Monday, May 23, 2011

Stargate Universe: Good Riddance (Spoilers)

by SandWyrm

(Rant and Spoiler Warning!)

When SGU was canceled late last year, I was invested enough in the series to watch the first episode of the final batch. When it stank (and oh boy, did it), I didn't bother buying the rest on iTunes.

But once the finale episode ran, "SyFy" wasted no time in getting most of the rest of the season up on Netflix, where they made the last 3 episodes 'DVD-Only'. Yeah, whatever. I paid for them on iTunes so that I could see (at a hefty total discount) how this whole sorry tale would finally end.

Answer: Meh

The series was odd from the get-go. An unholy mish-mash of traditional Stargate tropes combined with the visual/thematic style of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot. It was a big middle finger to the die hard fans, as Wright and Cooper basically defecated on the audience that had fed them for 12 years and reached out to... who again? Not science fiction fans. Maybe some subset of the Days of Our Lives crowd that had enough of an imagination to tolerate the Sci-Fi setting. But that demographic evidently had gotten it's fill of novelty watching Battlestar. Because this turkey didn't pull anywhere near Stargate Atlantis's numbers. And Atlantis was no ratings winner either.

Still, Wright and Cooper kept telling everyone to be patient. That the slow start to the series would be rewarded. As a creative type myself, I'm willing to give some leeway to someone who's trying to do something new and different. So I stuck with it.

There were occasional flashes of goodness. Usually when the characters, you know, went through the Stargate and actually did stuff on alien worlds. But way too much of this series was spent moping around the ship or using the magic mind-swap stones to visit earth.

Now that the series is done, it's obvious that the great plans (just like on Battlestar) never really existed. Because the show kept building up, up, up to... nothing. If the show had to be summed up in one word, that word would be:


As in, we know what we should be doing. But every time we build up to a conclusion that might actually, you know, matter. We chicken out and just reset the show, Star Trek style. So that we never have to do the hard writing that might actually win us the emmy we want so badly.

Case in point: Chloe

So let me get this straight... Chloe gets kidnapped by aliens who manipulate her DNA and return her to the ship so that she can be a cross between a spy and a homing beacon. Over the course of half the series, we build this up. The crew loses trust in her, she's confined (so that she doesn't push buttons), and we even have Rush fake-cure her for his own selfish reasons. Then we start watching her change physically into some sort of alien/human hybrid. She's confined again, and she starts saying goodbye and pre-forgiving the guy she expects to pull the trigger when she finally loses control. Check.

Then, in a convoluted post-battle 'deal' with the aliens that made no logical sense whatsoever, they are convinced to cure her. Whereupon they poke her with a 1/2" diameter needle and... she's returned to the ship without so much as a single scar to mark the event. She even keeps her new mathematical super-powers.

What. The. Hell. ?.

Let's not, you know, actually go through with her eventual execution or abandonment. That would be too dramatic. That would be too close to the fusion of traditional drama and Sci-Fi that Battlestar managed to get right for a season or two. No, let's wimp out at the last minute and act like it never happened at all.

Hey Wright, hey Cooper, here's some soapy ideas that you could have used:

1) Chloe gets 'cured', but is left disfigured. Scars + blue spots or something. Her boyfriend Scott tries to get past it, but hero-boy is shallower than he gave himself credit for. So suddenly she's alone and searching for comfort. Eli is the obvious crutch for her, but does he still want her when the beauty is gone? Is there actually any depth to her? In addition, she also can't (for some reason) use the stones anymore. Adding to her isolation.

2) Chloe gets 'cured', but is actually turned into a walking bomb. Scott and Eli have to push her out the airlock even as she's crying and sobbing. They can't do it. Finally, Rush does what nobody else will and saves them all from certain destruction. Only to be hated for it by everyone.

3) Chloe can't be cured, and goes full-hybrid. But the crew needs her new mathematical abilities so badly that they induce paralysis and push her around on a sled to wherever they need her. This splits the crew between those that want to end her suffering and those that don't want to lose her abilities.

Chloe isn't the only example either. Young's been an alcoholic psycho for how long now? Telford was convinced he had to go. But now he and Young are best buds? Telford follows his lead? What the... ?

Oh, the crew find that their descendents (from a time-travel accident) have colonized part of the galaxy they're in? Oh no! That's too interesting! We must run away and reset this immediately before it saves the show!

