How Dark Matter Aims to Ground High-Concept Sci-Fi With Real-World Emotions


If you’ve read Blake Crouch’s 2016 novel Dark Matter—and a lot of people have, considering it’s a best-seller—you’re probably wondering how the upcoming Apple TV+ adaptation will handle the high-concept gimmick that propels the story: a box, designed by a genius that’s one version of the main character, that allows people to access parallel dimensions.

Translating the story to the screen will allow the visuals to handle some of the heavy lifting, for sure, as we see Joel Edgerton’s Jason yanked from his pleasant but vaguely unfulfilling life as a physics professor and sent on a multi-dimensional scramble to find his way home. While this is happening, the genius version of Jason slides into “our” Jason’s life—most alarmingly, his marriage to Daniela (Jennifer Connelly)—and all those visits to different universes start causing chaos within reality itself.

It’s a lot to keep track of, especially for the actors, who were tasked with playing different takes on the same character. Speaking to Vanity Fair about the series, Edgerton admitted he didn’t quite understand how all the pieces of the story fit together. “I think everybody was sort of turning themselves into mental pretzels trying to understand … Even though it’s moving laterally and not forward and backward in time, it still throws up so many possibilities. As a creator of this world, you have to imagine all the scenarios and go in every possible story direction. To be elastic in that way on a conceptual basis is a tricky challenge. I’m sure Blake was trying to fracture his brain, as the character does, in so many different ways to make sure that he was exploring every infinite possibility.”

Crouch is very hands-on with Dark Matter—he adapted his novel and is the series showrunner—but he did call in an actual USC physics professor to make sure the show’s dimension-hopping device, while still highly based on highly speculative science, felt like something that could potentially happen. “He helped us design some of the aspects of the box and know how to [explain it,] because the characters talk more about science in the show than they do in the book … It was really important to have someone help us not go astray there.”

Most important, however, are the human emotions that come to the fore as Jason takes the ultimate “what-if” journey, getting to witness how his life might have turned out while realizing the one he left behind is the one he really, truly wants. ““I feel like almost everybody’s had that conversation, whether it’s regret or remorse or just the kind of curiosity about the other road you could have taken,” Edgerton said. We’ll get to watch Jason explore his own roads not taken—most of which, as he finds, are best left that way—when Dark Matter hits Apple TV+ May 8.

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