Nevertheless, there are some striking similarities I would like to point out.
Since Dark Matter begins with the characters knowing very little about themselves, telling you about them involves giving away a lot of the plot.
If you don’t mind spoilers, keep reading below for plot and character similarities between Dark Matter and Firefly.
If you’re just generally curious about the show, read this post. In fact, you might want to read it first anyway.
There are six characters with number names on a ship, plus the android. Already you have a big ensemble cast in space, so there’s an obvious similarity right there.
Three is a bit like Jane. He’s brash, crude, and always looking out for his own best interest, and he has one particularly powerful gun, which he names, but he can’t hold a candle to Jane for lovable thick-headedness. Sometimes he sounds like Wash. He once did somebody some good by accident; it was a woman rather than an entire town of mudders, but she believed in his inherent goodness as much as the boy who died for Jane, and made him think about himself differently.
Five is a bit like Kaylee. She’s young, she’s chipper, she fixes stuff, she gets taken hostage. Like Kaylee, she doesn’t really know what to do with a gun, at least at first, but learns to defend her crew when it’s necessary.
Five is also a bit like River. At one point, she felt unwanted and went and hid in the vents of the ship, though she didn’t go so far as to pretend to be the ship, as River did. Five is also like River in that she knows things that others don’t, but can’t control those memories. She also seems to be a child genius like River.
Two is a also bit like River: suddenly very capably violent. Since she’s the captain, I guess you could say she’s like Mal, but apart from authority I don’t see much that they share.
Six is a bit like Shepherd Book: strong, reassuring, conscientious, protective, and yet not who he appears to be. He flies the shuttle intuitively; the actor, like the one who plays Wash, flips what one presumes are arbitrarily chosen switches on the control panel.
One is a bit like Simon, but less capable. Simon is earnest, privileged, and naive, but he’s also a highly intelligent, expert professional in his field, and his concern for his sister adds a lot of depth to his character. In contrast, One seems shallow and good for nothing. The others have useful skills, but all he does is give advice nobody wants to hear, flirt pathetically with the one woman on board, and fight with Three.
There’s an episode about some kind of zombie vampires that were accidentally created at a research facility where people were trying to manufacture an immortality drug. The crew gets sent to a ship to do salvage work and discovers them by accident. Sounds an awful lot like the episode about the Reavers.
The episode about the mining colony is a bit like… the episode about the mining colony. What the crew was meant to steal was weapons, not drugs, but all the same they decided to help the victims rather than get paid and let the victims die.
There was a bit that reminded me of Niscia’s distinction between gossip and fact; reputation being only gossip until demonstrated as solid.
Space food in Dark Matter is like space food in Firefly. They treasure actual meat and vegetables because usually they have to eat “protein in all the colors of the rainbow”. Especially when they have money problems.
There’s an overbearing government and a rebellion in both universes, but the Galactic Authority isn’t as relevant as the Alliance (because there are also corporate behemoths in the political landscape of Dark Matter) and the rebellion isn’t as relevant as the Browncoats (because the season doesn’t begin with backstory from the war that defines the relationship between two of the main characters).
There’s an episode in which an entertainment android, after doing some fabulous cooking and a bit of seduction, betrays the crew and almost flies the ship into a sun. That reminded me of a part of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide, but also of the episode in which Mal accidentally gets married. The “women aren’t things” message is much more powerful in Firefly, because Saffron is an actual woman and not a robot, but even so, the corresponding Dark Matter dialog could have been a lot more subtle.
In one episode, a key part of the ship (not a compression coil) fails and has to be replaced. In another episode, the crew is shut in a vault and starts to run out of air. The similarities are a stretch, but they’re there. In the running-out-of-air episode, there’s also a moment where someone who’s supposed to be an ally decides to take the ship instead. It’s not as momentous a betrayal in part because the ship isn’t as much a beloved character in this show as it is in Firefly.
It is a sad irony that a show as beloved as Firefly lasted less than one season, while this show—entertaining but noticeably inferior—will have lasted at least three.