Dark Angel (TV series)
|Created by||James Cameron
Charles H. Eglee
J. C. MacKenzie
Valarie Rae Miller
|Theme music composer||Chuck D
Amani K. Smith
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||43 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||James Cameron
Charles H. Eglee
|Running time||43 minutes
86 minutes ("Pilot")
60 minutes ("Freak Nation")
|Production company(s)||Cameron/Eglee Productions
20th Century Fox Television
|Original release||October 3, 2000– May 3, 2002|
Dark Angel is an American biopunk/cyberpunk science fiction television series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee and starring Jessica Alba in her breakthrough role. The series chronicles the life of Max Guevara (X5-452), a genetically-enhanced super-soldier who escapes from a covert government military facility as a child. In a post-apocalyptic Seattle, she tries to lead a normal life, while eluding capture by government agents and searching for her genetically-enhanced brothers and sisters scattered in the aftermath of their escape. The series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, at Lions Gate Studios.
The show premiered in the United States on the Fox network on October 3, 2000. The high-budget pilot episode marked Cameron's television debut, and was heavily promoted by Fox. The first season, which was shown on Tuesday nights in the U.S., found success and won several awards. For the second season the show was moved to Friday nights and suffered a ratings drop. It was subsequently cancelled, though the storyline continued through a series of novels, and a video game adaptation was also released after the show's cancellation.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Episodes
- 4 Production
- 5 Reception
- 6 Home media
- 7 Related media
- 8 Alleged plagiarism
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In 2009, a genetically enhanced, 9-year-old female super-soldier designated as X5-452 (Jessica Alba) escapes along with eleven others like herself from a secret government institution, codenamed Manticore, where they were born, raised and trained to be soldiers and assassins. On June 1, 2009, months after Max's escape, terrorists detonate an electromagnetic pulse weapon in the atmosphere over the U.S., which destroys the vast majority of computer and communication systems, throwing the country into chaos.
Ten years later in 2019, the now 19-year-old X5-452, who calls herself Max Guevara, struggles to search for her Manticore brothers and sisters. In a recovering United States which is now barely more than a Third World nation, she tries to live a relatively normal life and evade capture. She becomes involved with Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), an underground cyber-journalist with the alias Eyes Only, who recruits her to help fight corruption in the post-Pulse world, while at the same time she makes a living as a bicycle messenger at a courier company named Jam Pony along with her friends Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller), Herbal Thought (Alimi Ballard), and Sketchy (Richard Gunn). Other X-5s are periodically introduced, most significantly Zack (William Gregory Lee), the unit leader. The Manticore hunt for the escaped X-5s is led by Colonel Donald Lydecker (John Savage), who is ousted at the end of the season by the even more ruthless Elizabeth Renfro (Nana Visitor).
In the second season Max and Logan destroy the Manticore headquarters and free all the various transgenics within including Alec (Jensen Ackles), a fellow X-5 who joins Jam Pony, and Joshua (Kevin Durand), a transgenic with canine DNA. Max later learns that Joshua was the first transgenic created by Manticore's founder Sandeman. It is revealed a millennia-old breeding cult, similar in structure to the Illuminati, has produced humans even more formidable than the Manticore-produced transgenics. Ames White (Martin Cummins), a government agent tasked with eliminating the freed transgenics, is revealed to be a member of the cult. When a strange message written in Max's genetic code makes an appearance on her skin, it is revealed that Sandeman is a renegade from the breeding cult and Ames White is his son, who is still loyal to the cult and hates his father's transgenic creations with a passion. Believing that Max is a threat to their plans, the breeding cult attempt to kill her, though she escapes to Terminal City, an abandoned part of Seattle where hundreds of outcast transgenics have been hiding. When the police begin to surround Terminal City, Max convinces the other transgenics to stand their ground rather than run. The series ends with the military surrounding and possibly preparing to invade Terminal City, as the residents raise their newly designed flag from one of their buildings.
In the DVD commentary for the series finale episode "Freak Nation", executive producer and co-creator Charles H. Eglee detailed what was planned for season 3. It was to bring together the storylines of season 1 (Manticore) and season 2 (ancient blood cult) and reveal the mythology of Dark Angel.
