plastic (all the better to see his muscles, bones and organs). He sits in a chair in Doctor Linden’s office, naked save for a towel over his lap. Dr Linden it turns out is a ventriloquist. He provides the voice for Pin, who he uses to ‘break the ice’ with his younger patients. He needs Pin because he is not a very communicative person. He has such a problem that he uses Pin to teach his own children about sex. Doc Linden is played with icy aloofness byTerry O’Quinn, fresh from his top notch perfomance in The Stepfather (1987). O’Quinn would go on to more impressive roles culminating in his pivitol role as John Locke in Lost (2004 – 2010).  In Pin O’Quinn’s portrayal of Linden is spot on. This is a man who expects much from his children, especially his son, and yet does not know how to communicate with them.
Mrs Linden as played by actress  Bronwen Mantel, obviously suffers from OCD so badly that she has plastic covers on all the family’s furniture. She even tells her son Leon that he can no longer play with a friend, because he looks diseased. Leon answers back and gets a slap for his angry retort. Unfortunately we are not able to read a lot into Mrs Linden’s character. She is there to provide a somewhat two dimensional version of a cleaning obsessed woman, who is also a good cook. But like her husband, she cannot communicate with the children either.
David Hewlett and Cynthia Preston play Leon and Ursula Linden with confidence and an impressive ease.  The fact that they had worked together the previous year on the feature The Darkside obviously helped them to bond as the on-screen brother and sister. Hewlett especially impresses as the psychotic Leon who has believed since childhood that plastic man Pin is alive. Ursula has known since their first meeting that Dad was providing the voice for Pin, but she has never tried to convince Leon of it.
Once Doc Linden realises that Leon has developed an unhealthy fixation on Pin, he decides that Pin must go. He loads Pin into the family car with Mrs Linden and then speeds  off to a convention where the good doctor decides that Pin must stay. Unfortunately, the fact that Doc has been a bit “weirded out” by Pin means that besides speeding on wet roads, he spends too much time looking at Pin in the rear view mirror. The combination of speed and inattention causes the car to crash and sic transit Doctor and Mrs Linden.
With the departure of Mom and Dad, Leon descends even further into the belief that Pin is real.  And at this point we the audience start harbouring the belief that Leon might just be right.
This film deals with sexuality and the growing pains of becoming sexually aware. Yet for all the heavy sexual overtones, there is very little sex in the film. We get one glance of sister Ursula’s feet against the backseat window of a car and one flash of topless nudity when Leon  unsuccessfully tries his first bid at sex.
The film has a bit in common with the South Korean film The Tale of Two Sisters. Like Two Sisters there are scenes in Pin that are absolutely, one hundred percent cringe worthy. Yet we as the audience cannot help but watch. The director does not hesitate to ”lose the music” in these excruciating scenes and it helps to sell the film.
The film has been likened to Psycho and I don’t really get the link. The only thing that it has in common is that it does indeed feel like a Hitchcock film. It is brilliantly paced, moody, creepy, and sometimes downright sad. Although I do suppose the end of the film could be linked to Psycho’s ending.
So If you get a chance see this film. You will not regret it. And if it doesn’t become a firm favourite…I’ll eat my plastic covered man.