Dark Angel is an American biopunk/cyberpunk science fiction television program created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee. Dark Angel premiered in the United States and Canada on the FOX network on October 3, 2000, but was canceled after only two seasons. The show chronicles the life of Max Guevara (X5-452), a genetically enhanced super-soldier, portrayed by Jessica Alba as an adult, and Geneva Locke as a child. The program is set in Seattle, Washington, but was actually filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at Lions Gate Studios.
In the year 2009, a genetically enhanced, 9-year-old female (to whom creator James Cameron refers as "transgenic") super-soldier who calls herself Max Guevara, (also known as X5-452, a truncation of her barcode tattoo on the back of her neck 332960073452), escapes along with eleven others like her from a secret government institution. At the institution, codenamed Manticore, they were created and subsequently raised and trained to be soldiers and assassins. On June 1, 2009, months after Max's escape, terrorists detonate an electromagnetic pulse weapon in the atmosphere over the U.S., which destroys the vast majority of computer and communication systems, throwing the country into utter chaos.
The first season begins ten years later in 2019, as it follows the life of the now 19-year-old Max as she struggles to search for her Manticore brothers and sisters. In a United States which is now barely more than a Third World nation, she tries to live her life, evade capture, and learn to trust and love. She is aided by Logan Cale, an underground cyber-journalist with the alias Eyes Only; Zack, a fellow X-5; and her friends Original Cindy and Sketchy at Jam Pony, a courier company where she works as a bicycle messenger. Other X-5s are periodically introduced as well. One or two times a year, Max comes into 'heat' and experiences wild sexual urges as a result of her feline DNA.
In the second season of the show, the tone changes as Max brings down Manticore and frees the soldiers. She is helped in her escape by Alec McDowell, in an attempt to facilitate the assassination and capture of Eyes Only, and Joshua, a transgenic with canine DNA. She later learns that Joshua was the first transgenic created by Manticore's founder Sandeman. Max also finds out that Manticore produced soldiers for speciality environments such as desert and Arctic conditions and consequently look vastly different from normal humans. A major theme in the second season is the discovery of an even more deadly enemy in a millennia-old Breeding Cult similar in structure to the Illuminati. This has resulted in humans as formidable as the Manticore-produced transgenics, and even some with strong telekinetic powers. Ames White, a government agent introduced early in the second season trying to eliminate the loose transgenics, is revealed to be a member of the cult. When a strange message written in Max's genetic code makes an appearance on her skin, it is revealed that Sandeman is a renegade from the breeding cult. Ames White is Sandeman's son, which essentially makes him "related" to Max and her transgenic brethren. However, the series was cancelled before the producers could play with this dynamic.
Max Guevara was bio-engineered in a government lab, at a facility called Manticore, sometime around the turn of the 21st century located in Gillette, Wyoming. As with all of their creations (exception of Joshua), Max has a barcode on the back of her neck, with her identifying number sequence (332960013452). This number is as stated on the official website, but is stated in the show as (332960073452). The latter is accurate. She is an X-5 model and is thus referred to as X5-452. Max and her unit, her "brothers and sisters," named themselves back at Manticore, and sometime after she escapes, she assumes the surname Guevara.
Max and her unit were trained to be soldiers using harsh and brutal techniques, supervised by Colonel Lydecker (John Savage) designed for their special abilities. The genetically engineered supersoldiers had a design flaw though. They were missing the essential tryptophan aminoacid in the brain resulting in seizures. This led to the removal and death of some of their unit. When they learned this, and Max began to get the shakes, their protective unit leader, Zack (X5-599) (William Gregory Lee) decided they should escape, and led them through a snow-filled forest as they were being chased by Lydecker's men. Max got separated from her unit when she fell into a frozen pond (having been trained to hold her breath underwater for long periods of time) allowing her to avoid the search party.
Several months after her escape, terrorists detonated an electromagnetic pulse in the atmosphere over the U.S., on June 1, 2009. This destroyed the vast majority of electrical systems, throwing the United States into chaos, and making it a third world country over night, which let corruption and crime flourish and eventually leading to a stricter martial control of the population.
By the year 2019, Max is living in Seattle, Washington, illegally squatting in an abandoned building, first with Kendra (Jennifer Blanc) and later with Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller) her best friend that she works with at Jam Pony (a bicycle messenger service). Other friends from there include Herbal Thought (Alimi Ballara) and Sketchy (a.k.a. Calvin Theodore) (Richard Gunn). She works at Jam Pony in order to be allowed to move around the city, so she can scout locations to steal from. She lives her secret life as a cat burglar, in order to fund the expensive search for her 11 escaped "brothers and sisters."
It is during one of these burglaries that she meets Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), and realizes that he's the cyber-journalist "Eyes Only." Interested in finding more about his highly skilled mystery visitor, he discovers who she is using security footage, and invites Max back to his apartment. Once there, and being well versed on his government conspiracies, he confirms his suspicions (sees her barcode) that she is one of the escaped X-5s from Manticore. Max and Logan make a pact: he will help her find her missing siblings, if she will help him take down bad guys. Logan also helps to protect Max from Lydecker, who's been looking for the escapees since their breakout.
Soon into the series (10 years after the escape), Max meets up with Zack. More siblings are found, and often with tragic consequences. By the end of the first season, a plan is developed to take down Manticore, one with Lydecker who defects from Manticore after an attempt to assassinate him, and the death of Tinga, one of "his kids." The plan is to destroy the genetics lab, crippling Manticore's ability to produce more soldiers. During their raid, Max gets critically injured, and is assumed dead, but she is actually recaptured.
