Science Channel Looks Back at Some Dark Matters

Geek Culture

Dark Matters: IvanoffDark Matters: Ivanoff

Robert Goodman as Ilya Ivanoff. Image: Science Channel

There’s always been room in my house for a little Weird to go along with the Science.

Okay: maybe more than a little.

When I was a kid, I loved In Search of…

And when my daughter was younger, she was hooked on Discovery Kids’ Truth or Scare.

Dark Matters: John NobleDark Matters: John Noble

Dark Matters host John Noble. Image: Science Channel

Science Channel’s six-part series Dark Matters: Twisted But True seems to be aiming for a similar mixture of fact, conjecture, and oh-so-dramatic re-enactments and interpretations. And host John Noble – Fringe mad scientist extraordinaire Walter Bishop – follows perfectly in the formulaic geek-association footsteps of In Search of narrator Leonard Nimoy and Michelle Trachtenberg from Truth or Scare.

The show’s promotional material describes it as a series of explorations “to profile strange science and expose some of history’s most bizarre experiments.” The pilot episode features segments on the USS Eldridge and the alleged Philadelphia Experiment, scientest Ilya Ivanoff and his obsession with human/ape crossbreeding, and Thomas Edison’s grisly quest to prove the lethality of Alternating Current.

Dark Matters does suffer from a few pitfalls common to this type of show: As the narrative of each segment unfolds, several of the computer-generated effects sequences and re-enactments are shown multiple times. And I find shows like this much more engrossing when they use images of actual documents or even static historical location shots as opposed to over-dramatized CGI like a marching battalion of Planet of the Apes-inspired gorillas or a reverse-looped explosion and lightning storm engulfing a U.S. Navy destroyer. Particularly in the case of the Thomas Edison piece, the actual facts are shuddery enough – he electrocuted animals to demonstrate the dangers of AC and played a significant role in developing the first electric chair – that the re-creations come off as a bit crass. (The show’s TV-14 rating reflects both subject matter and the storytelling.)

The stories, though, were interesting enough that my 14-year-old daughter and I were quickly drawn in, and the show actually inspired me to look a little further into the history behind some of the segments.

If your interest is piqued, Dark Matters: Twisted But True premieres at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Wednesday, August 31. Here are the preview summaries and air dates for episodes two through five:

Sept. 7: Unidentified Flying Nazis; I Have Einstein’s Brain; Killer Thoughts
Sept. 14: Sexy Secret Agent; Full Body Transplant; Honey I Nuked the Planet
Sept. 21: It’s Alive!; Tripping with Uncle Sam; My Hand Is Killing Me
Sept. 28: 21 Grams; Missing Cosmonauts; Sound of Death
Oct. 6: Radio Waves of Death; How to Make a Zombie; Jekyll vs. Hyde

And there are more details on each segment available in the series’ episode guide.

Disclosure: Science Channel provided a review copy of the series pilot.

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