Stargate: What the Heck Happened?

April 25, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in Stargate, Television | 1 Comment

I’m going on the record here.  I love Stargate.  It’s my second favorite sci-fi franchise, and it’s a close second behind Star Wars.  I suppose I should qualify my statement a bit by saying it’s specifically SG-1 I love, and I love it for a lot of the reasons I love Star Wars.  In my mind I refer to the (original) SG-1 team as the Big Four.  They do remind me of the Big Three, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  There was a lot homage to Star Wars in SG-1.  Besides all the Star Wars references and the famous trench run recreation, there’s the same camaraderie, the succeeding against real evil against all odds, the humor and most importantly the chemistry between O’Neill (two Ls), Jackson, Carter and Teal’c.  There are great villains (you gotta love Baal), great allies (genius bringing in the Roswell aliens), and that very cool stargate.  The folks involved did, in my opinion, a great job of expanding on the original movie by working in all kinds of Earth mythology; not to mention creating an entire race out of what was in the original movie some guys standing around in strange looking armor.  I guess I’m not the only one who liked the show because it lasted ten seasons, beating out X Files as the longest running sci-fi show on television.  If the last couple of seasons weren’t as good as the previous eight, they were still pretty darn good; good enough to spawn a couple of dvd movies.  And a spin-off.

Okay, I’ll admit I was not quite as enamored with Stargate: Atlantis.  I liked the pilot quite a bit.  The Wraith were particularly creepy (much better, in my opinion, than the Ori as villains), and I love me a good villain.  The lost city of Atlantis was way beyond cool, and the puddle jumpers were a nice switch up from just walking through the gate.  I liked the cast/characters of Atlantis well enough, but for me there was no real chemistry there.  I didn’t love them, and that’s a problem.  A show can have the coolest tech and the greatest plots, but if you’re not invested in the characters, ultimately you’re not going to care, and you’re going to quit watching.  I still have not watched every Atlantis episode.

Can’t say the same thing for Stargate: Universe, although I’d like to.  I wish I hadn’t watched a lot of those episodes.  I did because frankly they were the only Stargate game in town, and I needed my Stargate fix.  But slapping the name Stargate on a show doesn’t a Stargate show make.  It might make a bad version of Battlestar Galactica, but it isn’t going to be the Stargate the fans actually flip the channel to watch.  I know the new rage is for grittier, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to achieve that.  Battlestar Galactica (and the current Being Human) got it right; Stargate: Universe failed.  It’s just not enough to isolate a bunch of people (who don’t even seem to like each other) in a dire situation on a gloomy ship with enough angst going on to choke a herd of horses, and pace it funereally slow to make outstanding Gritty.  Heck, forget outstanding; I would have settled for good.  I didn’t get it.  And by the fifth episode I was screaming at the television to bring up the lights on the Destiny.

What happened with Universe?  Well, I think I can sum it up pretty simplistically.  I don’t care what happens to these people.  They can wander around the galaxy on that ship for the next decade, and I couldn’t care less.  Oh, I’m slightly invested in a couple of them.  I was invested in Matt and Chloe until they made Chloe the stupidest person in any galaxy.  I mean who walks right where the enemy is drilling a hole in your ship and just stands there waiting to get grabbed?  No one is that stupid, but apparently Chloe is.  Of course, Matt is now just about as stupid because after the girl he loves massively betrays him, he thinks he was in the wrong.  I think those two actually deserve each other, and there went that character investment.  That whole mutiny thing pretty much for me negated all the civilians.  I don’t know how that bunch are smart enough to figure out the ship.  It doesn’t take a lot of brains to figure out that going up against people who are actually trained in how to make war might not be a winning scenario.  But apparently this bunch couldn’t even get that far in their thinking.  So anyway the only character investment I have now is Eli, and I want to see him somehow get Ginn, and get off the ship, preferably with T.J. and Varro because seriously they are the only redeemable characters on board.

Unfortunately Stargate’s problems started long before Universe.  I think they actually started with the decision to spin off Atlantis.  Now, they don’t call me the retcon queen for nothing, and if I’d been in charge, this is what I would have done: no Atlantis.  Before you start throwing stones at me hear me out.  Wouldn’t it have been a lot better to, instead of having to come up with a new villain (and that whole, somewhat lame Ori story line), to send SG-1 to the Pegasus galaxy to take on the Wraith?  That’s what SG-1 does.  They go through the gate, get into trouble, get out of trouble and go back through the gate.  Think of the fun (not to mention the extra seasons) we could have had watching SG-1 go up against a new really good villain.  And the whole thing didn’t need to remain confined to the Pegasus galaxy like Atlantis was.  They slipped the Ori into the Milky Way; they could have done the same for the Wraith.  I realize I’m handing someone a golden AU RPG here, but even that is better than the pale SG-1 clone that Atlantis turned out to be.

If you think “pale clone” is too harsh a criticism for Atlantis, well what does it say when you have to insert original SG-1 cast members into your spin-offs to boost the ratings and keep the shows alive?  The best of Stargate always came from the original series and the inclusion of Richard Woolsey and Rodney McKay in a recent Universe episode not only brought some much needed oomph to the show, it revealed just how dismal Universe really was.  However, by the time Woolsey and McKay showed up, it was too late.  And I was used to the oomph factor and that particular revelation.  While I loved seeing all the old SG-1 people, your show should be able to stand on its own without Sam Carter, Daniel Jackson or Jack O’Neill.  If they have to be brought in, you should realize you’re in some serious trouble here, and maybe your show should be called SG-1, and not something else.

And by the way, where the heck is Teal’c?

To be continued…What Star Wars Can Learn From the Demise of Stargate

Posted By: Synlah

1 Comment »

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  1. Awesome piece Syn. I think it’s probably safe to say the dynamic between that cast was pretty special and pretty hard to copy. You could have put those four in a “Law & Order” series and it would have been a hit. Any time they played with the formula it just wasn’t the same feel. You captured that idea perfectly.

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