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About 18 years ago, my writing partner, Paul, and I landed staff positions on a little scifi series called Stargate: SG-1 (You may have heard of it!).  With one script under our neophyte belts, we were given the green light to start work on our second.  It was based on a pitch that involved the team traveling off-world to a planet facing imminent extinction.  In an attempt to stave the coming apocalypse, certain members of this civilization were “resetting the clock”, inadvertently trapping SG-1 in a  recurring 24 hour time loop.

When it came time to hash out an outline, series co-showrunner Robert C. Cooper had a few notes:

1 – We already have one cool piece of technology on the show = the stargate!  Use it instead of our proposed “time-loopy device” to create the problem.

2 – Forget the people on this other planet.  Let’s make this episode about OUR characters.  Focus on them and their efforts to get out of the loop.

3 – Play up the humor of the situation.

As we received more notes on the planned script, it suddenly dawned me.  “We’re doing Groundhog Day!”, a reference to the Bill Murray comedy which sees his character, weatherman Phil Connors, reliving the same day over and over and over again.  Rob’s response was “Yeah!” and to throw me a look that seemed to say: “It took you this long to figure it out.”

I considered.  We couldn’t just do a Stargate version of Groundhog Day.  Could we?

Well, before there was Groundhog Day there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “Cause and Effect”.

And before “Cause and Effect”, there was Ken Grimwood’s novel Replay.

And before Replay there was a Philip K. Dick short story called “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”.

And before “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, well, it’s possible there was something else.

The point is I could have thrown my hands up and said “It’s too similar to something that’s already been done” and moved on.  Of course, had I done that, I never would have co-written “Window Of Opportunity”, an episode very similar to Groundhog Day – that nevertheless consistently ranks as one of Stargate fandom’s favorite episode of the entire 300+ episode franchise.  And how to account for this episode’s lasting popularity?  Well, how about the fact that, while the time loop premise has been done before, what makes it so memorable is OUR CHARACTERS being trapped.

WoW offers so many memorable moments: the juggling, the Fruit Loops, the kiss, golfing through the stargate.  It was fun and funny and, despite its similarities to what had come before, stood out and left a lasting impression for many fans.

Fast-forward to this same time last year.  We were assembling the Dark Matter writers’ room in anticipation of a third season pick-up.  Among the numerous stories I wanted to tell was our own version of the time loop episode.  And so, after breaking our first three episodes, we sat down to beat out the story.  We went back and forth, argued, hit roadblocks, reconsidered and then, by day’s end, we had…absolutely nothing.  I went home that night, came up with second narrative attack, and presented it to the room – only to have it go up in flames.  Eventually, we tabled Episode 304: The Time Loop Episode, and moved on to Episode 305.  By the we wrapped up the season 3 writers’ room, we had 7 outlines for the first 8 or so episodes.  I don’t have to tell you which episode we never got around to breaking.

That summer, I wrote the scripts for Episode 301 and 303 but, before sitting down to start on 304, I decided to do a little research.  And said research involved me reading Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, and watching movies like Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day and Source Code, and checking out t.v. episodes like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Cause and Effect”, The X-Files’ “Monday”, Supernatural’s “Mystery Spot”, Farscape’s “Back and Back and Back to the Future”, Futurama’s “Meanwhile” and “The Late Philip J. Fry”, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Coda”, and a lot more.  I wanted to distill the time loop narrative to its structural touchstones, and then write the greatest time loop episode ever – one that honored what came before but would be uniquely Dark Matter in its approach.

I was, admittedly, scared to death as I sat down, sans outline that Saturday morning, and started writing.  And, as I wrote, the pieces of the story started falling into place: the mid-loop start, harried THREE, the Android’s assist, third time’s the charm, the complication, the flash-forwards, the treasure trove of teasers.  I ended up writing 32 pages that day, the most I’ve ever written in one sitting, then finished the script the following day.  And then I slept for about 12 hours.

The episode was directed by Ron Murphy and he did a terrific job in delivering one of the craziest episodes we’ve ever done on this show.

And then there’s the cast, lead by Anthony Lemke and his loopy THREE: Melissa O’Neill, Zoie Palmer, Jodelle Ferland, Ayisha Issa, Mishka Thebaud, Alex Mallari Jr., and guest star Michael Reventar – all of who tear it up.

