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'Dark Angel'

A review of James Cameron's foray into sci-fi TV.

By Edward GermanPublished 5 years ago 6 min read

During the turn of the millennium, I enjoyed a brand new sci-fi series on the Fox TV Network created by James Cameron. It was his first foray into sci-fi TV after his successes in making blockbuster movies. The series was also co-produced by Charles H. Eglee and was the only TV show they produced together. The series is a dystopian cyberpunk science fiction show set in Seattle, WA, nearly twenty years in what was then the future. The plot centers around a young woman named Max who works as a bike messenger while trying to survive the chaotic world the US has become after a terrorist attack rendered American society into the status of a Third World country. The show premiered on Fox TV on October 3, 2000, and ended on May 3, 2002. The series consisted of 43 episodes which included a pilot episode. The show was shot entirely at Lionsgate Studios in Vancouver BC, Canada.

The future that didn't happen.

A dystopian cityscape: Deviant art

The future which was set in 2019 was very bleak and dystopian. The US economy was in shambles, there was a wide gap between rich and poor, and the county seemed to be under a military rule. Ten years prior, in 2009, a domestic terrorist group set off an EMP bomb in the upper atmosphere over the US and devastated America's informational network. The result of which caused the county to go onto economic collapse more severe than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Over the ensuing decade, American society just gets worse. There are security checkpoints throughout most US cities, which are divided into different zones. In certain zones, poverty is so severe that the cityscape looks like it is in a constant state of disrepair. While on the other side of the zones, those who have wealth live in luxury.

Jessica Alba plays Max Guevara.

Who is Max?

Max is the protagonist of the series; she may appear to be a normal-looking person, but inside her lies a secret. Max is more than human: she is a transgenic individual. Max, who was designated as X5-452 in a covert laboratory, was genetically engineered to become a super-soldier. She was born and raised at the facility until she escaped with her fellow siblings when she was nine years old. The modifications to her DNA endowed her with superhuman powers such as greater strength, agility, hearing, eyesight, and speed. She would need all of these abilities to both survive the streets and evade agents who want to bring her and her siblings back to the secret lab.

Max adopted the last name of Guevara in order to gain employment and move about in society. She got a job as a bike messenger for a service called Jam Pony and lives with a roommate in an apartment. Max is played by Jessica Alba and this role helped launch her career.

Max's friends.

Max's friends.

Max has a small group of friends who are very loyal and supportive. They are her co-workers, and one is an underground journalist. Max's best friend is her co-worker Original Cindy, played by actress Valerie Ray Miller. She works for the bike messenger service Jam Pony as a dispatcher. Herbal Thought is a male bike messenger who often works with Max and is played by actor Alimi Ballard.

One of her most important friends is the underground internet reporter Eyes Only, who is actually Logan Cale, played by Michael Weatherly. Logan works covertly as a cyber journalist who is very suspicious of the current government and how the country has been corrupted since the "Pulse Attack." As Eyes Only, Logan hacks into TV and Radio broadcasts using the Dark Web to convey his mistrust of the status quo. While hacking into the system, Logan alters his voice and image to remain undetectable.

A depiction of a Manticore. Bing search.

What is Manticore?

Manticore is the corporation that runs the secret government laboratory where Max was born, trained, and escaped from. The lab was created for the purpose of producing super soldiers for the military by using genetic manipulation. The subjects are housed in sparse conditions and are treated in a brutal manner by their handlers. All subjects are given a letter/number designation and have a bar code tattooed to their body.

Manticore is named after a mythical creature of Persian origin. The creature has the head of a human, the body of a lion, and a tail of spikes. The name was chosen in reference to the experiments done in the lab.

Max's main adversary is Col. David Lydecker, who is an agent for Manticore. He relentlessly purses Max and comes close on many occasions and does succeed at one point in capturing her, but Max was able to escape later on. Lydecker is a former special-ops soldier with a troubled past. Col. Lydecker is played by veteran character actor John Savage.

depiction of a EMP on the US.

Could the Pulse really happen?

As interesting as this plot device was, I have doubts that an EMP could devastate the US economy as portrayed in the series. In the opening narration spoken my Max, she explains how terrorists exploded an EMP bomb in the upper atmosphere of the North American continent. The result was an event known as the "Pulse" during which all of the financial wealth of the entire United States was wiped out in a single moment. This action caused the collapse of the US economy and put the country into the status of a developing country. Since the financial infrastructural was dependent on computers and the internet, the US economy was susceptible to this kind of attack due to the nature of the EMP which destroyed all data. Apparently, there was no type of emergency plan to back up any data nor to restore the economy.

I have always had trouble believing this plot device in the series. One of the first thoughts that came to mind was; where were the backup copies or the paperwork? It would seem to me that an individual investor would have a paper copy of bank statements, a quarterly stock report, or any documentation to show proof of assets.

In the series, it was a domestic terrorist that used the bomb. Nowadays, it seems more likely that a foreign power would use it against the US. There were some recent Congressional hearings on the subject. The effects of an EMP bomb have been hyped by both Hollywood and politicians.

What I liked about the show.

I loved watching this show back in the day. It was different and stylish for its time. I thought the vision of the future was very interesting even though I had some doubts about how the country got into the state of affairs as I had mentioned earlier. There was plenty of mystery, action, and adventure as well some human interest stories. Max always had a soft spot to help anyone in trouble; one episode had her rescuing young girls from human trafficking. She always protected her friends no matter how dangerous the situation was for her. Max would always stay one step ahead of Lydecker to avoid capture and that made the series even more tense with plenty of close calls.

The series only lasted for two seasons and started out strong in the ratings. However, toward the latter half of the season, the show began to lose viewership. I felt that since we are now living a post-Sept. 11 world that the future premise was not in step with reality. Now it was a foreign terrorist that was a threat and not domestic ones, but at the time the show was created domestic terrorism was the bigger concern.

It is interesting that we are now living in the timeline in the series. However, the US is not a developing country, not under military rule, nor has it suffered an EMP attack. The future has brought changes both good and bad but nothing as bleak in Dark Angel.

Intro to PC game based on the series. The opening sequence is based on the one for the TV series. The PC game series premiered after the TV show concluded its run on network TV.

Where to find the series.

The series can be watched on YouTube and DVDs can be ordered on Amazon.com.

scifi tv

About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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