Dark Angel (TV series)
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||43 (list of episodes)|
|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., received mainly positive reviews and won several awards. Alba's portrayal of Max also received mostly positive reviews. For the second season the show was moved to Friday nights, received some criticism for new plot elements and suffered from 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.
In 2009, a genetically enhanced, nine-year-old female supersoldier 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). Near the end of the season, Lydecker is betrayed by his superior, the even more ruthless Elizabeth Renfro (Nana Visitor), and subsequently defects from Manticore. He aids Max and Zack in an assault on the Manticore headquarters, though Max is badly wounded and captured. Zack, who has also been captured, commits suicide in order to provide Max with his heart, as she needs a heart transplant to survive.
Logan exposes Manticore to the world, and Renfro decides to torch the facility in an attempt to cover up the evidence, though she is killed in the process. Aided by Joshua (Kevin Durand), a transgenic with canine DNA, Max escapes the facility and frees all the other transgenics including Alec (Jensen Ackles), a fellow X-5 who later joins Jam Pony. When Max is reunited with Logan he immediately becomes ill and almost dies. It is revealed that Manticore implanted Max with a virus specifically designed to kill Logan, and the two must avoid all physical contact in order to keep him alive. Max 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 bred their own supersoldiers that rival 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.
Planned for season three
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 three. It was to bring together the storylines of season one (Manticore) and two (breeding cult) and reveal the mythology of Dark Angel.
The show's mythology was planned to be that thousands of years ago Earth passed through a comet's tail which deposited viral material that killed 97% of the human race. The great pyramids in Egypt were actually genetic repositories, preserving the DNA of the survivors, built by the breeding cult to pass on this genetic immunity so that when the comet returned only members of the cult would survive. Sandeman, a cult member and Max's creator, betrayed the cult and decided 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. Sandeman found a way to spread this genetic immunity to everyone through Max, who would be the savior of the human race. 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). This intended storyline is expanded on in the final Dark Angel novel "After the Dark", though when the comet returns nobody falls ill, and it is believed that the cult simply had a false prediction.
Cast and characters
The first season introduced Jessica Alba as the main character Max Guevara (X5-452), a genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier who escaped from the government facility Manticore and now works as a bike messenger for courier company Jam Pony and as a cat burglar. Michael Weatherly played Logan Cale ("Eyes Only"), the second most prominent character. Cale is a wealthy cyber-journalist and vigilante who recruits Max to aid his campaign against corruption and crime in return for helping her find information on her fellow Manticore escapees. Main roles were given to several of the staff at Jam Pony, including J. C. MacKenzie as Reagan "Normal" Ronald, the company's boss, and couriers Valarie Rae Miller as Cynthia "Original Cindy" McEachin, Richard Gunn as Calvin "Sketchy" Theodore and Alimi Ballard as Herbal Thought. Jennifer Blanc plays Kendra Maibaum, Max's first roommate, and John Savage plays the main antagonist, Col. Donald Lydecker, who is trying to recapture Max and the other Manticore escapees.
Col. Donald Lydecker's character is written out of the series early in the second season, and Herbal Thought and Kendra Maibuam do not appear at all. Season two introduces the main characters Jensen Ackles as Alec McDowell (X5-494), an X5 who has escaped from the recently destroyed Manticore facility, as well as Kevin Durand as Joshua, the first transgenic experimental creature from Manticore who has distinct canine facial features. Ashley Scott plays Asha Barlow, a member of the S.1.W. insurgent group and friend to Logan. Martin Cummins portrays the season's main antagonist Ames White, an NSA agent and cult member tasked with destroying the Manticore escapees.
Following his success with the film Titanic, director James 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' in the series which has 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.
Casting and filming
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 two 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.
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. The cost of episodes in season two was $1.3 million each. After the planned director for the final 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. It was his dramatic TV directing debut. The producers were initially told a third season had been approved, but two days later, Fox informed them that the series had actually been cancelled.
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
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 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. For the second season Fox moved the airing time from Tuesdays at 9:00 pm where it had been competing with Angel on The WB, to preceding the new series Pasadena at 8:00 pm on Fridays.
The final episode of the series aired on May 3, 2002 as a special 90-minute episode. Dark Angel has been syndicated on the Syfy and the El Rey Network in the United States and on E4, and the Horror Channel in the UK.
