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cat: what the shit is this!?

On Stargate: Universe

Not that long ago, I finally got a DVR, which enabled me to play catch-up with some of my favorite TV shows that I have missed due to my crazy schedule. It's weird, because while I'm working only part-time and, up until this session, have been only taking one class (eight weeks) online, I feel like I don't have the time to do my usual activities--even staying up-to-date with my Feed on Facebook, let alone checking journals and other sites, working on fic/art, getting organized on my computer, etc. I'm not even playing video games or writing articles (like I should be). Where does my time go?

So when I finally do get some breather time and I can watch TV, imagine my shock to hear that the Monday evening episode of Stargate: Universe (the latest iteration in the Stargate franchise, which began with the Kurt Russell MGM movie and became Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis on the SyFy--formerly Sci-Fi--channel) was the final one! As in SERIES FINALE.

What the hell!?

The show's only been on for two seasons now, and intermittent seasons at that. Meanwhile, "SyFy" (which is a joke of a name, but it's "trademark-able!") is showing cooking shows, ridiculous ghost/urban legend/paranormal shows that everyone with a brain knows are staged, and oh yes! WRESTLING.

There are a handful of science-fiction television programs on these days. A few of them are good. Not all of them are on SyFy, and of the ones that are, not all of them even have a true sci-fi bent the way Stargate: Universe (henceforth "SGU") did. To name a few: Haven, Eureka, Sanctuary, Being Human, Doctor Who, Fringe...etc. There are also some that places will list that I honestly don't consider Sci-Fi. For example, Smallville, another favorite show of mine. It's not sci-fi. It's action, if anything, because it's based off the early years of SUPERMAN, for Pete's sake! Or call it drama, or romance, because it's like a slightly more angsty version of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, from the 90s! NOT SCI-FI.

Merlin? Also not sci-fi. In fact, anyone who likes Merlin really ought to know better: it's fantasy, pure and true. Call it myth, call it legend, call it fairy tales--it sure as hell IS NOT sci-fi.

What follows is a rant about the cancellation/ending of SGU; there will be spoilers.

I'll admit, the premise of SGU didn't initially appeal to me. I was a fan of the original Stargate movie, with angsty Kurt Russell and adorkable James Spader. And then came along the Stargate SG-1 series, which took angsty Kurt Russell and replaced him with witty, action hero Richard Dean Anderson, and used Michael Shanks in place of James Spader, who went on to do strange lawyer dramas. And we got some new characters, like Amanda Tapping's serious-and-scientific beauty, Samantha Carter. And a bad-guy-gone-good named Teal'c! And many other fun characters, both minor and major.

The show was funny, sometimes campy, but had good doses of action, adventure, scientific discovery and exploration (I mean hell, the whole premise of Stargate are these gates that allow instantaneous transportation to a world way the hell out there in the galaxy!), and even romance! But only a little drama, here and there.

It was followed by Stargate: Atlantis, which didn't last as many seasons (Five to SG-1's ten, along with at least two TV movies, Continuum and the Ark of Truth), which I'll admit, I never got into. The team didn't sound all that appealing to me, even when Amanda Tapping briefly starred in it. While the premise was pretty cool (new galaxy! new villains! stuck out there, but in a really cool, technologically advanced place!), the few episodes I managed to catch never stuck with me the way the SG-1 ones did.

And then came SGU. I gave it a chance, because I liked SG-1 and wanted to see some new sci-fi. I never walked into it expecting something JUST LIKE the other two iterations of Stargate on TV, because 1) it was never billed as such and 2) why in the world would they do the same thing twice? They may have tried to copy the success of SG-1 with Atlantis, but it didn't work, and the show only made it halfway through SG-1's seasons. So clearly, trying something new was more in their favor.

