Nature versus Nurture: the Emerging Personas of Dark Matter

As the second half of SyFy Channel’s pilot episode of Dark Matter is completed, I’m left pondering one of the deeper questions in life: how much of our personality is based on our life experiences, and how much is ingrained in our very makeup?

The main characters of Dark Matter awaken in the premiere episode with no memories of who they are, but each character has a unique, distinct personality. How can this be? Wouldn’t each person be a blank slate, an empty shell with no identity? This is not the case with Joe Mallozzi’s crew. Named after the order in which they awakened, each crew member immediately displays their own set of morals and scruples–or lack thereof–along with talents that, though not part of their active memories, clearly still reside somewhere in the subconscious mind.

One, played by Marc Bendavid, is clearly the conscience of the group. He doesn’t know who he is or what he’s done in the past. He doesn’t know if he’s a good or bad person. He knows nothing about himself, yet his instinct in every situation is to try to do the right thing. Is this human nature, or something more? Was the person he was before the amnesia just as much of a stand-up guy? Is this who he was, or who he was meant to be?

Melissa O’Neil plays Two, the de facto leader of the crew. She takes charge the second she wakes up, diffusing a critical situation and giving orders like second nature. Is it second nature for her, or was she the captain from the get-go? The other crew members seem to have no issue following her orders, save for…

…Three, the rebel. Anthony Lemke does a stellar job playing the bad boy of Dark Matter. Snarky and sarcastic and more than a little sinister at times, Three seems to play by one person’s rules: his. The only things Three loves more than himself are his guns, and though he reluctantly agrees to most crew decisions, he makes his disdain well known and is not afraid of voicing his opinions on what he thinks the crew should do. Was Three a prisoner? A criminal? Was he always that bad?

Four seems more the strong-but-silent type thus far. Played by Alex Mallari, Jr. (who learned superb swordplay in a short amount of time for his first scene in the pilot), Four is a different type of weapons expert, and what an expert he is! The mystery surrounding Four’s past is made more compelling by his silence. Why is he not freaking out over his loss of memory?

Perhaps the creepiest of the crew members is Five. Jodelle Ferland is the youngest crew member and apparently an engineering genius. She also has an eerie ability to share the dreams and memories of others, though they are fragmented and hazy; she has no idea whose memories she’s channeling, only that they’re not her own. She has the most visceral reaction to the amnesia. Rather than slide into a role in the ship’s crew, Five lingers on the edges, fixing things as needed but unsure of her place in the group. She is frightened of who she might be and senses that there might be something wrong with the crew. Are her instincts right, or is the paranoia a result of the memory loss?

Roger Cross, the sixth crew member to wake up, finds himself a natural at piloting the ship’s shuttle, dubbed the Marauder. Six is a good guy at heart…or is he? He doesn’t know, but he does know he doesn’t want to be bad.

Even the ship’s android ends up with amnesia. In a rather ironic moment, the android, played by Zoie Palmer, has part of her memory wiped in order to stop her from attacking the crew members. Why was she programmed to attack them? The crew doesn’t know, but their survival instincts kick in and self-preservation motivates them to create yet another amnesiac aboard ship.

I can’t wait for episode three, which teases more character development and possibly more insight into this intriguing crew.

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