Trailer Tuesday: Dark City (1998)

This Week’s Trailer: Dark City (1998)

This week, we’ll check out a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. A flick that left a mood implanted in my brain as a result: Dark City (1998). It had a great cast, with Rufus Sewell (now on Man in the High Castle), William Hurt (Altered States), Kiefer Sutherland (in another creepy role like in Lost Boys), and Jennifer Connely (The Rocketeer) — but more than that it was from writer and director Alex Proyas, who also did moody pictures like The Crow.

The synopsis, according to IMDb, is: “John Murdoch awakens alone in a strange hotel to find that he has lost his memory and is wanted for a series of brutal and bizarre murders. While trying to piece together his past, he stumbles upon a fiendish underworld controlled by a group of beings known as The Strangers who possess the ability to put people to sleep and alter the city and its inhabitants. Now Murdoch must find a way to stop them before they take control of his mind and destroy him.”

Though I know the movie, I watched it without sound and just tried to gather what the trailer itself was telling me. I got: Creepy Men in Black with Hair Loss issues, the ability to Stop Time, and eternal darkness. Not exactly what Proyas was trying to sell with his dark film, but not as far off as I might be with other trailers.

That led me to this adventure in deep space…

The Portos and the Faith of Humanity

In the early days of the Dominion, and even before, there were those struck by the Manifest Destiny of the infinite universe. The idea that you could, with careful planning and plenty of resources, start fresh on a whole other world is an enticing one.

Several generation ships and ships with hundreds locked in suspended animation were launched for various denominations, but it was the Faith of Humanity and their doomed ship the Portos that did it with the most blind faith and style. They truly believed they would find their holy land by shooting themselves blindly to the stars and letting God decide their fate. One thousand anointed souls were placed on board with numerous android watchers and the most stringent protocols conceived by automated systems to wake up key crew members should anything go awry.

Nerdist has a great article about this film.

Of course, the universe had other plans for the Portos. Though the first few decades were uneventful, those on-board systems never found a suitable planet to set a course for and they drifted through the dark of space. The androids began to break down after about 50 years of zero maintenance, but it wasn’t until their passengers began to perish as systems failed that the systems began sending a distress call. It was the “Hail Mary” protocol when all else was lost and the crew could not be restored.

The Strangers answered the call, connecting their ship the Lethe to the Portos as an energy source and using the passengers as experimental subjects to learn about the human species. Every year since, they unfreeze a few dozen of the passengers and move them into dream pods where they awaken in a strange new world. The Strangers observe them in these virtual worlds and create different scenarios to test their theories about humanity.

The characters wake up in a dreaming lab when the power mysteriously goes out. They have no memory of how they got there, nor of each other (Roll a d6 – on a 1, a character knows another character). They must escape, figure out what’s going on, and try to defeat their captors before they are caught or killed.

  • The Strangers are a long-boned humanoid race (3-4m tall) with gravity technology as well as the ability to manipulate temporal stasis. Since capturing the Portos, they have also developed old-school human technology such as firearms and explosives, which their scientists have been tinkering with.
    • The Strangers (Low-level): Attribute 10, Traits: Legged (10m), Tactical Suit (AR2/AP10); Alien .45 Pistol (Ranged) (See below), Time Stasis Device (see below), Observant
  • Alien .45 Pistol: Effective range: 1-15m; RS1; 10 rounds per clip; d6+2 damage, single shot
    • additional ammunition types: Stun rounds (1 pt damage, Save vs. Presence at Disadvantage or stunned for 1d6 turns), K/o rounds (1 pt damage, injects stun drug if penetrates armor, Save vs. Toughness or sleep for 4d6 turns)
  • Time Stasis Device: Effective range 1-5m; RS1; 5 shots per clip; Creates a pocket where time simply stops and others can go in to manipulate physical things without those “frozen” being aware of the manipulation (without an Awareness check at a disadvantage)
  • There is an onboard armory but the Strangers haven’t located it yet, instead enjoying playing with their captors. In it the characters will find standard Pulse Rifles, Standard Combat Armor, explosives, and more.


I think this could be an interesting scenario to run at a convention… Each table could have a chance to stop the Strangers’ continuing their experimentation and eventually one may find a way. If not, the next table may have a harder time as the Strangers tighten security or change the values of their experiments to avoid such situations in the future.

Or you could even have a Dominion mission once the Portos is discovered in a trade lane somewhere — and have them attack from outside with full Dominion capabilities.

Either way, this could be a fun scenario to see what a group would do with. 🙂

Looking for more creatures for your Aliens & Asteroids campaign? Check out the rest of the articles about the system! What other movie trailers would you like to see explored in this manner? Leave a comment below or drop me a message via e-mail or on social media!

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