I’m going through my drafts folder and trying to clear it out. I’ve a few posts I wrote a while ago that might not be topical anymore, but (I think) are still worth publishing.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist the silly headline.
This past week, the fate of two SyFy shows was announced. Killjoys will be getting 2 more seasons to wrap up its storyline, while Dark Matter has been cancelled. There have been a lot of comments on i09 and the Observation Deck in response to this news. Among those comments, when the person chose to express their preference between the shows, it’s been heavily in favor of Dark Matter. It’s also been heavily lacking in the reason for that preference.
My own preferences lean in the other direction. I’d like to take a little time to explain why.
A while ago, I talked about the importance of sympathy and empathy in storytelling. For me, characters will always win out over plot. This, for me, is the single biggest distinction between the two shows.
Characters Don’t Matter
Right from the start, Dark Matter starts out hobbled. We’re presented with 6 characters who have no history, no connection, not even names. The characters don’t know who they are—so how are we, the audience, supposed to understand who they are?
They are, literally, a checklist of stereotypes.
- Strong, but self-doubting, woman
- Gun guy
- Asian sword guy
- Girl geek
- Strong guy
- Emotionless android (who, for some reason is sexy and in a tight outfit).
And that’s as far as it goes. None of them have any personality quirks—or actual personality, for that matter. There is zero connection between any of them.
It’s all about “The Mystery”. Half-way through season two, I gave up trying to figure out why I should care what happens to any of these people.
Killing Me With Joy
Contrast that with Killjoys. From the very first, we have three characters who obviously have a history together, know each other well, and like each other. The fact that one of those people is the ship, makes it all the more fun.
There are “human” moments between the characters. Even though the Jacobi brothers fight, it’s obvious that they love each other. There are little moments that paint them as “whole” (e.g., D’avan stealing the comic book for a blowjob when he was young).
And the characters are so rich and diverse. Dutch is in charge because she is in charge—she just wears command like a comfortable coat, and everyone sees that it fits.
Jon loves Dutch—like a big sister. D’avan loves Jon—like a big brother (with all the appropriate rivalry and teasing). Pree loves them all—like a father. Arvin loves the world—and he’s willing to start a revolution to prove it. And Turin just wishes they’d all do their damn jobs so he can go home and have a beer.
Diversity of the ‘Verse
The other area where I find Killjoys to be better than Dark Matter is diversity.
Dark Matter has 2 non-white characters, both of whom are cliches. There’s the “Asian who knows all the martial arts” and “Big Black Man”.
In the season and a half I watched, I don’t remember seeing any depiction of sexuality other than “1 and 2 must have sex because... it says so in the script”.
Killjoys has a mixed-race female leader; an Asian bounty hunter who has none of the stereotypes; an Asian, lesbian, noble villain; and a flaming homosexual person of color who’s currently a kick-ass bartender, but used to be a warlord mercenary.
And none of them are defined by those characteristics; it’s just part of who they are.
Sympathy & Empathy
All of this goes back to the concepts of sympathy and empathy. Every character in Dark Matter is a tool which is used to move along the plot. I have no reason to care about any of them.
Every significant character in Killjoys is a person—someone I can recognize or associate with someone I know. They all say and do things that give us insight into who they are, but have nothing to do with moving the plot forward. They act and react in ways that make sense—both in general, and in the context of who they are.
I like Killjoys because Dutch is like an old girlfriend I had, and D’avan reminds me of my asshole big brother (whom I love—but don’t tell him that), and Pree is the hard-hitting drama queen I knew in university, and Jon is half of my friends, and the guy running the docking bay in the first episode is several people I’ve had to deal with for work.
If I’m forced to choose, I’ll take characters over plot any day.
 Lucy has no “body” (in the human sense), but has not only a name, but a personality (and emotions). “Android” has no name nor personality. But at least she has a skin-tight outfit to highlight her sexy body. [/sarcasm]
 This is one of the comparisons I’ll make to Firefly: This love is very much like that of Mal and Zoe—it is deep and strong, but it’s not romantic or sexual. I like seeing that.
 Which is a terrible misuse of Roger Cross. He’s a great actor who’s capable of much more depth.