Many thousands of years ago, Earth passed through a comet's tail which deposited viral material that killed 97% of the human race. Some people survived that had a genetic predisposition, some kind of antibody or immunity. The great pyramids in Egypt were actually genetic repositories, preserving the DNA of the survivors, built by an ancient blood cult that passed on this genetic immunity to selected members to keep this antibody against the return of the comet. Everybody else would perish, and the members of the cult would inherit the earth and rebuild civilization. Sandeman, Max's creator, jumped from the cult to give this genetic immunity to the rest of humanity, believing that everybody deserved the cure. The other cult members deemed Sandeman a heretic and a threat, undermining their goals of rebuilding humanity in their own image. Max was going to be the savior of the human race. Sandeman finally found out how to give this genetic immunity to everyone through Max. There were multiple ideas of how to spread Max's immunity to humanity, including an air burst that would disperse the antibody through the atmosphere, or attaching the immunity to a common cold virus (Eglee detailed how a scene would show Original Cindy sneezing as part of the beginning of the immunity spread).
Cast and characters
- Jessica Alba as Max Guevara (X5-452) – Genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier, Jam Pony courier
- Michael Weatherly as Logan Cale ("Eyes Only") – Cyber-journalist
- Valarie Rae Miller as Cynthia "Original Cindy" McEachin – Jam Pony courier, best friend (and later roommate) to Max
- Richard Gunn as Calvin "Sketchy" Theodore – Jam Pony courier
- J. C. MacKenzie as Reagan "Normal" Ronald – Head of Jam Pony
- Alimi Ballard as Herbal Thought (season 1) – Jam Pony courier
- Jennifer Blanc as Kendra Maibaum (season 1) – Max's first roommate
- John Savage as Col. Donald Lydecker (main, season 1; recurring, season 2) – Head of Manticore
- Jensen Ackles as Alec McDowell (X5-494) (season 2) – Genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier, Jam Pony courier
- Martin Cummins as Ames White (season 2) – Government agent, conclave member
- Kevin Durand as Joshua (season 2) – Human-canine experimental creature
- Ashley Scott as Asha Barlow (season 2) – Member of the S.1.W. resistance movement, friend to Logan
- Peter Bryant as Bling (season 1; 14 episodes)
- Geneva Locke as Young Max (seasons 1–2; 11 episodes)
- Fulvio Cecere as Sandoval (seasons 1–2; 9 episodes)
- Craig Veroni as Otto (season 2; 9 episodes)
- William Gregory Lee as Zack (X5-599) (seasons 1–2; 8 episodes)
- Byron Mann as Det. Matt Sung (seasons 1–2; 8 episodes)
- Brian Markinson as Dr. Sam Carr (seasons 1–2; 6 episodes)
- Nana Visitor as Madame X/Dr. Elizabeth Renfro (seasons 1–2; 6 episodes)
- Jade C. Bell as Sebastian (season 1; 5 episodes)
- Gabrielle Rose as Moorehead (season 2; 5 episodes)
- Fred Ewanuick as Luke (season 2; 5 episodes)
- Rekha Sharma as Dr. Beverly Shankar (seasons 1–2; 5 episodes)
- Robert Gossett as James McGinnis (seasons 1–2; 4 episodes)
- Stephen Lee as Dan Vogelsang (season 1; 4 episodes)
Following his success with the film Titanic, director James Cameron had planned to make a film of the comic book character Spider-Man. Unable to do so, Cameron teamed up with Eglee, whom he had previously worked with on projects including Piranha II: The Spawning. The two formed a production company and began working on ideas for a television series, considering several options including a family drama before deciding on the idea of Dark Angel. Cameron said they began with the idea that Max would be genetic construct who "looked normal on the outside but was different on the cellular, genetic level. We explore what that could mean." Max followed a long line of strong female characters showcased by Cameron, including Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, with Cameron saying "it's a win/win situation" as "women respond to characters who appear strong and capable" and young male audiences "want to see girls kick ass". Later they decided to set the series in a post-social collapse world, saying that the hysteria surrounding Y2K served as inspiration for the 'Pulse', which destroyed all computers in the United States. Working titles for the series included "Experimental Girl" and "Maximum Girl". While the project marked Cameron's debut into television, he would be working on the project as a writer and executive producer, rather than directing.
More than 1000 young actresses were considered for the part of Max, and Cameron started reviewing audition tapes when it had been narrowed down to 20 or 30 applicants. Alba was hired for the role before the script was written. Eglee said "We had the benefit of being able to write a script kind of backwards, we were writing for this actress, with her cadences and her rhythms and her sensibilities and her attitude and her slang." In order to train for the role, Alba spent a year doing martial arts, gymnastics, and motorcycle riding.
