Author Topic: Introduction and Series Overview  (Read 873 times)

Offline Shay

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Introduction and Series Overview
« on: June 04, 2010, 03:06:46 AM »
Originally written by fee_kh


Dark Angel is an American biopunk science fiction television story, which premiered in the USA and Canada on the FOX network on October 3rd 2000 and ran for two seasons before being cancelled.

Biopunk is a form of science fiction that focuses on biotechnology and subversives. Usually it explores the struggles on an individual or a group, often a product of human experimentation, against a backdrop of totalitarian governments or mega corporations, which misuses biotechnologies as a means of social control and/or profiteering. As such Dark Angel is in the same genre as the books Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling and The Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler and the movies The Fly (1986), Jurassic Park (1993) and Gattaca (1997).

Dark Angel retains some aspects of biopunk’s parent genre cyberpunk, for example the idea of a lone hero, a computer hacker, fighting injustice and that the setting is a generally dystopian future that was impacted by rapid technological change, in this case the Pulse, that has destroyed life as we know it.


Dark Angel itself begins with a brief synopsis of what has gone before. A group of young transgenics (a term James Cameron coined to describe his genetically altered protagonists) flees a military installation, called Manticore after the mythical composite beast of Greek mythology), in the middle of winter. The setting is the end of the 20th century. A number of important facts are given in the opening minutes, for example the rather prominent barcode the children have on the back of their necks, identifying them to each other and their makers. Further we learn that eleven manage to escape, but that many more have remained behind, a fact that will become important in the second season. These eleven split up and our protagonist, a young transgenic calling herself Max is left alone after falling through the ice into a pond during the escape.

Through the course of the season the viewer comes to know more of what life at Manticore had been like for this small family. The harsh drills and exercises the children were forced to take part in from a very early age. They were trained to be super-soldiers, stronger, faster and with a higher endurance that mere human soldiers. The toll is high and once a design flaw becomes apparent (namely that the transgenics are unable to produce the necessary amino acid tryptophan for themselves) it rises even higher. One member of Max’s family is taken away to be dissected once the weakness becomes apparent, and when Max shows symptoms, the unit leader Zack resolves to escape. It is never explicitly stated but implied that The Pulse, an electromagnetic attack on the USA which destroyed all electrical systems, aided the escapees in their efforts to disappear from view after their escape. Manticore’s leader, a Colonel Lydecker, never gives up the chase, however.

The series proper begins ten years after the escape. Max lives in Seattle at that point, squatting in a derelict building with her friend Kendra. The town has been hard hit by the Pulse and the military state that was imposed after in an effort to control what was left of the country. The town is riddled with check points and only those with sector passes may move from one to the other without problem.

Max has been searching for her brothers and sisters ever since she escaped, something that costs a lot of money. She spends her days working for a bike courier service named Jam Pony and her nights exercising her skills as a cat burglar to the rich and famous.

During one of her raids she inadvertently makes contact with Logan Cale, a rich heir who, from his penthouse, secretly works to uncover crimes as the cyber-journalist Eyes Only. Logan Cale becomes curious about his nighttime guest and eventually discovers who she is and where she comes from. They agree to work together, Max providing him with the muscle he needs on his mission and in return Cale will help her find her lost siblings. Much of season one follows this course, Cale either sending Max out on a mission to gather intelligence, or Manticore coming close to catching up with her. Various members of Max’s family make an appearance in Seattle at some point in the season, usually with tragic consequences. The first season finally ends with a full-scale attack by Max and some of her siblings on the Manticore installation in an effort to destroy the genetics lab. In the course of this Max is fatally wounded and believed dead. Her big brother Zack however returns her to Manticore and sacrifices himself so she may live.

Season two opens with the realization that Max survived her grave injuries and is now kept captive in the new Manticore installation one hour outside of Seattle. Eventually Max will escape once more, this time bringing Manticore down completely and setting free all the transgenics inside the facility with the aid of X5-494, named Alec. Max reunites with her friends, but is unable to continue her budding romance with Logan Cale as she is now the carrier of a deadly virus targeted specifically to her genome.

The destruction of Manticore has made the existence of transgenics public knowledge and the government begins to take action in containing the transgenic threat. Much of season two is dominated by this theme, but it soon becomes apparent that the government agent leading the recapture operation, Ames White, is in fact a member of a thousand year breeding cult named The Familiars, whose sole aim it is to eradicate mere humans from the face of the earth. Soon it is learned that the founder of Manticore a scientist named Sandeman, defected from the cult and created the transgenics to fight The Familiars. He also programmed Max’s DNA to provide clues to necessary action in runes that appear on her skin. This story line was never fully explored in the course of the series.

Many episodes deal with protecting various Manticore alumni from the actions of Ames White, taking the form of a creature of the week format. It all finally comes to a head in the last few episodes of season two, when the transgenics declare their independence and state that they will fight for what is theirs. Season Two ends on this ambiguous note and for a long time viewers were left in quandary as to what happens next.

Many of the open questions were finally answered in the books released after the series had been cancelled. The Familiar issue is resolved, as is the danger of the virus keeping Max and Logan apart.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2010, 03:09:10 AM by Shay (Admin) »