Don’t believe me?  Check out Aimee Hicks’ preview at SpoilerTV or Tom Gardiner’s preview at ThreeIfBySpace or…

Greg David for TV, eh?: Things Get Loopy In Episode 4

We’ve gotten a mere peek at Anthony Lemke’s comic timing over the past two seasons. This week’s script allows him to go full-on and it’s a goshdarn treat. I won’t give anything away but I’ll admit I watched pretty much every scene Three was in with a stupid grin on my face. Even the soundtrack in those scenes is different, with a funky bass thump to note this isn’t your usual Dark Matter episode.

Jennifer Griffin for ScreenSpy: The Raza Crew Grapple With Time in Episode 304 “All The Time in the World”

I won’t lie. We’re kind of excited about this one.

Mary Powers at TVGeekTalk: Dark Matter Advance Preview: All The Time In The World

It’s been a while since we had a Three-centric episode, and this one reminded me of what a great talent Lemke brings to the role and how fortunate the series is to have him.

Seriously.  If you have plans tomorrow night that DON’T involve staying home to watch this episode of Dark Matter, change them!

Dark Matter Episode 304 – Friday, June 23rd at 9:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m PDT) on SYFY and Space Channel.

 

 

 

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Dark Matter returns tonight to its regular 9:00 p.m. time slot with a brand new episode: “Welcome To The Revolution”!

The crew tries to broker peace for a rebellion, but they won’t go out the way they came in.

The TV Junkies’ Kelly Townsend: Dark Matter Preview – The Raza Stumble On A Revolution

The corporate war is still in full force on Friday night’s “Welcome to the Revolution” as the crew find themselves intercepting a battle between Ferrous and Trauggot in their search for their old semi-ally Tabor Calchek (David Hewlett). In the process, they discover they’ve landed in the middle of a tense fight for independence between colony workers and Traugott security.

The Nerd Recite’s Christopher Hart: Will The Raza crew really kill Ryo Ishida in Dark Matter season 3?

The show’s strengths lay in the interconnectedness of our crew and how they would do anything for one another, despite their rogueish ways. So murdering Ryo – old memories or not – won’t come without consequences for the show.

Nerd Element’s Natty Willy: Dark Matter’s Melissa O’Neil Teases Season 3

I was on my phone texting Joe Mallozzi (our showrunner) and telling him how much I loved Five’s entire backstory. I think that thread will become quite the fan favourite. And, yes, we will learn a bit more about Two/Portia’s past. We continue to learn quite a bit more about everyone’s past this season.

Dark Matter season 4 writers’ room update!  2 episodes down; 11 to go!

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My favorites…

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

“When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults. ”

This one has made my Best Of list for as long as I’ve been making these Best Of lists.  Wildly inventive SF peopled with some truly wonderful characters.

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire

“Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City–Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien–now lead simple lives in an idyllic, timeless farming village from which there is no escape! But as they employ all of their super abilities to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure!”

I’m a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s work (Sweet Tooth, Descender, Plutonia) but this book, about a group of bizarre former superheroes trapped in a small town community, is now my favorite.

Vision by Tom King and Michael Walsh

“The Vision wants to be human, and what’s more human than family? So he heads back to the beginning, to the laboratory where Ultron created him and molded him into a weapon. The place where he first rebelled against his given destiny and imagined that he could be more -that he could be a man. There, he builds them. A wife, Virginia. Two teenage twins, Viv and Vin. They look like him. They have his powers. They share his grandest ambition (or is that obsession?) the unrelenting need to be ordinary.

Behold the Visions! They’re the family next door, and they have the power to kill us all. What could possibly go wrong? Artificial hearts will be broken, bodies will not stay buried, the truth will not remain hidden, and the Vision will never be the same.”

As someone who explores the humanity at the heart of an Android, I am in awe of King’s examination of this very conceit. Sure, it may seem to be about superheroes and supervillains and superpowers but, really, it’s about family.

Kingin (Civil War II) by Matthew Rosenberg and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

“An Inhuman with the ability to predict the future has helped the heroes of the Marvel Universe clamp down on crime before it can even happen. While this thwarts most criminals, one man has found a way to keep doing what he does best. Wilson Fisk has managed to stay one step ahead of the good guys and his crime enterprise is BOOMING. But what’s his secret?! It’s a gritty, street-level view of CIVIL WAR II starring the Kingpin in a world without crime!”