The premiere 2 hour episode cost up to $10 million to produce, and Cameron reportedly "brought the pilot in on time and on budget". Subsequent episodes had a considerably lower budget. Fox spent heavily on the promotional campaign for the premiere, paying for theatrical trailers, billboards and guerilla marketing. Regarding the series chance of success, Cameron said "If it flies, it flies. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't look at trends. There could be 20 other science-fiction shows out there and it wouldn't matter. This is what we chose as the story that interested us the most to tell, so i'm going to do my job as a storyteller. If people connect with it, which I hope they will, fine. If we don't find an audience, we deserve to be off the air. It's that simple."
While Dark Angel was set in Seattle, filming took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, at Lions Gate Studios. Other filming locations included the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as Buntzen Lake and Riverview Hospital, also in British Columbia.
The first season of the show premiered in the United States on Tuesday, October 3, 2000, from 9:00 pm until 11:00 pm. Fox had to obtain agreements from its affiliates to broadcast past 10:00 pm, as most of them air local new programs at this time. The first episode was the second most watched new show of the week (behind CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) albeit in a week with less new shows due to presidential debate coverage. Fox chose to debut Dark Angel instead of airing the first presidential debate, a move which TV analyst Marc Berman praised, saying "The people who watch the debates aren’t the people who’ll tune into Dark Angel anyway", though he predicted that the high ratings of the premiere would not hold up as the show competed against more various competition in subsequent weeks. It was the tenth most popular show overall that week, attracting 17.4 million viewers.
Charles H. Eglee admitted the series had been "routinely overbudget" for the first season, and that may be a factor in whether the show was renewed for a second season, though James Cameron downplayed the concerns. Fox "just barely" renewed the series for a second season though moved the airing time from Tuesdays at 9pm where it had been competing with Angel on The WB, to preceding the Fox's new series Pasadena at 8:00 pm on Fridays. Cameron said he did not know if they time change would have a positive or negative effect on the shows ratings, though R.D. Heldenfels from the Sun Journal noted the history of the Friday night death slot, especially the low viewing rates among 18 to 24 year olds of which Dark Angel had a majority. The new time slot saw a ratings drop; for the 2001–02 season Dark Angel averaged 6 million viewers, ranking at No. 114 in Nielsen ratings. The cost of episodes in season two was $1.3 million each. The final episode of the series aired on May 3, 2002 as a special 90-minute episode (which also marked James Cameron's dramatic TV directing debut). After the planned director for the episode fell through, Cameron decided to step up and fill the position partially for the experience but also to show the network the potential for the third season. The producers were initially told a third season had been approved.
They called us on Saturday and told us we were on schedule and we'd been picked up. We got together Saturday night and celebrated. Sunday goes by, and Monday morning we get a call saying, 'No, you're not on the schedule! It's been changed. I've never heard of that happening. But then, I'd never been around television. ... We were supposed to be on a plane on Monday to go to the [network] upfront in New York on Tuesday. They called us that day and told us not to go! I was pissed!—James Cameron
The score for the Dark Angel pilot was composed and conducted by Joel McNeely. The score track "Bicycle Ride" was used in the end credits for the duration of the series. The pilot score was released in full as part of the original publicity press kit, titled Dark Angel: Complete Score from the Dark Angel Pilot. The 37-track CD was for promotional use only and not for resale.
A soundtrack album consisting of hip hop and R&B songs was released on April 23, 2002 through Artemis Records. It peaked at No. 50 on the Top Independent Albums. Jason Birchmeier from AllMusic gave the soundtrack three out of five stars, calling it "impressive" and adding that it "exceeds your expectations for a television show soundtrack".
|1.||"Dark Angel Theme"||MC Lyte & Chuck D||3:07|
|2.||"My Neck, My Back"||Khia||3:42|
|3.||"Trouble Again"||Tricky & John Forté||4:26|
|4.||"No Dealz"||MC Lyte||4:12|
|5.||"Bring It to Me"||Samantha Cole||3:14|
|6.||"Moving With U"||Q-Tip||3:23|
|7.||"Candy"||Foxy Brown & Kelis||3:43|
|8.||"Bad News"||Damizza, Shade Sheist & Nune||3:55|
|10.||"Somethin' About This Music"||Abstract Rude & Tribe Unique||3:53|
|11.||"Things I've Seen"||The Spooks||4:35|
|12.||"The One"||Niki Haris||4:12|
|13.||"Bring It to Me"||Samantha Cole||3:15|
Initial reaction to the series and the character of Max was mostly positive, with favourable reviews in Rolling Stone, Time and the Orlando Sentinel. Howard Rosenberg said "If pouty faces and sexy walks could destroy, the highly arresting Max would be wiping out the entire planet. However Joyce Millman said Max was "little more than lips and ass" and that the series was "the most expesnsive Britney Spears video ever made.
