US sci-fi series about a genetically enhanced female on the run from the company that created her.
200 - 2002
In the year 2020 the world is left paralysed when an electromagnetic pulse is released into the atmosphere knocking out all the satellites and most of the planet's electrical equipment effectively freezing technology in its tracks. The US economy, like that of other countries has been toppled plunging the country into a 1930's style depression where politicians are out to line their own pockets, cops are crooked and the people, those lucky enough to have a job, live from hand to mouth. Enter Max, beautiful, witty, intelligent and more than able to look after herself...just the way she was designed.
Max is the product of a secretly funded government organisation called Manticore who, using genetic enhancement techniques, had twenty years before engineered any army of children to grow up into the perfect fighting force. Each 'soldier' has unique combat abilities that include enhanced hearing, vision and strength and are taught, as soon as they can understand, complete loyalty to their cause. However, under the cruel regime led by the organisations commander Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker (John Savage), the children rebel and break out of their 'prison' in Gillette, Wyoming, scattering to different parts of the country. Max ends up in Seattle, where she gets a job as a dispatch rider, although all the time she herself has a hidden agenda. Max is desperate to meet up again with her lost transgenic 'siblings' whilst all the time trying to avoid recapture. Eventually Max teams up with a political activist called Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), who from his plush apartment broadcasts in secret under the code-name "Eyes Only", a reference to the fact that when he reveals on TV who is currently dealing in corruption, you can only see his eyes. Although she initially resists his attempts to enlist her in his social struggle, Max and the wheelchair bound Logan eventually end up more than just friends.
Max is also surrounded by a number of other friends, too, including Kendra, Original Cindy and Sketchy; at the outset each blissfully unaware of the Dark Angel's origins and her dependence on the drug Triptophane, a side effect of her genetic enhancements. It also comes to light that not all of the 'soldiers' escaped Manticore and some of them, equal in power and ability to Max, are sent out to recover their brothers and sisters, or failing that, to terminate them. As the first season progressed more insight was given to the motives behind Lydecker's crusade. Although he appears to be a cold-minded evil killer, the truth is that he seriously believes his motives are for a good cause, wanting to bring together his unique fighting force in the interest of national security so they can try to preserve the freedom of a society brought to its knees. In the final episode of the last season he even lays his life on the line to protect Max after he himself has been double-crossed by the true villain of the piece known only as Madame X (Nana Visitor).
'Dark Angel' premiered on FOX on October 3rd, 2000 and was the result of a co-creation by long time friends the Academy Award-winning director James Cameron and Emmy Award-winning writer Charles Eglee. In spite of being well written and having very high production values, both creators would probably agree that much of the shows success is in no small part down to its star Jessica Alba who gave Fox its greatest sci-fi success since 'The X-Files'. Cameron and Eglee spent more than a year scouring casting agencies and college campuses, auditioning close to a thousand actresses before settling on Alba. "She didn't look that beautiful to me when I first saw her on tape," said Cameron. "She wasn't the ravishing beauty we now know her to be. And she wasn't particularly physically fit. But there was something about her--an attitude, a sass--that made me keep thinking of her." Alba went through a tough regime to transform her body to prepare for her Dark Angel role, lifting weights, doing gymnastics and going for motorcycle and kung fu training several days a week.
Although hardly an orginial concept for a sci-fi series, 'Dark Angel' succeeded nevertheless through a well balanced mixture of sharp writing, high production values, and particularly the sexy, sassy, performance of it's young star and the typically intense and powerful playing of the criminally underrated, John Savage.
'Dark Angel' gave a hip, knowing and decidedly 21st century sharp-edged spin on a familiar TV formula. And it did it with genuine style and flair.
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