From Everything Everywhere All At Once to Marvel’s What If...?, everyone loves the multiverse. And yet, with nearly every corner of science fiction seemingly crowded by alternate timelines and parallel universes, how can these concepts ever seem new again? The short answer might be found in a 2016 novel that is about to become Apple’s next big science fiction show. Based on the brief new trailer for Dark Matter, this might be the show to bring this trope back down to Earth. Here’s why the pedigree for Dark Matter could indicate that this is one sci-fi show not to miss in 2024.
Mild Dark Matter book spoilers ahead.
Published seven years ago, Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter tells the story of Jason Dessen, who is abducted by a version of himself from an alternate universe. The book jumps between various realities, as Jason attempts to save his wife and son from his alternate self. Part of what makes the book great is this grounded quality: Although we get various wacky timelines, the core of the book is about a person who wants his family back. And it’s in this very specific quality that the upcoming Apple TV version of Dark Matter could be excellent, perhaps even on par with the brilliance of Severance.
Dark Matter trailer
On February 5, 2024, Apple released several brief trailers for its upcoming slate of new shows, including a short trailer for Dark Matter. In it, we see Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) telling Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton) that he’s showing him something “that not even the billionaires have access to... the road not taken.” Clearly, the show is leaning into the more serious implications of a multiverse, but not going too hard into a kind of gonzo Star Trek-style Mirror Universe.
This groundedness is ultimately the key to making this kind of sci-fi story work. In fact, one of the reasons why films like Sliding Doors or The Family Man work so well is that the stakes are about relationships, and how those relationships change our perception of our own timeline. Blake Crouch’s novel is, essentially a thriller at heart and is written to be a propulsive page-turner. But, the reason we care is that the stakes are relatable and human.
For the past several years, this is the kind of science fiction that Apple has proven to be best at. From For All Mankind to Foundation to Severance, the wide range of sci-fi on Apple succeeds not because there’s a huge scope (that helps) but because the characters are more than mouthpieces for the metaphor. In a sense, this makes Apple’s take on sci-fi a kind of anti-Black Mirror. We linger in these worlds longer, which only makes the world-building seem more real.
Dark Matter has a Marvel connection
While a good portion of the Dark Matter series will be written by the novel’s author, Blake Crouch, he’s also been assisted by Megan McDonnell, who wrote two of the best episodes of WandaVision, “Now in Color” and “We Interrupt This Program.” Having her talents on Dark Matter could help humanize the story even further, and her experience with balancing reality-bending structures with tender character stories is more than proven by those excellent episodes of WandaVision.
In a sense, Dark Matter could be pitched as WandaVision minus the MCU, or, more accurately, WandaVision, but the science actually makes a little more sense.
Dark Matter cast and release date
The cast for Dark Matter is also amazing. Joel Edgerton stars as Jason, Jimmi Simpson is Ryan, and Jennifer Connelly is Daniela, Jason’s wife. They’re joined by Alice Braga as Amanda, Oakes Fegley as Charlie Dessen, and Dayo Okeniyi as Leighton.
This is a solid cast, packed with people who know how to do science fiction and fantasy, very, very well. The trailer for Dark Matter might seem subtle, and the show may present a kind of generic tone right now, but once this gets going, this could be the best sci-fi show of the year. If the series manages to capture the excitement of the book, and pair it with real human stakes, then yes, we could be looking at the next Apple sci-fi hit.
Dark Matter hits Apple on May 8, 2024.
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