The plan while successfully executed, fails to destroy Manticore. Instead, a new, larger Manticore facility gets set up an hour outside of Seattle, Washington. While with Manticore again, she meets Alec McDowell (Jensen Ackles), a self-centred transgenic, who is supposed to be her breeding partner, and is also a clone of her friend Ben whom she had to kill. Max befriends one of the new escapees, the first Manticore creation, Joshua who seeks his "father" Sandeman, their mysterious creator.
Eventually, Max escapes and reunites with Logan, only to discover that she's become a carrier to a deadly virus which was genetically targeted for Eyes Only. Max helps Logan expose Manticore. Director Elizabeth Renfro carries out the threat she made to Max, to destroy the facility and all the people within, but Max, with Joshua's help, sets most of them free. The numerous transgenics who escape create the eventual public knowledge of their existence. Transgenic Alec McDowell saw how Manticore tried to destroy all his colleagues, so becomes disillusioned with them and becomes an ally of Max.
Max's problems are further compounded when the government starts hunting down and destroying the escaped Manticore soldiers, led by Ames White. White is both a government agent, and a member of a secret ancient Breeding Cult, similar in structure to the Illuminati, which spans millennia. He's particularly focused on Max, who is revealed to have been created without junk DNA and for a special purpose. He turns out to be Sandeman's son, and Sandeman turns out to be a renegade from the breeding cult, rejecting it because his other son C.J. wouldn't have survived their initiation rite, which involves infecting initiates with a virus carried in snake blood to see if they can survive.
Max and her allies spend a lot of time covering up, taking out, or protecting the more odd of the Manticore Alumni. Eventually, they come face to face with the deadly Phalanx, elite soldiers from the breeding cult, and defeat them in a ferocious hand-to-hand combat at Jam Pony. Then they escape join the other transgenics in the toxic section of Seattle, called Terminal City, and make a stand for their rights against the hostile humans.
Background to SeriesEdit
Director James Cameron had planned to make a film of the comic book character Spider-Man. Unable to do so, Cameron moved to television and created the story of Max Guevara, a new superheroine. Dark Angel was influenced by cyberpunk, current superhero genres, and third-wave feminism.
With strong characters such as Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley emerging in the eighties, the nineties weren't so kind to the superwoman format, with the exception of Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charmed. With the emergence of Charlie's Angels and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon James Cameron empowered female warriors back to television screens by mixing the sober feminism of his films' The Terminator and Aliens characters with sexed-up girl power. The result was Dark Angel..
In the DVD commentary for "Freak Nation", the series finale, Charles H. Eglee explained what had been planned for season three. The intention was to bring together the storylines of seasons one ("Manticore") and two ("Breeding Cult") and reveal the mythology of Dark Angel. The season would reveal that thousands of years ago, Earth passed through a comet's tail which deposited viral material that killed 97% of the human race. The breeding cult preserved the survivors' genetic immunity, so that when the comet returned, only members of the cult would survive. Sandeman, a cult member and Max's creator, betrayed the cult and decided to give this genetic immunity to the rest of humanity through Max, who would be the savior of the human race. There were multiple ideas on how to spread Max's immunity, including an air burst that would disperse the antibody through the atmosphere, or attaching the immunity to a common cold virus (Eglee detailed how a scene would show Original Cindy sneezing as part of the beginning of the immunity spread). This storyline is expanded upon in the final Dark Angel novel After the Dark though when the comet returns nobody falls ill, and it is believed that the cult simply had a false prediction.
The show in its first season aired on Tuesday nights after the sitcoms That '70s Show and Titus and was a hit with viewers. At the end of its first season, FOX transplanted the show to an hour earlier on Friday nights in hopes of breaking its infamous death slot and to give their new drama 24 a better time slot. Viewership dropped, and Dark Angel was eventually canceled because Joss Whedon's Firefly was ordered to series so FOX wouldn't have to pay for two big budget shows. Ironically, Firefly didn't last an entire season.
US Ratings and CancallationEdit
|1||2000-2001||October 3, 2000||May 22, 2001||10.1 million||FOX||#70|
|2||2001-2002||September 28, 2001||May 3, 2002||6.00 million||FOX||#114|
Despite a strong fan base -- and a second season finale directed by James Cameron -- Dark Angel was cancelled in 2002 after just two seasons due to budget costs and low ratings. Avid fans of the show attribute the loss of ratings to a misjudgment by FOX Network for airing the second season on Friday evenings instead of Tuesday evenings. In addition, changes to the format and tone of the series in the second year are cited as contributing factors to its demise. Many of these changes were due to budgetary concerns and departing actors. Initially, a third season appeared to be greenlit, but when Joss Whedon reworked his Firefly pilot, Fox chose Firefly for a Fall slot at the expense of Dark Angel.
Dark Angel, though cancelled, has high availability with on-demand services, and as of July 10, 2006, Sci-Fi Channel has started airing repeats of the two seasons. Since 2007, SITV has aired reruns during the weekends. In the U.K., as of July 2008, the series repeat began airing on E4.
On May 20, 2003, 20th Century Fox released Season 1 of Dark Angel on DVD. Season 2 was released on October 21, 2003. Both seasons were re-released on June 5, 2007, with slim packaging.
|DVD title||Ep #||Release date||Additional information|
|Season 1||21||May 20, 2003||
|Season 2||21||October 21, 2003||
Seasons 1 and 2 were released in the UK on February 24, 2003 and June 2, 2003 respectively. However, the majority of the extras included on the Region 1 releases were omitted.
- 2000: Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television — Jessica Alba in Dark Angel
- 2001: People's Choice Award for Favorite Television New Dramatic Series
- 2001: TV Guide Awards for Breakout Star of the Year — Jessica Alba in Dark Angel
- 2001: Teen Choice Awards for Choice Actress — Jessica Alba in Dark Angel
- 2001: Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards for Best Cinematography in a TV Series
- 2001: International Monitor Awards for Best Visual Effects in a TV series