I've actually really liked more dramatic shows lately. But not necessarily "edgy" or "gritty." I never could get into Battlestar: Galactica, for some reason, and yet that's supposed to be the prime example of "gritty, edgy, dark sci-fi." And it was critically acclaimed, apparently, in its new version, versus the campy version of the olden days. But for me, the drama has to be mixed in with something else--not just action from fights, angst from deaths or other losses, or adventure in simply "being in space," but something more: the character interactions, the way they all play off one another and are not archetypes or stereotypes or any other necessarily definable -types!

SGU seemed to be offering that, and so I watched. We had a Colonel of the Icarus base whose morals may not have been in the right place--he was cheating on his wife with a Lieutenant serving under him, medic Tamara Johansen. We had an egotistical, angsty doctor with almost zero people skills, Dr. Rush, and the brainy, geeky Eli who cracked his code and proved to be a major asset. We had botanist and all-around-good-girl Lisa Park, and the sometimes angry, sometimes broody Sergeant Greer. We had Lieutenant James, a serious fighter who was betrayed by Lieutenant Scott, who was banging her before he met the lovely Chloe, assistant and daughter to the one politician involved with the Icarus project. We had a handful of geeky, occasionally antagonistic scientists like Volker and Brody, and Col. Young's rival of sorts, Col. Telford. And we had Camille Wray, the "peacemaking" internal affairs civilian, who was also a lesbian!

In short, a great cast of characters who all had their foibles and flaws, and were never TOO soap operatic to be unbelievable. After all, if their intrapersonal issues became the focus of the show, then it wouldn't be sci-fi anymore, would it? And even though it was "character-driven" compared to the episodic adventure/puzzles of the SG-1 and Atlantis series, it wasn't BAD for it. When people say "it sucks," I don't understand that. What were they expecting? What did SGU fail to deliver for them? If you walked into it with some familiarity of the Stargate franchise but no expectations (as one typically does with the Star Trek franchise: we expect similarities as far as the history and technology goes, but the story and cast can go any which way), I can't see how you can say "it sucked," unless drama simply isn't your genre at all.

In any case, whatever one's expectations, it was a slow start. We had to take the time to get to know the characters, because they were portrayed as human--ALL human--and thus didn't fit into cookie-cutter character molds as easily as the characters in past Stargate shows (even those with a mostly-human cast like SG-1) did. See, even in that show, they had archetypes. In SGU, it was harder to make ONE character fit into an archetype, because so many other characters had traits of that "job," but not all of them. It was great to see a fresh cast that wasn't pre-pigeon-holed!

But I kept coming back to it, and I loved the first season finale, because I honestly wanted to know whether epic betrayal would keep everyone from their goal: getting back to Earth. But I had a hard time keeping up with when it was on and when it was not--not just because of its intermittent season schedule, but because it changed days and times. I've missed a decent chunk of season two, and for that reason, I do plan on buying it on DVD, even though it saddens me that so many questions have gone unanswered (to me, anyway).

For example:
* What really happened to Tamara's baby? As far as she believes, the baby somehow ended back up on a world they visited long ago, and left some crew members at, but everyone else thinks she lost the baby during a bloody gunfight.

* What happened with the Lucien Alliance's planned attack on Earth?

* How exactly did there end up being two Destinys? That is, how did recharging and gating from within a star result in one copy of Destiny being destroyed, with the crew gating to a world they ended up naming Novus and civilizing, while another continued its journey up until the point we saw in the finale? We never saw the drop-off of the descendants of Novus on the world that the other colonists would supposedly eventually reach, so what was that like? How can the descendants even exist in the current Destiny's timeline? What happened to those that settled elsewhere, like Brody?

* Where did the Drones come from, and is there a way to beat them? Are they related to the Replicators from SG-1 in any way?

* If Destiny's true mission is to solve some sort of mystery--like where the signal sent out from the Big Bang--originated from, where DID it come from?

* Are there other parts of the ship as-yet-undiscovered? What about damaged and not yet capable of repair? Stargate doesn't have ships with replicators and holodecks, which makes their troubles that much more difficult out in space. But unlike SG-1, where some worlds are populated with civilizations--advanced or otherwise--the Destiny crew visits worlds that are often harsh, unrelenting, and, if populated, not by human-friendly life.

