A month or two ago, I went on Hulu in search of something to watch. I stumbled upon Stargate SG-1, which I have never watched but which, had all ten seasons up (until sometime in January, so anyone interested best start now). It’s one of those shows that has been on for so long and somehow I’d never seen it, so I figured now was as good a time as any. (Actually, I distinctly remember being turned off by the guy with the gold on his head and never giving the show a chance, but no need to get specific.) Anyway, it turns out, I quite enjoyed the show, going through all of it and its two counterparts (spin offs: Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe) and have just caught up to what is, apparently, the last season of SGU and possibly the entire series as a whole.
I’ve decided to discuss the show by individual seasons, as that is the easiest way I can think of it.
SG-1: The original cast, specifically Sam, Daniel, Teal’C, and O’Niell (plus Hammond and Dr. Frasier) are easily the best gelling of the casts. Not that I disliked Mitch (O’Niell’s replacement), Quinn (Daniel’s temporary replacement), Dr. Lamm (Dr. Frasier’s replacement), or Landry (Hammond’s replacement), but they never quite worked for me the way our original and longest running quartet plus worked for me. And at times I quite liked Valla, though I question her being placed on SG-1. Especially because it is odd to see five instead of four.
What I loved most about the series is they way they took myths about Gods from different cultures and explained how they came about. Sure, there were the Goa’uld pretending to be Gods in order to enslave people and use them as hosts, but there were also the Norse Gods, portrayed by some friendly grey aliens (so Roswell is real!) as well as some gods on other planets who weren’t what they seemed.
There was also the surprises, such as with the Nox, who are anything but what they seem, technologically and otherwise. With the Goa’uld ability to take over a person with little or no sign (plus mind control and the many other entities that could take over a person’s mind and/or body), you never quite knew who to trust.
Whether or not I agree with the idea that people couldn’t handle knowing that aliens are out there…is mostly besides the point. They deal with the issue a few times, but it is rarely actually addressed as a true debate and is more an issue of the Stargate people making sure the secret is kept.
The most surprising aspect of the show is how much it concerns itself with politics and corruption. This is a theme that runs through all three series of the show. There are always people/governments/organizations who want to subvert the Stargate program and the technology procured for their own purposes. Sometimes, they truly believe they are doing the right thing. And sometimes you can’t help but wonder if the seemingly more fanatic groups might be right, even if just a teeny-tiny bit…
Sometimes the show got goofy. Sometimes it even made fun of its own goofiness (Sam’s on screen love interests always die, Daniel always dies, TV shows made about the show itself within the show, etc), which is always appreciated. Perfect quote:
I’m thinking I can back-sell it and say you were beamed out at the last second. [Martin]
Is that not too convenient? [Teal’c]
Not if you hang a lantern on it. It’s a writer’s term. Another character points out how convenient it is. That way the audience knows I intended for it to be convenient, and we move on. [Martin]
But for all it’s goofiness, there are some serious moments. The way they dealt with Dr. Frasier’s death, for one, was extremely well handled.
The only thing I wish they had done, was kill someone off on the main cast for good. It was a little too (dare I say it) convenient, that the cast, especially Daniel, was always brought back to life after he died. There was never a concern for serious consequences because no one we really cared about ever actually died. Which seems surprising considering how powerful some of the people we were dealing with were.
I greatly appreciate the way they bring in characters from previous episodes, either by mention or by actually bringing them in. For example, we see Sam bond with Cassandra, the little girl whose home was destroyed by the Goa’uld and though Sam isn’t the one to adopt her, she comes up a few more times and is mentioned even more often than that. (There was a little disappointment that we never got confirmation of a Sam-O’Niell relationship, but not exactly a surprise either.)
The biggest question I had from this series stemmed from a set design choice. Specifically, doesn’t it seem like an odd, even poor decision to have open flames all over a spaceship? Forget the whole issue of what if you’re attacked and one of the flames gets knocked over…isn’t it an unnecessary stress on life support? Wouldn’t you want the power on your ship running efficiently and not having to make up for the fact that fire is eating up oxygen all over the ship?
Atlantis: It felt like they couldn’t quite make up their mind about who should star in this series. The original cast was John, Teyla, Rodney, Aiden, Weir, and Beckett. Then they replaced Aiden with Ronen, Beckett with Keller, Weir with Sam, and Sam with Woolsey. For that reason the cast never seemed to gel quite as well as the original SG-1. Not all replacements were negatives. I liked Weir a lot, but wasn’t sorry to see Sam join the cast. However, I was very unhappy to see Woolsey join the cast (I loved Robert Picardo on Voyager, but I could not stand his character on this show) and felt that the characters too readily accepted him replacing Sam. I absolutely loved Keller (maybe I’m just a Firefly sentimental–ps anyone notice that her eyes are really close together?), but again didn’t particularly want to see Becket go. Ronen and Aiden were pretty interchangeably whatever for me.