I loved Matthew Rosenberg’s work for Black Mask Studios (We Can Never Go Home4 Kids Walk Into A Bank) and, not surprisingly, loved his take on one of Marvel’s biggest bads.  They say that everyone is the hero of their own story, and it’s fascinating to see this old adage play out with the Kingpin of crime.

Kill Or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

“The bestselling team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (The Fade Out, Criminal, Fatale) return with Kill or Be Killed, Volume One, the twisted story of a young man forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret from destroying his life.

Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, Kill or Be Killed is unlike anything Brubaker and Phillips have ever done.”

A dark, occasionally shocking, thoroughly absorbing read.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack

“Sabrina’s father, Edward Spellman, is back from the dead, inhabiting the body of the newly resurrected Harvey Kinkle! Sabrina, believing the love of her high school life is back, arranges for a romantic rendezvous — but neither Hilda nor Zelda want that reunion to take place and are willing to start a witch-war to keep them apart! Meanwhile, the diabolical Madam Satan reveals her true plans for the Spellman family… You dare not miss the last page of this masterpiece of the macabre!”

This one outcreeps and outclasses its predecessor, Afterlife With Archie, another surprisingly great horror title.

The Omega Men by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda

“Broadcast across the universe, the Omega Men reveal a beaten and restrained Kyle Rayner. They make their intentions clear as they kill the former White Lantern. Now the universe is on watch and the hunt for the Omega Men begins. The line between good and evil is blurred in this part of the galaxy, and you do not know who to trust. Please Omega.”

Layers upon layers in this grand DC conspiracy.  I went in cold and came away a fan.

The Fix by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

“THE FIX is a story of the crooked cops, scheming mobsters, and corrupt politicians that run Los Angeles—and the sex toy that can bring them all down. Oh, and the hero is a drug-sniffing beagle named Pretzels.”

Wild, hilarious, and more than a little offside.

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Well, looks who’s back to close out the year.  Yes, it’s director Ron Murphy, here to book-end Dark Matter’s third season with a season finale that will, well, blow your minds.

Today, I traveled to capitol of Zairon for the big Ishida Palace dinner scene.  Who are the invited guests?  Well, you’ll have to wait until episode 312 to find out, but here’s a sneak peek at one of the table pieces compliments of Set Key Props Lisa Amaral Wright.

And while they were eating fruits and vegetables at the Ishida Palace, Ivon, Kerrington, Elliot and I were two minutes away enjoying a decidedly different meal…

Hey!  Who feels like choosing our next episode title?   Your choices are…

What, pray tell, could this episode be about?

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Director Steve DiMarco takes a stroll through the pod room (photo by Renee Chan).

The pods – one of three new looks we’ll be featuring in season 3.

I believe the sign is self-explanatory.

Crew blocking.  Or the line-up for today’s oreo cake dessert.

Director Bruce McDonald shows off his mad sword skills.

From the Wayne Gretzky collection.  Brantford Ontario’s smoothest drinking.

Sitting down with the international press.

And finally, I found this sitting on my desk today courtesy of 1st Assistant Art Director Roxanne Borris.  And, inside, a little bedtime reading:

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Guys!  Help me approve a few visual effect shots for Dark Matter’s upcoming third season…

Needle in a cosmic haystack.

Intruder alert.

We’ve got company.

Alas, only low-rez screen shots but they’re just a taste of what’s in store for Dark Matter fans this summer.

VFX Supervising Producer Lawren Bancroft-Wilson has got some awesome eye candy in store.  And just wait until  we get to the season finale.  It’s gonna be sheer madness!

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Whoa!  Is that right?  Day 62 of 91?  We’re over two-thirds of the way through production on Dark Matter’s third season.  To quote Akemi: “How possible?”

On-set action from a, uh, future episode.  Teku Fonsei (Andrew Moodie) calls the shots on the Ishida Cruiser.  Photo c/o D.G. Hagey

A few screenshots from our season 3 premiere (“Being Better Is So Much Harder”) c/0 VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.

Hey, to those of you wondering about our premiere date…join the club!  I’ve yet to hear official word but, if I were a betting man, I’d tell you to clear your June schedule.

Another awesome concept design from the mind of Set Designer Karl Crosby. What’s (or who is) in the pod?

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