Commenting at the release of the second season, Cynthia Fuchs from PopMatters said the first season of Dark Angel was one of the "few straight-up successes, a ratings hit among the coveted 'youth' demographic". She praised the series yet clarified "I’m not getting carried away: Jim Cameron is not going to be making revolutionary art anytime soon." Elka Karl from Common Sense Media gave the entire series 3 out of 5 stars, saying "While the dialogue sometimes falls flat, overall the show is well-scripted and well acted, and Alba does an excellent job of carrying the series. Dark Angel isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is compelling television that teen sci-fi fans will enjoy."
Writing in his book The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television, John Kenneth Muir said it was necessary for James Cameron to set Dark Angel in the future because the prosperity of the U.S. in the year 2000 "offered little possibility for crime, squalor and other societal problems." While criticizing certain plot elements in the second season as contirbuting to the show's downfall, Muir said a larger factor in the ratings drop was the change of life in the U.S. since the first season; the September 11 attacks, the Enron scandal, the government losing their financial surplus, and the Bush Administration ushering in "the worst economic period since the Hoover Administration", changed Dark Angel's futuristic vision of recession from an interesting far-fetched premise to a gloomy reminder that things were likely to get worse.
For its first season Dark Angel won the "Favorite Television New Dramatic Series" award at the 27th People's Choice Awards, and was nominated for "Best Television" at the International Horror Guild Awards. The production team was nominated for the "Excellence in Production Design Award" at the Art Directors Guild. Editor Stephen Mark won "Best Edited Motion Picture for Commercial Television" at the Eddie Awards for the pilot episode, and the pilot was also nominated for Outstanding Special Visual Effects at the 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards and "Best Visual Effects: Dramatic Series" at the Leo Awards.
Jessica Alba won "Best Actress on Television" at the 27th Saturn Awards, "Breakout Star of the Year" at the TV Guide Awards, "Outstanding Actress in a New Television Series" at the ALMA Awards and "Choice Actress" at the 2001 Teen Choice Awards. She was nominated for Best Actress – Television Series Drama at the 58th Golden Globe Awards and "Best Performance in a TV Drama Series – Leading Young Actress" at the 22nd Young Artist Awards.
Dark Angel was nominated for fewer awards in its second season. It was nominated for "Choice Drama/Action Adventure" at the 2002 Teen Choice Awards, where Alba was also nominated for "Choice Actress, Drama". Alba was also nominated for "Outstanding Actress in a Television Series" at the ALMA Awards. At the Leo Awards the episode "Boo" was nominated for "Best Visual Effects: Dramatic Series", and David Geddes won "Best Cinematography: Dramatic Series" for the episode "Two".
|2000||27th Saturn Awards||Best Actress on Television||Jessica Alba||Won|
|58th Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress – Television Series Drama||Nominated|
|2001||22nd Young Artist Awards||Best Performance in a TV Drama Series – Leading Young Actress||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|27th People's Choice Awards||Favorite Television New Dramatic Series||Dark Angel||Won|
|53rd Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series (for Pilot episode)||Special effects team||Nominated|
|2001 Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Rising Star||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|2001 Teen Choice Awards||TV – Choice Actress||Jessica Alba||Won|
|TV – Choice Actor||Michael Weatherly||Nominated|
|TV – Choice Drama||Dark Angel||Nominated|
|ALMA Award||Outstanding Actress in a New Television Series||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|Art Directors Guild||Excellence in Production Design Award||Production team||Nominated|
|Eddie Award||Best Edited Motion Picture for Commercial Television (for Pilot episode)||Stephen Mark||Won|
|Golden Reel Award||Best Sound Editing – Television Movies and Specials – Dialogue & ADR||Sound team||Nominated|
|International Horror Guild Award||Best Television||Dark Angel||Nominated|
|Leo Awards||Best Visual Effects: Dramatic Series (for Pilot episode)||Visual effects team||Nominated|
|TV Guide Award||Breakout Star of the Year||Jessica Alba||Won|
|Actress of the Year in a New Series||Nominated|
|2002||28th Saturn Awards||Best Network Television Series||Dark Angel||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Television Series||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series||Michael Weatherly||Nominated|
|2002 Teen Choice Awards||TV – Choice Drama/Action Adventure||Dark Angel||Nominated|
|TV – Choice Actress, Drama||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|2002 Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Female Butt Kicker||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|ALMA Award||Outstanding Actress in a Television Series||Jessica Alba||Nominated|
|Leo Awards||Best Visual Effects: Dramatic Series (for episode "Boo")||Visual Effects Team||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography: Dramatic Series (for episode "Two")||David Geddes||Won|
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released Seasons 1 and 2 of Dark Angel on DVD in Region 1 (R1), as well as a dual coded Region 2 and 4 (R2/4) set in 2003, as six-disc sets packaged in cardboard sleeves containing three DVD cases each of two discs. Season 1 was released in R2/4 in February and R1 in May, and Season 2 was released in R2/4 in June and R1 in October.
