One of TV's more interesting tough-girl action shows, Dark Angel is a distinctive blend of the personal, the adventurous and the politically aware. Cocreators James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) and Charles Eglee present a complex scenario of biological super-science and social collapse in which their gene-manipulated heroine and hacker/journalist hero can genuinely make a difference. In this first series they also provide an adversary who is a lot more than just a conventional villain. Jessica Alba is impressive as Max, bred and trained as a super-soldier but reclaiming her individual humanity; Michael Weatherly is scruffily attractive as Eyes Only, who sits semi-paralysed in his eyrie above Seattle uncovering crime, corruption and other skulduggeries and sending the woman whom he hopelessly loves out on deadly errands. Jon Savage has real authority as Lydeker, a man who has stretched his conscience to breaking point, but is not personally corrupt. Some of the best episodes here--"Prodigy" for example--are ones in which Lydeker and Max are forced into temporary alliance. Early on the relationship between Max and the other workers at Jam Pony--the courier firm that provides her with a cover identity--is a little forced, but later on the two parts of Max's life are more successfully integrated: "Shorties in Love", for example, is a genuinely touching tale about Diamond, the doomed criminal ex-lover of Max's lesbian roommate. Dark Angel was never a perfect show, but at its occasional best it manages to be simultaneously funny and dramatic. On the DVD: Dark Angel, Series 1's Region 2 DVD is ungenerous with special features, providing only short interviews with James Cameron and Charles Eglee and with the stars, and giving us a preview of the Dark Angel computer game. The episodes are presented in widescreen and have excellent Dolby Digital sound which gives vivid presence to both the dialogue and the hard-driving contemporary rock score that is part of the show's style. --Roz Kaveney
The second and last series of Dark Angel, the inventive James Cameron show about mutants during a future Depression, has some real strengths, as well as having one or two bad ideas that partly explain its much-regretted cancellation. Among the strengths are Alex, the thoroughly unreliable mutant charmer whose flirtations with heroine Max complicate her doomed love for Logan, the crippled newshound whom she cannot now even touch--she has been infected with a deadly virus tailored specifically to kill him. The distrust this sows between the doomed couple does not always avoid soap opera clichés, but often produces fine performances, especially from Jessica Alba as Max. On the down side, John Savage's memorably ambiguous villain Lydeker from Series 1 (who is alternately the mutants' nemesis and their protector), disappears to be replaced by the melodramatically sinister Agent White. White appears to be just a shoot-to-kill operative of the state but turns out to be another sort of superhuman, a product of an occultist breeding programme going back to the dawn of history. After White's first ruthless killing, Max's reluctance to use deadly force is tested to near implausible limits. The show ends with a rousing and moving finale, "Freak Nation", in which a theme often neglected in this final year--Max's relationship with her fellow couriers at Jam Pony--reaches a powerful climax. On the DVD: Dark Angel's Series 2 release is ungenerous with special features, giving us an interesting but short documentary in which James Cameron, producer Charles Eglee and various designers describe how they created this rundown future Seattle with a mixture of location shots, set dressing and CGI, as well as a preview of the Dark Angel game. --Roz Kaveney
Please wait. Loading...