"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Dark Matter 1.1-1.2: Break-Neck Action and Philosophic Contemplation

Dark Matter, the first two episodes of which debuted on Apple TV+ today, is the third alternate reality narrative I've seen on the screen in the past month (see my reviews of Quantum Suicide, a film created by Gerrit Van Woudenberg which should be streaming on some major app by the Fall, and Constellation, another series on Apple TV+).  All three bounce off the at-once famous and infamous Schrödinger's cat.  Quantum Suicide has the feel of Primer and the work-at-home scientist.  Dark Matter, as of the first two episodes, has a similar feel.  And I'm beginning to think I don't want to think about these matters too hard, because the more I think about them, the more I think it's possible that I could be in an alternate reality myself, right now.  But, hey, I'm so dedicated to doing this review, that I'll risk it, anyway.

[Some spoilers ahead ... ]

One thing that makes Dark Matter, adapted by Blake Crouch from his novel of the same name published in 2015 (which I haven't read), different from the many other alternate realities that I've encountered on pages and screens is that the two versions of the lead character Jason, once the story gets going, share the same knowledge of themselves and the alternate worlds they inhabit, up to a point.  Or, to be more precise, the two versions of Jason have switched realities -- for some reason we do not yet know -- and each quickly learns about their new reality, while retaining knowledge of their original reality before the time that their original reality split in two.  

We also are beginning to understand that the fork in this particular double reality happened 15 years earlier, when Jason had to make a decision about how he felt about his girlfriend Daniela's pregnancy.  Our story begins in the present, with Jason and Daniela happily married, with Charlie their 15-year-old son.  Before too long, Jason is kidnapped and ends up in an alternate reality in which Jason didn't want to be a father, Daniela had an abortion, and they're living separate lives.  As the two episodes unfold, with an appealing mix of break-neck action and philosophical contemplation, we find the Jasons beginning to struggle with the question: In one reality, he's a happily married father, but he and Daniela have lackluster careers.  In the other reality, Jason is a pathbreaking, enormously successful physicist and Daniela a famous artist, but neither has much of a personal life.  Which life will/would Jason choose?  That is, assuming Jason has the power to now make such a choice.

I'll definitely be watching every episode of this new series, and posting reviews here as appropriate.

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