Or how about the ship's stated mission. Which can be paraphrased as: "To boldly wander about aimlessly without purpose until god tells us something important. Whenever that might be."

Yep. Cowardice sums it up well. It reminds me of another famous franchise.

Star Trek's writers kept trying to get back their creative spark by changing the setting too. First they traded the Enterprise for a run down space station. Then they took a Federation ship, merged it with a pirate crew, and flug it out into nowhere. Then they went back a hundred years or so and did the prequel thing.

But while each of these settings had promise, they kept falling back on the same tired tropes and cliches every time. They kept running away from the conflict and playing it safe with the old tired formulas.

Because the problem was never the setting. It was the writers and producers that defined it.

End of rant.


  1. The other SG's always fell back into the the status quo as well, so it's not like this ones vastly diffident in that respect. On the other hand, the other two series never pretended to be super serious business.

    The way TV is made in this country, it's very hard to produce a good show, let alone a good sci-fi show. Every series is expected to go on for an indefinite number of episodes. This prevents you from creating a coherent story driven series because coherent stories have endings. So you have to make an episodic series, or extend a show past its logical conclusion. Episodic series even get run into the ground because a premise seems to never last as long as the need to milk it for revenue.

  2. There are exceptions. Showtime's Dexter was self contained. Each of it's first 2 seasons had a definite ending with no cliffhanger. Had the show been canceled, the audience would have gotten a complete story.

    It's much more akin to how the Japanese will run an anime series. Here's a story arc. When that one's over we'll do another. But each stands on it's own story-wise.

  3. I didnt mind the show, thought it was aright at best, then the gorgeous Ginn arrived on the scene and suddenly everything looked rosey, no more relying on the boring chloe to be the show's eye candy. Then they killed her off for no good reason and went back to chloe again after healing her up which I agree was lame.

    I think the problem they made with chloe was they were going to write the character out and replace her with ginn but for some crazy reason she wasnt as popular so they made a massive U-Turn on it, hence the healing story arc.

    I liked atlantis and that had no decent eye candy at all, its really not required as long as the story is good. Universe was flawed in that it had very few likeable characters, for me rush just isnt as interesting as mckay or sam at all.

  4. Horrid movie, horrid series(s). The the end two bad-guy fighters fly over 5000 rebels and dont see them or their tracks anywhere in the desert. Thank god I never watched more than one episode of the various series(s). At least 'Enterprise' had a hot vulcan (VULKAN?) to watch in her skivies every other episode...

  5. When McKay showed up for an episode, it was like a breath of fresh air. Even toned down and less silly, he ruled.

    The Ginn thing just reminded me of the episode where Chloe had 3 different women's souls/personalities stuck in her. Gee, 3 different men are attracted to 3 different personalities in the same body.

    Drama possibility? Yep. RESET NOW!!!

    The other sore point for me was when they had the time travel accident and wound up with a copy of both Rush and Telford. Having 2 Rushes around for a few episodes would have been great. But they got scared and killed him off stupidly.

    Telford had a copy on each side of the universe. It wouldn't have even required split-screen tricks to keep the copy around. He could have swapped bodies with himself using the stones. But no, they killed him off ASAP too.

    Farscape used a similar situation to split the main character into copies, let another character fall in love (over 3-4 episodes) with the clone before he died, and then dealt with her unwillingness to go through the pain of trying to initiate a relationship with the other copy when they rejoined. Good stuff!

    It's painful to think about what could have been. Much like the Star Wars prequels. :(

  6. @Warboss

    The first 4 seasons of SG1 (and season 2 of Atlantis) were actually damn good. Then the show moved to Sci-Fi/Syfy and things went to hell.

  7. The first two shows definitely didn't take themselves to seriously which is why I think they did so well. I agree that SGU had ZERO interesting characters and didn't get off the ship nearly enought.

    Some shows have managed to do contained story arcs. Supernatural shift well from a 3 season contained arc to a five season arc. Season 6 feels a little tacked on but the first 5 fit great. The alternative is an amazing show like Firefly having a long known arc that we don't get because of Fox (say thank you everyone). It can be done but takes writers with balls to do it.

  8. I've been a big fan of the original movie and series, could not get into Atlantis, and never saw a single episode of Universe on account of me ceasing to watch TV about three or four years ago due to nothing real interesting being on (I only ever use my TV for the occasional movie or game). Posts like this let me know I was not in error about the quality of current programming.



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