The R1 releases contain several special features, including four episodes with optional commentary in each season, bloopers, deleted scenes and featurettes. The R2/4 releases contain no commentaries and fewer other special features, but the episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen, while R1 releases are fullscreen. Adam Tyner from DVD Talk gave the R1 first season three out of five stars for audio and video, and three and a half stars for special features, praising some featureless though criticizing others. Shannon Nutt from DVD Talk gave the R1 second season three stars out of five for audio and video, and two and a half stars for extras, stating "it appears [to have] a decent number of features, but then you discover the length of each one and really feel short-changed by FOX", also noting the commentary in episodes was mainly with writers and producers, and did not feature James Cameron or any of the actors.
Both seasons were re-released in R1 on June 5, 2007, with slim packaging consisting of one plastic case containing all six discs (which were unchanged in content and cosmetics).
A video game of the same name based on the series was created by Radical Entertainment and released on Playstation 2 on November 18 2002, and later on Xbox. Alba and Weatherly voiced their respective characters in the game. Development of the game started before the series was cancelled, and the game was met with mixed to negative reception upon release. Brett Todd from GameSpot gave the game 3.8 out of 10, saying "Although it's impossible to say whether or not the developers' morale was affected by the cancellation of the series, this third-person action adventure plays like it was cranked out to fulfill a contract" and concluding "the development of this game probably should have been cancelled at the same time as the television series".
- Dark Angel: Before the Dawn (2002) is a prequel to the television series, taking a detailed look at Max's past between 2009 and 2019. It introduced another '09 escapee, Seth. After Max and her siblings had escaped, Seth slipped out in the confusion and eventually ended up in Seattle, where he worked for Logan as a personal agent.
- Dark Angel: Skin Game (2003) immediately follows the events of "Freak Nation," the final episode of Season 2, describing the days in May 2021. Skin Game focuses on a killer terrorising the streets of Seattle and the growing suspicion and evidence that the killer could possibly be a transgenic. As the killings escalate, the US Army and National Guard prepare themselves for an invasion of Terminal City.
- Dark Angel: After the Dark (2003) follows Skin Game, describing the days in December 2021. Relationships are torn apart after Logan reveals a shattering truth about his past to Max, but when Logan is kidnapped, questions are set aside as Max's investigation into the capture leads to an old enemy, The Breeding Cult members of the Conclave. With the aid of a team of Transgenics, Max vows to find those responsible for the kidnapping, unaware that the Conclave are not only anticipating her arrival, but the arrival of The Coming. After the Dark answers many questions raised in the second season; The curing of Max's virus, the Conclave's agenda, the return of Lydecker and C.J. Sandeman, and Max and Logan finally getting together.
- Dark Angel: The Eyes Only Dossier (2003) collects documents pertaining to four ongoing Eyes Only investigations, tangentially related to Manticore and the Dark Angel universe.
After the show's release the Argentine artists Carlos Trillo and Carlos Meglia, creators of the Argentinian comic book series Cybersix, filed a lawsuit against Cameron and Fox for plagiarism. Cybersix was created by Trillo (writer) and Meglia (penciler) in the early 90's for the European market, and appeared in Spanish in November 1993; an animated TV series based on the comic strip was released in 1999. Trillo and Meglia accused Dark Angel of stealing most of the plot from the comic and its most recognizable elements. In a 2007 interview Trillo stated that he and Meglia were not able to carry on with the lawsuit due to lack of financial resources, so they dropped it, although the issue is still a matter of controversy:
|“||Meglia and I were sure we had been plagiarized. Cybersix readers who watched Cameron's TV series were sure as well. We tried to move forward with a lawsuit against Cameron and Fox. It wasn't possible for us to continue because the comic book world does not give you the financial possibility [in Argentina] of confronting a showbusiness multinational company. We couldn't afford lawyers in LA to carry on with the attempt to claim our original story.||”|
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