As one of the major creative forces on Stargate SG-1, writer/producer, Joseph Mallozzi, sealed his reputation as a behind-the-scenes sci-fi hero. Now, he’s done it again with the richly inventive Dark Matter, the head-spinning tale of six intergalactic travelers who wake up in a spacecraft with no memory of their past.
Dark Matter found an appreciative audience without a lot of pre-screening hype. Is it difficult to follow up with subsequent series now that you’re no longer under the radar, so to speak?
Not really. What with our twelve years on the Stargate franchise, [co-creator] Paul Mullie and I have been at this for quite a while. The second season challenges come not so much from audience expectations, but more from the realities of television production. Paul and I had a lot of time to creatively prep, develop, and deliver those first thirteen scripts – but significantly less so for Season 2, although we did have a game plan in place well before we received the green light.
Along with the excitement, Dark Matter also asks a lot of big questions, particularly about self-discovery and the whole “nature versus nurture” argument…
We’ve always been drawn to stories about redemption, finding that light in the darkness. That’s what Dark Matter is about – the journeys of these individuals as they attempt to put their respective pasts behind them and start over. Of course, even though you may want to let go of the past, your past has a way of holding on to you. Ultimately, some of our crew members will succeed in their quest for redemption, while others will fail…in spectacular fashion.
There’s such a strong of body of work when it comes to science fiction TV, including your own Stargate. Does that weigh heavily upon you when you’re creating something new like Dark Matter?
Back when we worked on Stargate, it would happen a lot. Someone would pitch out a story and someone else would point out that it had already been done on Star Trek, or that we’d already done it back in a previous season. One of our most popular scripts for Stargate was an episode called ‘Window Of Opportunity.’ It was very similar to Groundhog Day, but what made it special to us was how the situation affected our characters. And that’s something we’re always mindful of on Dark Matter. What makes this story special for our characters? The show’s serialized nature also helps us in crafting a narrative that is unique to our show.
How much of a challenge did budgetary constraints play in the creation of the show?
At the end of the day, no matter how big your budget, it’s never enough. You just have to make smart use of what you have. That starts with the scripts, producing on the page, writing to our standing sets, and ensuring that we don’t blow the budget halfway through the year so that we’re not ending the season with back to back clip shows. With a talented crew and a great VFX Supervisor in Lawren Bancroft-Wilson, we made sure that the money ended up on the screen instead of being frittered away on delays and missteps.
You’ve got several strong, pivotal female characters on the show. How important was that to you?
All of our characters are strong in different ways but, sure, yes, we have three strong female characters in Two (the crew’s kickass leader), Five (who holds the answers to all the questions and, in most episodes, the key to solving the issue-of-the-day), and the Android (more powerful than the entire human crew combined). And we’ll be adding a fourth in the character of Nyx in Season 2. It’s very important to have strong female characters that our audience, especially younger female viewers, can look up to. And loveable miscreants that our male viewers can look up to as well.
You’ve had a bona fide sci-fi/pop culture legend on the show with Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek and Big Bang Theory fame! How did that casting come about?
His name came up, and we put the offer out – then I emailed our mutual friend, author John Scalzi, and asked him to put in a good word for us. When Wil showed up in the production office on his first day, we drank whiskey in my office, and he regaled me with tales of his bourbon exploits. And that’s when I knew that we had to have him back for Season 2.
Dark Matter has had an interesting journey to the screen: intended as a TV series, re-envisioned as a comic book, and then back to TV. Is that particularly satisfying now to be getting such a great response?
It’s immensely satisfying, after so many years of trying to get the show off the ground, to finally see it come to life, and to receive such an overwhelmingly positive response from viewers. We’re immensely appreciative of the support that we’ve received worldwide, and I try to do my part by staying connected with the fans through my blog where I offer insights into the production process…and the occasional teaser.
What’s in store for Season 2?
Last year, it was all about the mystery, as we explored the backstories of our various crew members. This year, the crew is less reactive and more – as the execs love to say – proactive, taking the fight out to their enemies rather than waiting for trouble to come find them. We’ll see more spectacular visual effects, ship to ship battles, advanced weaponry and technology, and SF-themed stories, as well as plenty of twists, turns, shocks and surprises.
Dark Matter: Season 1 is available on DVD now and is also screening on the Syfy Channel