* Will Dr. Park's blindness be permanent? The finale seemed to hint at it being as much, but will it give her any insights that she couldn't/didn't have before, the way Chloe seemed to gain a special enhanced intelligence after the blue aliens experimented on her?

* Speaking of Chloe, what ever happened with her "changing?" Did she stop changing just because she got put in the chair, or no? I thought Rush said that they made everyone THINK she would no longer change because of the chair, but that it was a lie....

* And on the chair, whatever happened to Doctor Franklin, who used the chair? It's theorized that Destiny used his likeness (uploaded his consciousness) to interact with Rush, but I think that the chair may have enabled him to become Ascended. Whatever the case, we never learn what really happened to him....

* It's revealed that alternate!TJ developed Lou Gehrig's disease, and that means that the current TJ has it as well. They downloaded a third of their descendant's massive database, but it didn't apparently contain the cure they needed. And alas, the descendants themselves didn't have the database--only the now-destroyed planet that Destinty's alternate crew members settled did. They didn't get any information from the descendants on the planet, and for whatever reason couldn't catch up with the ones still en route, so the question is: will TJ survive? Will a cure somehow be found?

In the finale, the relentless attacks from the Drones lead Eli to suggest another outlandish idea (this following his crazy idea of recharging Destiny inside a blue super giant, which got so hot it resulted in 300+ degree temperatures throughout the ship, including the hydroponics bay where Lisa Park ended up losing her vision): skip the rest of this galaxy. They do one continuous FTL jump and go into stasis so they don't have to worry about food or other supplies, which they would have to get from planets that they can gate to...planets that are blocked by difficult-to-defeat Drone command ships. They all manage to activate the stasis pods and, after getting some special metals from a planet (while distracting the Drones with a remote controlled shuttle), fix the remaining broken ones...except one.

So between Eli, Rush, and Young, someone has to sacrifice themselves, it seems. Young and Rush don't trust one another, and it seems as though Eli is forced to volunteer, though he does so with gusto and determination. And yet, after everyone else is in stasis, we know that Eli has but two weeks of life support to fix the other stasis pod, or else 1) screw everyone else over and take enough energy to keep himself alive--and somehow get food--resulting in the stasis pods either failing or the FTL causing them to drop out "between" galaxies, where they would drift; 2) die.

Not very appealing options, but I believe that he would figure it out and get in the stasis pod, only for EVERYONE'S pods to somehow get disrupted before the journey (three years long) is complete, or something else would happen resulting in everyone else (or MOST everyone else) getting out of their stasis before three years were up. Maybe like Eli getting kidnapped by aliens?!

I don't know what the writers or producers had in mind. I don't know if they can or will share. I don't know if the movies for the TV series (SGU included) will ever get green-lit again by MGM, or if any amount of time will mean fewer cast and crew from the show can participate. I don't know if there will be books, the way there are for Star Trek and Star Wars...though admittedly, some of those are good, some are not. There's always fanfiction, but it's not the same.

I WANT STARGATE UNIVERSE BACK! To that end, I joined the campaign on Facebook, though I don't know how much (if any) of an impact it'll have. Still, I do believe in ripple effects: enough people wanted Jorja Fox not to leave CSI that, while she did leave for a time, it was a very SHORT time, and she ended up coming back to full cast member. Maybe the same thing can happen with SGU, even though we're talking about a whole show and not just one character?

In any case, I feel like the channel SyFy has lost its identity. It has a handful of good shows that it still runs, some of them original. A few of those are sci-fi in some form or another, but compared to SGU, which was just getting AMAZING? I don't understand why they got renewed with no problems, but SGU didn't. I absolutely hate it. SGU represented what I feel is good sci-fi/drama for today's audience, and while not everyone loved it, it was definitely worth giving a chance to...and the execs at SyFy, who clearly aren't "fans" of any kind, just money-grubbers, don't seem to understand that.

You can also view this entry at Dreamwidth. There are comments on the post there!


