Archive for March 21st, 2011

Regarding StarGate:Universe

Updated below, 24-03-2011

The original Stargate movie was entertaining, but both SG-1 and Atlantis TV series were a classic case of cookie-cutter television. The writers introduced some nice big themes in the storylines, but ultimately their mainly episodic nature, flat characters, and black-n-white bad guys, reduced the series to a painful old-fashioned experience.

Then, StarGate:Universe (SGU) came around. SyFy Channel tried to copy the look and feel of BattleStar:Galactica (BSG), by making it a more character-based show, with inner conflicts, and a more dark, gritty premise. And it failed. Ratings were terrible not only in the US, but in other countries too. After just two seasons, SGU is now canceled, with the remaining episodes broadcasting every Monday. This is so unfortunate though, because in my opinion SGU is one of the best show on TV right now, and the best sci-fi one by a mile (I don’t hold Fringe into as high esteem as some others).

In my opinion, SGU is on the top-10 of the best scifi TV shows EVER. But this article is mostly geared on what went wrong, not what its virtues were. So why was it canceled? Here’s why:

— Some old SG fans, that apparently are mindless drones who can’t get used to watching modern and thoughtful television. As a result, they undermined the new series by giving it a bad name every way they could. Hating it just because it wasn’t the same la-la-la show that SG-1 and Atlantis were.

— The writers of SGU are also to blame. Some episodes were useless, ridiculous, or too good to feel true. As much as 70% of what SGU is it’s great, the rest 30% is lackluster. Here are some such examples:

1. The communication stones are a complete and utter cop-out. I don’t disagree that the show needed some way to connect to Earth, but this exchange-of-consciousness was too unbelievable. I mean, if Destiny’s huge stargate can’t dial Earth, why do these self-powered stones work?

What should have happened instead is that these stones should have been a mystery at first (we could see Rush caressing the case for a few episodes, without us knowing what’s inside) and then having him modify the technology to be able to send short messages to the each user’s consciousness. This way, when TJ is supposed to perform a delicate medical operation, instead of having her exchange her consciousness with a surgeon, we could have her receive instructions from a surgeon, and we could have her scream: “I’m a paramedic, I can’t do this! How do you expect me to operate on an open heart when all I have is two pages of scribble?”. THAT, is drama folks.

2. Instead of the regular traveling consciousness episodes, 1/4 of the episodes in a given season, for about 1/3 of each episode, could be regular a’la LOST flashbacks, that explain certain mysteries about why some characters are the way they are. Having their lives continuing on Earth takes us away from the main storylines upon the Destiny which can be rich and plentiful. For example, “over 80% of the ship is inaccessible without spacesuits”, Telford once said. Plenty to explore!

3. Some episodes are just stupid or too convenient. For example, the recent episode with the double Destiny, or the left-behinders returning the second shuttle (after the writers killed the other shuttle a few episodes back), and then dying. So basically we have episodes of convenience that only serve the writers. Dear writers: if you need a shuttle, don’t blow it up. If you need replacement hardware, don’t kill the aliens’ spaceship that had compatible technology. And then, we have Telford getting saved on the 1st episode by ending up back on Earth, then bringing him back to Destiny (because the writers needed him), and then being able to make it back to Earth, alone. Or TJ getting pregnant all of a sudden and then losing the baby 4 episodes later. This is just HORSESHIT. You give us impossible storylines, just to fix your previous fuckups or to convenience your SLOPPY writing.

4. Leave God and religion out of sci-fi. No problem having Dr Rush mentioning God once or twice, just to manipulate his peers to join him in his quest for the alien entity, but anything beyond that is too much.

5. Relationships among the crew are not always believable, for example Chloe is hooking up with that hotshot pilot (Lt. Scott) on episode 3 already (literally hours after her dad dies), with very little previous connection between them. As for Young & TJ, we never really understood what kind of relationship they had. Come on, be serious. Also, the dynamics of some of the characters need to change a bit, e.g. TJ needs to stop being a doll (miscast?).

The writers should have also focused on the lower decks, let us know more of the characters on the ship. Should have showed us more of their struggle to survive, rather than just these 5-6 first episodes where they find seeds, air and water and then all is good. Instead of the main 9 characters and the extra 6-7 on board the ship, make that an extra 20.

And how cool would it be instead of having that recent love story for Dr Rush that felt out of place, to have a crew member working on lowly tasks. She would not be equal to Dr Rush in any way, but she would fall for him and do his bidding to help him manipulate the other crew members (instead of managing it alone). Rush would use her at the beginning, and only towards the end of the series he would realize that he also loves her. And that would be his redeeming as a character for his arrogance and all the pains he caused to the crew on his personal quest for knowledge. She’d die, and he would go on and become the first human to ascent to the same plane of existence as the Ancients, while everyone else makes it safely back home.

Telford’s character is completely useless and should have never been in the series. Instead of having Young vs Rush trying to get control of the others, add to the mix that Lucian Alliance guy who currently sits on a cell all day doing nothing. What a waste for paying a pretty known Canadian actor for doing nothing. In fact, the few Lucian Alliance soldiers should have arrived to Destiny the same time every one else did (as part of their invasion of the planet). As I explained above, all the Milky Way affairs should not have been part of SGU after the 1st episode. Clean slate from that point on.

Ultimately, SGU is (or should be) a philosophical study of the question: “When the opportunity arises, do you run back to safety, forfeit your cosmic responsibility for exploration as a sentient, curious being, or do you march forward towards knowledge no matter the risk to your person?” And it’s that important question (through Dr Rush) that still holds the show together in my eyes. Take that away, and SGU becomes a mashed potato.

As mentioned above, mistakes were made on the show, but I’m willing to put away these and blank them out in my mind, in order to enjoy the rest, which is absolutely fabulous.

The first season of SGU is available via Netflix Instant, if you live in the US, give it a go.

Update 24-03-2011
Some immature kids in some Stargate forum are beating this post down because it didn’t satisfy their need to read the positive of SGU, even if this was an article about what went wrong, and not about why SGU is a good show. Here you are, here’s a list as to why it was a good show, let me satisfy your unjustified personal attacks:

1. Serialized premise, my No 1 need when it comes to TV shows. I hate episodic TV, it hurts our intelligence.
2. Dr Rush is one of the most amazing characters ever to grace TV. Intense, not a black-n-white hero by any means.
3. Aliens are not like laughable humans in masks, or just plain humans. More realistic this way.
4. Complex plot, in many threads. Some episodes require good thinking. REALISTIC plots most of the time.
5. Most characters are not single dimensional. Everyone’s carrying baggage rather than being that stereotypical TV hero.
6. When there’s action, there’s intensity. Well-directed, well-paced (no, not boring at all as some people think).
7. Artistic premise (e.g. the episode with Dr Rush reliving his wife’s death).
8. A number of philosophical questions asked. Show tries to appeal to humans with reason rather than brainless twats.
9. Dark, serious, gritty, and not bruhaha “medieval village with human-alikes outside of Vancouver episode of the week” style show (*throws up*).
10. Great cinematography, shot anamorphically. Amazing CGI, some of the best ever on TV.