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Claudia Black (Farscape, Stargate SG-1) discovers new frontiers both inwardly and at the fringes of Mars in the new science fiction film DEUS: The Dark Sphere, a tense space suspense story that puts Black amid a crew of human explorers on a direct trajectory with a mysterious black orb that’s suddenly appeared in space above the Red Planet.
Making first contact takes on a different sort of meaning in DEUS, a film that invites viewers to weigh what might be a history-making discovery against the cynicism of human leaders who’d use its big existential implications to serve their own ends. Earth’s population watches eagerly from afar as the crew of the vessel Achilles approaches this strange new object, hoping to uncover its origins — and, most importantly, its meaning.
Unlike Stanley Kubrick’s iconic black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, this unannounced visitor doesn’t just sit passively and bask in others’ reactions. Instead, the sphere’s trying to communicate — and as the Achilles draws closer, the crew picks up on a single-word message emanating from the object, repeating in an infinite loop. It’s short, but about as high-impact as extra-planetary communication gets: “Deus,” comes the signal — the Latin word for “God.”
Should the ship press forward, or is an Earth-bound U-turn in order? There’s tension among the ship’s six-member crew over that fateful decision, as crew members Karla Grey (Black) and Sen Paul (Richard Blackwood) demonstrate in the clip below, which comes just after they've deciphered the startling message.
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Karla, Black’s character, anchors the film and brings a tragic backstory along on her extended Achilles tour, which requires the crew to hibernate their way through months of isolated space travel and thus lends an extra layer of gravity to their far-from-home decisions. Talking with SYFY WIRE, Black says there’s a decidedly more grown-up, astute human angle to her leading role in DEUS than what fans have seen from the beloved characters she’s portrayed in Farscape (as Aeryn Sun) and Stargate SG-1 (as Vala Mal Doran).
“This is the first time I guess we’ve seen a more mature woman who’s more — she’s a human; she’s a scientist, and she’s in extreme grief,” Black explains of her DEUS role, which draws Karla through an emotional gauntlet that revives her tragic past as the sphere’s secrets — as well as those harbored by a key human figure — begin to unwind. “…We see this woman endowed with this momentous task. [She] has an interesting relationship with a father-type figure, and she’s sort of very duty-bound.”
The movie, says Black, spins “a very prophetic tale” that engages real-world issues like population control and the schemes of powerful people; leaders “manipulating circumstances to do what they in their own sort of distorted way they think is for the greater good, [while] watching this woman navigate what she believes is right. She’s a much more mature woman than we’ve seen compared to other characters I’ve played. Vala was extremely playful; Aeryn was a very sort of tragic, soft-centered heart of an epic space opera.
“So this is, in some ways — even though another space tale — it’s more grounded and grief-ridden,” Black adds. “Her trajectory is different to these other characters in the sense that she starts, yes, grief-ridden, but she sort of starts relatively strong in some ways, and becomes more and more vulnerable. More and more layers are stripped from her…I think the loneliness is probably what terrifies her more than anything else — which I would say is a core feature of all of the characters I’ve played, and a very human aspect to us all. Relatable, I’m sure!”
In addition to her starring role, Black joined the project as a producer, taking part in DEUS script revisions that helped hone Karla Grey’s character once Black was on board. “My involvement as a producer in this — I received a credit — was my participation in the rewrite that made sufficient sense to me of the script, that I could embody a female role written by a man. Understanding motherhood, and what it would take for [Karla] to take the actions that she does,” she explains.
Without spoiling the film, there’s a post-credit scene in DEUS that comes as a mild slice of comic relief after Karla — who’s cast more than one exasperated expletive at the Achilles’ fully-voiced onboard AI computer — has the tables turned when the AI lobs an unexpected and funny F-bomb her way. Thanks to the way the movie ends, there’s still a long trip ahead for Karla…and the saucy AI is probably her most available companion.
“[T]hat final moment, as the bookend, it’s — you know, it’s the ‘F*** it; what now?!’” jokes Black. “[I]t’s that humorous moment of, you know, here she is in this bizarre relationship, having avoided being alone and gone through all of this grief — and now she’s stuck with this bloody robot!”
Directed by Steve Stone (In Extremis, Schism), DEUS: The Dark Sphere stars Black alongside Richard Blackwood, Phil Davis, Lisa Eichhorn, Charlie MacGechan, David O’Hara, Sophia Pettit, Branko Tomovic, and Crystal Yu. Catch the new sci-fi thriller now on DVD, as well as on demand at Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.