A review of Star Gate: Universe (and a bit more of a rant), by Brian T. McKee
I've loved the Star Gate Franchise since I first started watching it in the early 2000's. It took me years to catch up on all the SG1 episodes. That show was magic. The characters, the plots, and the action fit together like a perfect puzzle. I think SG1 captured the innocence of the original Star Trek and made it fun. All the characters are idealistic. Even Teal'c, the barbarian, is idealistic. I think its their idealism that made the show work. The actors fit their roles and the roles fit together and made the show work. The writing was so-so for the most part. Its clear that the characters were based on the actors, not the other way around, and their interaction and the writing associated with it made the show work.
SG: Atlantis' first season was absolutely phenominal. It was fun, scary and wonderful because there was this sense of separation. SG1 always ended with safety. The first season of Atlantis was anything but safe and that set it apart. Like SG1, Atlantis' characters were based on their actors. If I'm wrong about this: its a testament to the actor's abilities, if I'm write its a testament to the writer's understanding of their characters and actors. Atlantis was also a character driven show.
Atlantis fell apart during the second season. I don't know why Peter Deluise stopped writing the arc, but its clear he did. I might be wrong on this, but I believe the first season was mostly written by him, conceived by him. I don't know if that's true, but who ever created the first season stepped away or was forced out and the second and subsequent seasons were taken over by people who only knew how to create the same arc that SG1 had been rehashing over and over. With SG1, the story arc didn't matter, the characters were king, it was a character based show and it was the character's charisma and flaws that made it fun. Even the loss of Colonel Jack O'Neal didn't kill the show because they got Science Fiction staples to take his place. The tale of the Ori was not great, but the characters drove it and made it fun and exciting. Atlantis' plot attempted to be plot driven, and destroyed the characters created in the first season. I couldn't stand the leader of the expedition because she was too inconsistent. They pseudo killed her off too late to save the show, but honestly it wasn't the actress' fault, it was the writers. They killed that show by reconnecting Atlantis with earth. Even though I watched it and enjoyed it, for me it never rediscovered the thrill the first season had.
Now we're up to SG: Universe. A clear attempt to regain what the first season of Atlantis had. Its failing and I'm sad because I see such possibility.
In my opinion we are witnessing the limitation of the writers. They are attempting to write outside their own boundaries. Peter Deluise (or whomever wrote the first season arc for Atlantis) is the one they should emulate for SG: Universe. He kept the characters idealistic and simple but put them in very non-ideal situations. It was strongly character based, just like SG: SG1, but it had a stronger arc with much more friction. Friction that was caused not by the characters themselves, but by the situations they were in.
SG: Universe is really pissing me off. There are a few fun characters, a few 1D characters, and a few annoying characters, but the writers are either kibitzing too much in each other's territories or they are trying to make the main character, one Nicholas Rush, dark and they are failing miserably. It could be the actor has been misdirected, the actor can't pull it off or the writers are crossing purposes. When he talks, he seems sincere, his actions seem sincere, when there's no one else around he seems sincere (and surprised even that the ship was actually just at the sun to refuel, come on if its so obvious to the viewer how could it not be to the fictional super smart scientists). Yet the writers make him out to be insincere by throwing a line at the end of a show about how he could have been "faking it" and knew all along they were going to be safe. They are trying to make friction between him and most of the rest of the crew and yet it doesn't feel right. Its incongruous. Its driving me nuts to watch the floundering and confusing plots that exist between him and the rest of the crew. They are attempting to make him complex and failing because either they don't know what makes a character complex or they are trying to bolt on complexities after the plot and characters have already been designed to be Star Gate Standard Issue. Star Gate Standard Issue characters are not complex: they are simple and we, the viewers, like it that way! That's one of the draws we have to the Star Gate Franchise. We don't need it to be like Battlestar Galactica. We don't want it to be confusing (and massively inconsistent, read plot holes you could drive a car through because it wasn't planned out) like Battlestar Galactica.
Beyond Rush, the rest of the crew is basically Star Gate Standard Issue, (SGSI from here on) but they are trying to emulate other Sci Fi shows (DGMS on the "SyFy" stupidity). They are bolting on sweaty sex scenes and bloody violence. They are totally bolted on and we know it because sweaty sex scenes are NOT SGSI. You can't bolt on sex and violence and change SGSI into something its not.
Its almost like the Star Gate Franchise has been invaded by a producer from another franchise or a producer trying to emulate another franchise. But he didn't bring any writers with him, or the writers he did bring are fighting for control with the SGSI writers.
You know what I see? I see some outside force (or perhaps an inside producer) trying to bolt blood, sweat, and tears -- like those created in Battle Star Galactica -- onto SG: Universe, onto an SGSI plot that was already set in stone and was probably pretty decent from what I can see of the bulk of the show which is not blood sweat and tears.
There was an opportunity for the SGSI writers to grow the SGSI characters and SGSI plot like the first season of Atlantis had, but alas someone or something is in there messing it up by trying to make it something its not.
If you love the Star Gate Franchise, did you feel squeamish during the violent and sexual scenes like I did? It just doesn't feel like it fits the SGSI characters, does it?
Truly what this blog is about is my feeling of loss. There are no Science Fiction / Fantasy shows on TV that I like. I can't watch Dr. Who because I refuse to pay $15.00 for BBC America, the only channel I want in the next tier. Dr. Who is not worth $15.00 a month even though Top Gear sweetens the deal.
I didn't like Amanda Tapping's new show, I stopped watching it after two episodes.
Heroes croaked in its second season: DGMS. Again, no planning / inconsistencies killed a show.
All this "bad" TV has really given me a huge amount of respect for writers like Frank Herbert. He wrote a half a dozen books with very few plot holes. (if any?) Even the Harry Potter series is pretty consistent even though it wasn't fully thought out.
Why am I so dissapointed? Because I could do better and I'm not that good.
I'll give you an example.
Who was Starbuck in Battle Star Galactica? What made her so special? Why did she just know things? How did her mother know she was special?
My ending wouldn't have made her an Angel (geesh what a stretch!) My ending would have made her the first human Cylon hybrid. She would have been the daughter of the slain male who was among the first six (what ever his name was). That's why her mother knew she was special, because he told her the story of how he saved the humans from the machines.
Clearly the writers didn't know where they were going and lost their own plot.
I think it would have been much more interesting if "God" had been the first sentient Cylon, the one who staged the destruction of the first Earth, and the one who saved the first six human Cylons from the destruction of the first earth and sent them to the machine Cylons to stir the pot of creation some more so "its" children could thrive instead of stagnate like the machines had or become lost and decadent like the human Cylons had.
My plot would have included the simple machines, the human Cylons and the humans finding out they had all been manipulated into constant cyclical fighting by this "God," who was attempting to create a perfect hybrid machine. They would join forces and rise up against it and destroy it, thus breaking the cycle of destruction as foretold in their own spiritual scripts.The reason the old humans knew it would repeat is because it had happend many times before, all instigated by this machine that calls itself "God." Boy would that have been fun, huh?
Heh. Oh well. That's enough of a rant for now.
Causes Brian McKee Supports
I support the cause of peace via peaceful means.