Having worked on Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and SGU Stargate Universe, Paul Mullie certainly knows his way around outer space (fictionally speaking, of course). For more than a year, the executive producer and writer has been busy helping steer the crew of the spaceship Raza on a course filled with plenty of action, adventure and intrigue on TV’s Dark Matter, which he co-created with longtime friend and writing/producing partner Joseph Mallozzi. On this, the first Tuesday in April 2016, Mullie is hard at work behind the camera, this time in “video village” directing Take the Shot, episode 10 of the show’s second season.
“This episode is, in terms of production, what you’d call a bottle show, which, funnily enough, is a description that I don’t really like to use,” says Mullie, who has very kindly taken some time out of his day to sit down for a chat. “The thing is, we were doing lots of set builds in the middle of the season with episodes five, six and seven. Even when we went to locations, they were really just blank canvases where the art department had to go in and build sets. You could tell that people were getting exhausted, and if we carried on, it would have reached a point where they would have been unable to build what was required in the time available.
“So we knew we needed a couple of episodes that took place mainly on our standing sets, and they turned out to be episode eight [Stuff to Steal, People To Kill You, which Joe wrote, and this one, episode 10 [Take The Shot]. Doing this gave the art department a little bit of a break, but conversely, you can’t let something like that dictate your stories. You want to have a good creative idea first, and it just so happened that we had a couple of ideas that could take place on our standing sets. When you’re writing a serialized arc for 13 episodes, you have to plan ahead and make sure everything is lining up. You can’t just all of a sudden step out of that arc. You have to make sure that events line up with what has already happened.
“Episode 10 focuses a lot on The Android [Zoie Palmer]. There are some developments earlier in the season in episodes four and five [We Were Family and We Voted Not to Space You] where that character evolves a bit, and this episode is kind of the payoff to that. It also harkens back to some of the events that transpired in episode 203 [I’ve Seen The Other Side of You] and the effects of the neural link on Two [Melissa O’Neil], Three [Anthony Lemke] and Four [Alex Mallari, Jr] where they were essentially transformed back into their old selves. We revisit that, not so much that they change personalities again, but they start to have hallucinations based on their previous experiences and people from their past are showing up on the ship.”
For the uninitiated, the first season of Dark Matter opened with our six heroes - including One (Marc Bendavid) and Six (Roger Cross) - awaking from stasis with their memories wiped and no idea what they were doing onboard the Raza. With the assistance of The Android as well as a strong desire to satisfy their own curiosity, they were able to fill in many of the blanks when it came to their true identities, but it was not exactly a flattering picture. Throughout the show’s first 13 episodes, the Raza crew did their best to leave their former selves behind, but their respective pasts managed to catch up with them in one way or another. Their struggle to start anew continues this year.
“Season one wasn’t so much about our people looking back as it was about them trying to figure out their pasts and who they are,” explains Mullie. “That continued a little bit at the start of season two with Six, who was revealed to be the ‘bad guy.’ However, pretty much last year, all kinds of things were happening to the Raza crew, who were at a loss most of the time because they had no idea why people were attacking them. Season one was designed that way, though, where Two and the others were constantly facing all these hurdles that they didn’t understand. However, over time, they came to realize who they are and what happened to them.
“This season is very different in that it’s now become more about them being active as opposed to reactive and trying to decide for themselves what their next step should be. That’s been a fun change in the tone and how stories are being written, which, in turn, freshens up the whole creative process.”
In Dark Matter’s season one finale, Six, who was, in fact, an undercover officer for the Galactic Authority, truly felt he was saving his crewmates’ lives by turning them in to his employers. Two, Three and Four later ended up prisoners in the Hyperion-8 maximum security facility in the season two opener, Welcome to Your New Home. Their incarceration was, thankfully, short-lived, and along with Five and The Android, they successfully staged a break-out in the next episode, Kill Them All. Our jailbirds were helped by Six as well as fellow inmates Nyx Harper (Melaine Liburd), Arex Nero (Mike Dopud) and Devon Taltherd (Shaun Sipos), all of whom hitched a ride onboard the Raza. These additions to the crew manifest have definitely shaken up the shipboard dynamics as well as helped further flesh out the show’s already-established characters.
“We knew when we ended season one, that we were going to start the second season with most of our people in prison, and we saw that as a good opportunity to bring some new blood into the mix,” says Mullie. “We also knew they would end up escaping sooner rather than later, but we thought, ‘What if they didn’t escape alone? They’re going to meet some people in prison who, at first, might seem like enemies, but turn out to be potential allies. So when they do escape prison, maybe some of these people come with them.’
“That’s what these new characters were all about, and by introducing them, it opened up all sorts of cool new creative avenues. Last year it was just these six people and The Android who were onboard the Raza. They barely knew one another and barely trusted each other, let alone outsiders. However, when Two and the others were in prison, they didn’t have a choice. They were forced to deal with strangers, which has affected them along with our story in some wonderful ways.
“As far as character development this year, it goes back to what I was saying earlier about them looking more forward instead of back,” continues the executive producer/writer. “It’s also becoming more about the group. I mean, this show is really about family and, ultimately, the family dynamic. I think that’s the emotional heart of Dark Matter. Again, these people were thrown together in season one and didn’t really have a choice in establishing this family-type relationship.
“This season, they all know who one another are, and now that they’ve gotten out of the predicament that we left them in at the end of season one, they each could have easily gone their own way. Instead, they’ve decided to carry on as group, which presents a host of new challenges. Will they continue being pirates and thieves, or will they try to go on the straight and narrow. If it’s the latter, will circumstances allow them to succeed? While some of them were career criminals, others had their circumstances thrust upon them. Six was an undercover cop, Five was essentially a street kid, One wasn’t a villain at all, just an ordinary guy, and Two hasn’t been around for very long and became who she was because of what was being done to her. Three and Four have their own stories, too. Now, though, they’re all different people, and this season we’re looking at what will keep them together and how they feel about themselves as well as each other. Creatively, that has been a great deal of fun.”
Dark Matter airs Fridays @ 10:00 p.m. EST on Syfy (US) and Canada's SPACE Channel (check local listings for other days/times).