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 favorable 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 expensive Britney Spears video ever made." People gave a negative review of the Pilot episode in October 2000, though in December they listed Alba's portrayal of Max as among the "breakthrough" performances of 2000.
The first episode was the second most watched new show of the week (behind CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) albeit in a week with fewer 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. Cameron said he did not know if the airing time change for the second season would have a positive or negative effect on the shows ratings, though R.D. Heldenfels from the Sun Journal noted the poor ratings of Friday night television, 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.
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." Michael Sauter from Entertainment Weekly gave the first season a B+ and spoke highly of Alba, saying that "for a while [she was] TV’s hottest kick-butt heroine." 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." While praising the first season, Randy Dankievitch from TVOvermind labelled the second season as "silly", criticizing "dumb stories" like Max's dream episode "Boo", the virus that prevents Logan and Max having physical contact, and the various half-animal Manticore experiments that are revealed.
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 contributing to the show's downfall, Muir said a larger factor in the ratings drop was the change of life in the U.S. following events including the September 11 attacks, the Enron scandal, as well as the government losing their financial surplus, which changed Dark Angel's "futuristic vision of recession in a Third-World America" from an interesting far-fetched premise to a "depressing reminder that things could still 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 Teen Choice Awards||TV – Choice Actress||Jessica Alba||Won|
|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|
|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|
|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, detailing Max's life since her escape from Manticore in 2009. After witnessing footage taken in Seattle of a man she believes to be one of her X5 siblings, Max moves from Los Angeles to Seattle, meeting Original Cindy and Kendra on the way before finding employment at Jam Pony. Max eventually discovers the man in the footage is her bother Seth, who unbeknown to her has been working for Logan as a personal agent. Shortly after being reunited with him at the Space Needle, Seth, who has been injured, commits suicide by falling form the building to avoid being captured by Lydecker. Max subsequently begins returning to the Space Needle to think and "to be with Seth."
- Dark Angel: Skin Game (2003) immediately follows the events of "Freak Nation," the final episode of season two, describing the days in May 2021. Skin Game focuses on a killer terrorizing the streets of Seattle and the growing suspicion and evidence that the killer could be a transgenic. As the killings escalate, the U.S. Army and National Guard prepare themselves for an invasion of Terminal City. Max uncovers that the killer is a shapeshifting transgenic named Kelpy, though he has been unwillingly given a drug by Ames White that is causing his psychosis. When Max reveals this information to the public through Eyes Only, Ames White goes into hiding, and the invasion of Terminal City is called off. When Kelpy takes on Logan's form he is killed by the virus Max carries which was designed to kill Logan.
- Dark Angel: After the Dark (2003) follows Skin Game. It is revealed that Max's virus is gone, the most likely explanation being that when the virus killed Kelpy it went dormant as it believed its mission to kill Logan was accomplished. The relationship between Logan and Max, however, is thrown into turmoil when he reveals his secret that he inadvertently caused Seth's death by sending him on an assignment. Just as Max is ready to forgive him, Logan is kidnapped by Ames White and the breeding cult, who are preparing for the coming of a comet they believe will destroy everyone except cult-members and transgenics through depositing viral material into Earth's atmosphere. They are trying to kill Max as they believe she possesses a genetic code that will save ordinary humans from the comet's viral material. With the aid of a team of transgenics, Max eventually rescues Logan, destroys the headquarters of the breeding cult, and Joshua kills Ames White. When the comet arrives nobody falls ill, and it is believed the cult's prediction was false. Max finds Lydecker in a prison cell at the cult's headquarters. He promises to help her find her mother if she saves him, and she agrees. The book ends with Logan and Max finally consummating their relationship.
A companion book, Dark Angel: The Eyes Only Dossier, was also published in 2003. It is attributed to Logan Cale and as being compiled by D. A. Stern. The book begins with a letter written by Logan during the stand-off at Terminal City. It is addressed to Detective Matt Sung, a recurring character from the series who aides Logan, instructing him that the package he is sending him contains documents pertaining to the four most critical Eyes Only investigations. In the event that Logan is killed by the potential invasion of Terminal City, he wants Sung to carry on the investigations. The rest of the book contains said documents relating to the four investigations.
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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- Dark Angel at the Internet Movie Database
- Dark Angel at TV.com
- Official website at Internet Archive
- To the Max: Embodying Intersections in Dark Angel