(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.
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.