I love how much crossover there is between the different series. Atlantis probably has the most crossover with characters and storylines since it overlapped with SG-1. (I remember watching SG-1, hearing a reference to the Wraith, and thinking, “wait, who are the wraith?”) There are constantly references to things we saw in one series with the other, particularly with communication stones and matter bridges, not to mention a Goa’uld moment and a few Asgard and Replicator surprises.
This show also couldn’t seem to handle letting their characters die, bringing them back over and over in one form or another (anyone else think it was weird that Repli-Weir looked different than original Weir and no one commented on it?), though we did finally have to let go of one main character. Personally, I would have been okay with getting rid of Rodney. He never grew on me because I could not handle his arrogance (even if it was legitimate at times). Though I did love seeing him and Ronen compete for Keller’s affections. That was pretty cute in its way.
The Wraith problem was resolved a little too quickly in this show. I mean, it took like 8 years to finish the Goa’uld (and that wasn’t even completely finished since they had all those Ba’al clones running around). But by season 3’s end, most of the Wraith and the replicators were done. I know Sam is good (that Rodney ever thought he would be put in charge…) but still.
Biggest issue with the series: It always felt like there was supposed to be something between Teyla and John that somehow didn’t materialize and then suddenly, there’s Kanaan and she’s pregnant. And everyone kept talking about how it was so obvious, the way she talked about him etc. Had she ever mentioned his name before?
Universe: Here the cast is a lot more stable (granted the show was only two seasons), if also somewhat larger. The one thing this show lacks is a really charismatic character. Scott is the closest we see, but his introduction (sex with fellow soldier, Vanessa James) somehow seemed off. I know that this show is meant to be grittier and darker than its predecessors, but perhaps they overdid it a little with this cast. I dislike Chloe who seems sort of personality-less to me and there are too many unstable-seeming characters otherwise (Young, Rush, Greer, even Wray but in a different way). We don’t really get to know TJ well enough. Eli is the other character that draws you in and he does a pretty good job (I was devastated by the loss of Ginn, but maybe because I liked her more than the rest of the cast), but it also seems a little too easy for him to do everything. I know he’s a super-genius, but really, he has never seen alien technology before.
This show is reminiscent of Voyager, which immediately gives it a special place for me (you know, the whole stranded in the other side of the galaxy, trying to get home thing). Even more fascinating is that, where Voyager had Janeway as an obvious and able leader, Universe has no one who is quite fit to lead. This leads to constant battles for control of the ship, especially when Stargate Command back at home, along with the IOA, attempts to give them control. I’m surprised by the fact that there has been less rebellion against the folks back home. Even in Voyager Janeway strayed away from proper protocol and she was super concerned with the Federation’s rules. Only once did Young say “I’m not taking commands from people on the other side of the universe” and he still ended up doing what they wanted.
It makes a big issue of justice and authority, which is fascinating given their circumstances and while I am not entirely clear on when they figured out how to work the communication stones, I love the way they utilize them to bring the characters back home every so often. I’m not sure that the impending threat of a Lucian Alliance attack works the way they want it to, but otherwise, I love hearing orders come from Earth, always daring for the moment when someone says, “let’s be honest, I’m never going to be back home again, I don’t care what you say. and if by some chance I do make it home, I’ll say I had a nervous breakdown or something for extenuating circumstances.” i wonder why they never propose a multi-leader situation, where Young is in charge of security, Rush (or maybe someone else) is in charge of technology, and Camille (or a voted on representative) represents the rest, so that they can discuss things that are more general lifestyle issues (such as should anyone be allowed to stay behind on the planet) and should some, if any, of the Lucian Alliance people be allowed out of confinement, etc. It’s also funny that Young gets angry when Scott says he should have been informed that the only way to break David’s mind control was to kill him and bring him back. He’s all, “so you will only obey me if I explain myself?” and I’m all “soldiers aren’t supposed to let their commanding officers murder people just because they feel like it, so in this case, yes, you should be explaining.”
We get our SG-1 favorites every so often, which is always nice, though I dislike how O’Niell is represented in this season, forgoing all the rule-breaking for right that we have gotten to know him for.
I personally love this darker series, even though I don’t particularly love the cast/crew. It’s such a shame that it’s getting cancelled this early on, when it had so much more potential for a story (though the plan for Destiny to go looking for aliens that pre-existed the creation of the universe…eh). At least we have half a season (and perhaps a movie or two) to look forward to.