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Dark Angel

Entry updated 14 June 2021. Tagged: TV.

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US tv series (2000-2002). 20th Century Fox Television and Cameron/Eglee Productions for Fox. Created by James Cameron and Charles H Eglee. Produced by Cameron, Eglee, and René Echevarria. Writers include Cameron, Eglee, Echvarria, Jose Molina, Moira Kirland, David Zabel, and Michael Angeli. Directors include Cameron, David Nutter, Jeff Woolnough, and Thomas J Wright. Cast includes Jessica Alba as Max Guevara, Michael Weatherly as Logan Cale, John Savage as Donald Lydecker, Valerie Rae Miller as Cynthia "Original Cindy" McEachin, J C MacKenzie as Reagan "Normal" Ronald, Richard Gunn as Calvin "Sketchy" Theodore, Alimi Ballard as Herbal Thought, Martin Cummings as Ames White, Kevin Durand as Joshua, and Jensen Ackles as Alec. Two-hour pilot followed by 41 one-hour episodes.

There was much excitement in genre circles when James Cameron announced that he would follow up the stratospheric success of Titanic (1997) with a science fiction television series, but Cameron's artistic involvement in Dark Angel proved minimal, and the series, either because of this or for unrelated reasons, proved something of a damp squib, producing two indifferent seasons without ever settling on a coherent vision of itself or of the story it wanted to tell.

Set in the Near Future after the collapse of the US economy and the federal government, the series centres on Max, the product of an experiment aiming to create genetically engineered super-soldiers (see Genetic Engineering; Superheroes) who ten years ago escaped, along with several other of the experiment's subjects, from the facility where she was born and trained. In the present, she tries to blend in with normal humanity by working as a bike courier, but makes a side living applying her training and enhanced physical abilities as a cat burglar. It is in this capacity that she makes the acquaintance of Logan Cale, a scion of one of America's last remaining wealthy families who moonlights as the mysterious Eyes Only, whose pirate television broadcasts expose government and corporate corruption. He recruits Max to his cause by promising to help her track down her fellow escapees and evade the attentions of Donald Lydecker, her former trainer who is eager to regain his charges, whom he thinks of, with a twisted sort of affection, as his children. The second season retools the show's story considerably. Lydecker is killed and replaced with less charismatic Villains, an ancient secret society who become convinced that Max plays a part in their prophecies, while an attack on the facility where Max was created unleashes a horde of potential super-soldiers, many of whom are animal-human hybrids, on society.

Despite these rich seams of backstory, Dark Angel was largely an episodic series, telling, in its first season, stories about various forms of government corruption, and in its second bringing Max into contact with different varieties of her fellow Mutants each week, and relying mainly on the will-they-or-won't-they tension between Max and Logan to create a sense of the series as a single, coherent story. The performances are winning (Alba was nominated for a Golden Globe for hers in 2000), and the chemistry between Alba and Weatherly is undeniable (the two were even briefly engaged in real life), but the writing is never more than serviceable, relying on the show's well-choreographed fight and action scenes (of which there were usually a few per episode) to mask its inadequacies. The second season finale attempts to combat the series' by-then floundering ratings by promising yet another retooling of its story, as Max and the other mutants stake out an enclave in the middle of the City, surrounded by uncomprehending yet hostile civil authorities, but this was not enough to stave off cancellation.

The themes of unwanted powers and human/transgenic tension are particularly reminiscent of Marvel Comics stories, notably the X-Men. Four spin-off books have been published; Dark Angel: Before the Dawn (2002), Dark Angel: Skin Game (2003) and Dark Angel: After the Dark (2003) by Max Allan Collins, and Dark Angel: The Eyes Only Dossier (2003) by D A Stern. The books attempt to wrap up the loose ends left from the series' cancellation; two of them resolve its cliffhanger ending. [AN/JN]

see also: Egan.


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