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.

Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston Writing Autobiography

Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston Writing Autobiography

Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston will be writing his autobiography. This book, or memoir, has come about because of his award winning performance as Walter White, chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. There was, of course, much more to White than just using his knowledge of chemistry to develop a very pure version of methamphetamine.

Remembering T2 on the Big Screen: Wow

While writing the blog-post for Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “life story” I was filled with nostalgia about the time I’d gotten to see a “sneak premier” of the film, T2, weeks before its proper cinematic release. I thought, while reviewing his book that it was a shame that I’d not remembered this before as I could have taken part in mistylayne and Andy’s
Nostalgiathon 2012. But even though I missed the metaphorical boat for their project together, I thought the least I could do was give their sites and the project a mention and a link.

In 1991, I lived two doors down from a young engaged couple. In a few years, with a great recommendation from the young lady I got a job where she worked delivering papers. Her fiancé Donald was a local government agency employee. He was a bit of a “Jack-the-lad” character; full of energy, good humour and a hazy sense of morality.

One day he came round the house where I was cutting the grass or painting the front of the house (I don’t remember which). He was grinning from ear to ear and so full of excitement he was practically dancing.

“Do you like Arnold Schwarzenegger?” He was sort of hopping in place while he asked the question. I stopped whatever it was that I was doing and replied in the affirmative.

“How,” He paused for dramatic effect, “Would you like to see his latest film?”

“Sure,” I said it so fast that he almost had not stopped speaking yet. “What is it?”

Donald’s grin got even wider, “It’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, mate!” His energy level shot up even further. “The sequel to The Terminator, innit!” He stopped suddenly. “You have seen the original Terminator, haven’t you? Please tell me you’ve seen it mate.”

I replied that I had and that I’d loved it.

That set Donald off again in another paroxysm of joy. “Great! How would you like to see it two weeks earlier than anyone else in the country?”

“How’d you pull that one off?” I asked.

“Easy mate, I entered a competition and won two special preview tickets to the Odeon’s showing of the film. Since it’s a preview there are a limited amount of tickets and I got two!”

I thought for a minute. “What about Nola?” Nola was his fiancée and they lived together. “Won’t she want to go?”

“No mate, she can’t stand Arnie! I was a bit lost because here I had these great tickets and was going to wind up seeing the film on me own. Bit of a downer; then I thought of you and the fact that you like Predator and Commando and I thought, ‘yeah! Smithy will go with me to see it!”

We were both excited now. I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages and now I was going to see what was promising to be the cinema event of the year.

On the day of the preview Donald and I went together to the Odeon with our “prepaid” tickets. We joined the queue of people who had purchased their tickets already and waited to get in.

One of the newer cinemas on offer.

*Just a side note about English cinemas “back in the day” and how they worked. When I first got to the United Kingdom, you could still smoke in the movie theatre. You had a smoking side and a non-smoking side. You always knew which side was which because the smoking side had ashtrays attached to the seats. You also had to buy your tickets in advance. People would stop by the ticket sales window earlier in the day and buy their tickets. You would then come back and show your ticket to go in. Folks would get there early to go up to the “pub” in the cinema and have a pint or two or a short. You’d then head for the screen when the movie was about to start. You also had a young man or woman who stood down in front of the screen with a selection of sweets and bags of popcorn and sodas for sale. They would go away when the trailers started and the first feature (if there was one) and come back out before the main feature started. It was a lot different in those days, no multi-screen, just good old-fashioned huge screens; one or two if the cinema was bigger. I still remember watching Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in a tiny theatre in Thetford that put an intermission in the middle of the film where they came out and sold ice creams and so on. When the lights came up clouds of smoke hung up near the ceiling. In the late 80’s smoking started being banned in theatres although you could still smoke, you had to do it in a smoking room and you could listen to the film while you had your fag (cigarette). Probably the longest side note ever, my apologies.*

The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. Excited bubbly conversations whirled in the air and people discussed the first Terminator and how they couldn’t wait to see the sequel. A lot of “I’ll be back’s” were heard and delighted laughter over rode every other sound in the lobby. This level of excitement in an English movie theatre was unheard of back then. Movie goers fit the stereotype of quiet and reserved. If there was a funny scene in a film, reserved chuckling might be heard, if you strained to hear it. Loud American guffaws meant that a “yank” was watching the film with his American friends.

Low key reactions was (and still is too a large degree) the order of the day. Where in an American movie theatre, people will gasp loudly, shriek, scream, laugh loudly and hysterically and “boo” the screen. Movies in the states are more of a celebratory party rather than a civilized viewing of the feature.

Terminator 2 though brought a different type of English film fan. These guys were every bit as loud and as excited as their American counterparts.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.


When the film started, the audience applauded and cheered. When Arnie strides up to the bar owner to snatch his shotgun from him, the audience went nuts. The entire film was treated like the overblown spectacle it was. T2 was bigger than the first Terminator. It had a bigger budget, better effects, a totally kick-ass score, and not just one Terminator, but two. And Robert Patrick as the T-1000 knocked it so far out of the park that no-one, apart from the Schwarzenegger himself, could match his performance.

I saw grown men weep at the end of the film. I saw them through my own blurred vision as tears streamed unashamedly down my own cheeks. Donald and I both looked at each other, crying like little (as Arnold himself would say) girliemen, and we did a painful high-five. We both agreed that this was the best terminator film ever and that they would never top it.

