No Big Loss

January 3, 2011

It was announced in December that SyFy had cancelled Stargate Universe. And I can’t say I’m too broken up about it. I really like the Stargate franchise. I started watching it when it came to SciFi in season 5, and soon caught up with the first four seasons as well as staying current with the next 5 as well as the spin-off series, Stargate Atlantis. It was a fun show with action, adventure, humor and drama all in the right doses to make it entertaining. It had a great mix of characters, that developed and grew over the series’ first 15 years.

Then they came out with Stargate Universe. Or, as I like to call it “Stargate Galactica”. Because that is just what it is. It has the horrible characters and dark setting of the Battlestar Galactica reboot jammed into the Stargate Universe. What first drew me to Stargate was playful humor and the characters. Even after Jack O’Neill left and was replaced by Cameron Mitchell, and with the crew of Atlantis, it kept that irreverence in many of the characters and the some of the story to keep the more serious elements from overwhelming the show. All of that was thrown out for Universe.

Instead, what we get is a group of people, both military and civilian thrust onto a millenium old ship that is falling apart with little-to-no chance of returning to Earth. They can continue to contact Earth through the Ancient Communication Stones that allow a consciousness to be transferred over any distance, but other than that, they are on their own. The characters are “flawed”, and therefore have problems and agendas. For example, Rush, the head scientist wants to discover what Destiny’s mission was, and doesn’t mind stranding everyone on the ship with him, or setting up the Colonel for murder to get his way. So, just like BSG, it’s a grim situation with people you don’t like or even want to care about.

And that’s my biggest problem with SGU, and really a lot of shows on today. The writers work so hard to make the characters “flawed” and “real” that they stop being people anyone wants to see or care about. I don’t mind characters have personal problems, past or present, of certain traits that make them a certain way, but that’s not what BSG started or SGU tried to continue. Instead, they tried to think up ways to make the characters into the most unlikable people possible. Their way of developing a character is to make sure something horrible happened to them. Don’t know what to do with Senator’s daughter Chloe, who just sleeps with Lieutenant? Have her kidnapped by aliens and genetically altered, and then have Rush use her. Eli, the odd-man-out on the ship with no military or scientific experience, but is just really smart. He always gets the “I like you as a friend” speech, so let’s give him a girl who really likes him and then kill her!

The only character I really liked in SGU was Greer, a Master Sergeant with violence issues. But he seems to be the only character without an agenda or trying to get something. If he doesn’t like you, he tells you. His solution to most things is shoot it or beat it up. He’s still a bit of a jerk, but you always know where he stands. There is nothing duplicitous about him, and for that, I really appreciate him.

SyFy seems to have thought if they took their most popular franchise Stargate and combined it with the gritty and dark atmosphere of BSG, they were have an automatic hit on their hands. But they have just found out how discerning sci-fi fans are. We don’t just watch anything that’s sci-fi related, or is franchise related. We want good stories with strong characters that we care about and want to keep coming back every week to see, not to check in to see how bad the train wreck has gotten.

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