Dark Angel is an American biopunk/cyberpunk science fiction television series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee. The show premiered in the United States on the Fox network on October 3, 2000, and was canceled after two seasons. Set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, 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, who, after escaping from a covert government biotech/military facility as a child, tries to lead some semblance of a normal life and constantly try to elude capture by government agents, while searching for her genetically-enhanced brothers and sisters scattered in the aftermath of their escape. The program is set in Seattle, Washington, and was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, at Lions Gate Studios.
In 2009, a genetically enhanced, 9-year-old female super-soldier who calls herself Max Guevara (Jessica Alba), escapes along with eleven others like herself from a secret government institution, codenamed Manticore, where they were born, 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 communicationsystems, 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 becomes involved withLogan Cale (Michael Weatherly), an underground cyber-journalist with the alias Eyes Only, who recruits her to help fight corruption in the post-Pulse world, while at the same time she makes a living as a bicycle messenger at a courier company named Jam Pony along with her friends Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller), Herbal Thought (Alimi Ballard), and Sketchy (Richard Gunn). Other X-5s are periodically introduced, most significantly Zack (William Gregory Lee), the unit leader and eldest brother.
The Manticore hunt for the escaped X-5s is led by Colonel Donald Lydecker (John Savage), who is ousted at the end of the season by the even more ruthless Elizabeth Renfro (Nana Visitor).
In the second season of the show, the tone changes as Max and Logan bring down Manticore and free all the transgenics within. Two others become main characters: Alec (Jensen Ackles), a fellow X-5 who joins Jam Pony, and Joshua (Kevin Durand), a transgenic with canine DNA. Max later learns that Joshua was the first transgenic created by Manticore's founder Sandeman. It becomes apparent that Manticore produced many different human/animal mixes as well as other experiments with unique abilities.
A major theme in the second season is the discovery of an even more deadly enemy than Lydecker or Renfro, namely a millennia-old breeding cult similar in structure to the Illuminati. This has resulted in humans even more formidable than the Manticore-produced transgenics, and even some with strong telekinetic powers. Ames White (Martin Cummins), 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 and Ames White is his son, who is still loyal to the cult and hates his father's transgenic creations with a passion. The second season ends before Sandeman's plan for Max can be revealed.
In the DVD commentary for the series finale episode "Freak Nation", executive producer and co-creator Charles H. Eglee detailed what was planned for season 3. It was to bring together the storylines of season 1 (Manticore) and season 2 (ancient blood cult) and reveal the mythology of Dark Angel. As detailed by Charles H. Eglee:
Many thousands of years ago, a comet passed closely through the atmosphere of the earth, and deposited viral material that killed 97% of the human race. Some people survived that had a genetic predisposition, some kind of antibody or immunity. The great pyramids in Egypt were actually genetic repositories, preserving the DNA of the survivors. This cult was an ancient blood cult that passed on this genetic immunity to selective members to keep this antibody against the return of the comet (which was set to happen in Season 3) so that they'd survive for being genetically select. Everybody else on the planet would perish and the members of the cult would be there to rebuild civilization, and thus inherit the earth.
Sandeman, Max's creator, out of the Manticore X-5 mythology, was a man who jumped from this cult to implement this immunity genetic technology into the rest of human society to save all of humanity. He believed that everybody deserved the cure. The other cult members deemed Sandeman a heretic and a threat, undermining their goals of rebuilding humanity in their own image.
Max was going to be the savior of the human race. Sandeman finally found out how to give this genetic immunity to everyone through Max. There were multiple ideas of how to spread Max's immunity to humanity, including: an air burst that would spread the antibody and dispersed through the human race and save everyone from the comet or, the immunity would be attached to the viruses associated with the common cold and thus spread through the common cold (he detailed how a scene would show original Cindy sneezing as part of the beginning of the immunity spread).
Series writer Moira Dekker also spoke on the DVD commentary that Logan's transfusion that allowed him to use his legs once again at the end of season 2 would begin to fail during season 3.
The first season of the show premiered on Fox on Tuesday, October 3, 2000. The show aired on Tuesday nights after That '70s Show and Titus during the 2000–2001 television season.
The following season, however, Fox moved Dark Angel to Friday nights preceding the network's new series Pasadena in order to try to reverse their string of bad luck with the Friday night death slot curse and to give the network's new series 24 a better time period during the week. Their efforts to improve Friday nights were unsuccessful though as Pasadena failed to find an audience and was canceled before the end of its first season on the night, while Dark Angel saw its second season audience drop by nearly 4 million viewers and was subsequently canceled. The final episode of the series aired on May 3, 2002 as a special 90-minute episode (which also marked James Cameron's dramatic TV directing debut).
Though canceled due to sagging ratings in its second season, Dark Angel has been syndicated on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States and E4 in the United Kingdom; the series has also been shown in the UK on Syfy and the Horror Channel. In 2003, both seasons of the show were released on DVD.
20th Century Fox released Seasons 1 and 2 of Dark Angel on DVD in Regions 1 and 2 in 2003, as six-disc sets packaged in cardboard sleeves containing three DVD cases each of two discs. Both seasons were re-released in Region 1 on June 5, 2007, with slim packaging consisting of one plastic case containing all six discs (which were unchanged in content and cosmetics). Region 2 also saw both seasons released in the new slim format.
The Region 1 releases contain several special features, including commentaries, bloopers, deleted scenes and featurettes. Region 2 releases contain fewer bonus features, but the episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen, while Region 1 releases are fullscreen.