Sad to say, we were both extremely accurate in our visionary prediction that the film would never be equalled or beaten. T3 was abysmal and T4? Well, this post is pretty long already if I wrote about everything that didn’t work in T4, I’d have to write it in instalments.

Every time I re-watch T2 I remember the excitement of that day and how the cinema audience went wild during the film. It is the only other film that I have watched in an English cinema where the audience (in tears yet) stood up and cheered when it had finished. *The only other film to elicit anywhere near the same type of response was J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek.*

As I left the cinema that day, I realised that the industry had gone around another corner, reached a new milestone. All because James Cameron was one helluva movie maker who had vision and the guts to put that vision on-screen; he broke a lot of records with T2 and changed the way films would be made from that point on.

He also, to a huge degree, changed the way that I viewed films.

Unh-unh-unh!



Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sales Manual…

I only bought this book because it was on sale at Tesco’s for eight pounds. To be honest, I was going to buy it at nine pounds, I only found out about the additional savings at the till. Co-written with author Peter Petre Total Recall is, at 624 pages (I do not include the index in the page count), a longish read, but not too difficult to plough through if you concentrate. I read the book in roughly eight hours and I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I have to say right off, that I did find the book interesting, but, not overly entertaining. The main reason for this was the inclusion of Arnie‘s terms in office as the Governor of California. I cannot and will not go on record as to whether he was a good or bad Governor, mainly because I do not know. I did live in the state while he served and therefore I do not feel qualified to have an opinion.

Of course the other reason behind the lack of opinion is quite simple, I don’t care. Politics is not my speciality and never will be. I will say that, as a rule, I do not support the Republican party and never have; the only Republican I ever supported whole heartedly was, like Arnie, a Hollywood product by the name of Ronald Reagan and that was because he helped to raise the pay of poorly paid military for two years straight. For that act alone, he will always be ranked by me as one of the greats.

But back to Arnie; most people are aware that he started as a body builder. They also know that he dreamed of coming to America so he could be a World Champion body builder and become a movie star. Everyone also knows that he was the Governor of California for a while.

What a lot of people may not have realized is that Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know I was not aware of it) is a top salesman. If he had not decided at an early age that he was somehow special, he could have wound up as a top sales rep at any big company.

But he seemed to figure out pretty early on that the product he wanted to sell was himself, Schwarzenegger on the hoof as it were. The fact that the only avenue available him was the, then, relatively unknown and unrecognised sport of body building did not stop him from going all out to reach his goal.

As his successes grew and word spread about this young giant of a man he started on the road that would ultimately result in him conquering the body building world, the box office and the citizens of California.

But this book is not about that; not really. It is another sales tool; nothing more, nothing less. It another way for him to sell product Schwarzenegger, a publicity lever to make sure that his name is “out there” before his next two films are released.

For a book titled Total Recall Arnold recalls, in the grand scheme of things, very little. He offers little tit-bits of information about some films he worked on, but not a lot. About Conan the Barbarian, his break-out film, he mentions Mako (who appeared 153 films and television shows by the time he died in 2006) not once.

What he prefers to discuss at great length are his humble beginnings, his business acumen, his marriage to Maria Shriver, and his time in the gubernatorial office in Sacramento California. Add in a few statements here and there about his competition in the world of body building and one tiny section dealing with his illegitimate son and there you have it.

Most autobiographies contain a huge amount of humility. Most, actors especially, spend an almost inordinate amount of time thanking all those folks who helped them to get where they are. Arnold does this, but not a lot and not too profusely.

The message that Arnie wants to convey is the he is responsible for his success. Not an agent or a manager or the director who took a chance on him or even his wife. Arnold Schwarzenegger stands “a man above other men,” one who should have a plaque on his chest stating, “How great I art.”

I am sure that there are other people in the entertainment business, or just in the public eye, who have egos that match Arnold’s but not many. And I’m sure that most would have hired a ghost writer to help them tone that massive ego down. Unfortunately that did not happen in this particular recounting of the “great one’s” life.

Has the reading of this ego massaging trip down memory lane put me off Arnold? No, it did not. It did lift the veil a little as to who the man actually is and what he deems important. Two very telling incidents in the book show just exactly how the man thinks.

One deals with the issue of the “first” predator in the 1987 film of the same name. Action man Jean-Claude Van Damme who was just starting in his career has stated publicly in the past that the first costume for the creature was unsafe. It had no manoeuvrability; it was cumbersome, heavy and unwieldy. Van Damme, quite rightfully, brought this up to the director repeatedly. When the director refused to get the problem sorted, Van Damme walked and his replacement was badly injured.

Not one word of this was recounted in Arnold’s telling of the filming except to state that Van Damme was a complainer. Complainer he might have been, but considering what eventually happened to his replacement and the “re-design” of the predator outfit, not without cause. Yet the episode is handled in one sentence; a sentence that implies that Van Damme was a whiner who did not want to do the job.

During the chapters dealing with his marriage to Maria, he comes right out and complains about things she did or believed. It’s obvious that this section was written while his powers of recall were in negative mode.

As in the episode of the predator costume, Arnold has no time for anything that does not glorify Arnold. He is the product on sale here, not anyone else. His goal is to show why he is so great and why he will continue to be great.

The book may please the odd rabid fan, but only just. This is not an anecdotal recital of interesting facts and fascinating stories. If it’s a gossipy, fun romp down memory lane you wanted; you’ll be disappointed. If it’s a chance to hear how highly Arnie thinks of himself, you’ve come to the right place.

I would not want to be on the other side of the look…