Pretty much all of this. It failed so badly because a lot of the SG1/SGA fans immediately attacked it because it wasn't just like the first two shows. I know people who are fans of them and have at least actually watched some SGU and they think it's terrible, and I can't understand why.

Hell, I think it's that much better than the first two. (Or at least Atlantis. Which, retrospectively, is not hard to do.) I loved the characters except Scott and Chloe who can both gdiaf pleasepleaseplease and I love the overarching plots and I love that it's NOT focused on action action action witty retort funny action worlds funny worlds worlds worlds.

Yeah, they didn't pull in big numbers, and I was surprised enough when they pulled out a second seasons. But then Syfy had to go and change the time and the day--there is no SciFi Friday anymore. Friday has wrestling. Where do we move our popular science fiction shows? To Tuesday night where all the biggest, most popular shows on primetime are. AND THEN THE NUMBERS DROPPED, GEE I WONDER WHY. Coming back for the 2nd half of the 2nd season, they changed dates and times again to Mondays at 10. Just to make extra sure it was dead as dead can be.

For insights to the show and hopefully some answers as to what they were gonna do next season, I suggest checking out Joe Mallozzi's blog. He's good at inside looks and answering fan questions. Which reminds me I still need to ask him if Rush and Young were ever going to get together on screen or if they were just going to keep teasing us with the shippiness.

Chloe stopped changing when they took her back to the aliens and they messed with her a little more. Got turned back to normal but was for some reason allowed to keep her amazing superbrain. I think to make her seem like she was actually useful and could contribute to the show.

It was a surprisingly good ending for the show. I kept expecting a dramatic battle where it looks like the ship is going to fall apart any moment--then cut to black. But they didn't do that. They did the Air-like montage of the ship shutting down instead of activating, and Eli having his little moment, and we have 3-or-maybe-1000 years and it just...was nice. Not cliffhanger-y per se. Although I wasn't totally satisfied. I found Young's saying he didn't trust Rush to make the right decisions to be totally ignorant of what those two had gone through all this season (and thus made me decide that he and Rush just argued about it and settled on that story because Eli would buy it, because Young wouldn't want him to know it was mostly because he wanted to make sure they were safe and he was acting on the little deathwish he's had from the start, and then they didn't think Eli would volunteer anyway which messed it all up, BUT THAT'S MY FIX TO THAT NEVERMIND ME), and I still think it should've been Rush left out. But mum had a point when she said that it was nice for Eli to because if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't even be on the ship. I also never heard anyone bring up the idea of shoving two people into one pod, which leads me to believe that that already wasn't possible, but I'd like to know why that is. Couldn't we have just transferred what power was going into the failed pod to a working one and fit two people in?

But yeah, I complain, but it was a whole hell of a lot better than it could have been.

I'm really hoping that the story is continued through novels or comics. We're not gonna get it back as a show; it's way too late for that. And with the death of this show (along with MGM's money issues and flirting with bankruptcy) comes the death of all the possible SG1/SGA movies that might've come if SGU had been popular. But from what I can tell, it actually started getting more of a gathering this season and people who initially hated it started coming around...AFTER they decided to cancel it. Thanks, guys. Really helpful, that. Augh.

/writes fanfics and RPs characters forever and ever
The thing is, I had no idea it was cancelled back in December, which is why I joined all the "Save SGU" campaigns and tried to watch it more regularly. But you're right--the constant time-changing didn't help. Whether it's SyFy losing its identity as a channel or MGM serving as yet another example of poor money management in today's big-name brands, I'm peeved. Why can't these companies just be more transparent about a) the mistakes they've made b) the things they've tried to remedy those mistakes and c) the fact that they need help--be it in the form of money, better ideas, etc.

I guess that's really what it boils down to for me: I don't think this (cancellation of the show or movies) would have happened if either the channel or MGM had solicited help in some form from the true fans who care, and WILL throw their money at them to keep the show alive, get the movies back, etc. But SyFy and MGM are "all about the Benjamins," and it shows. They want to please everyone and so they come across as scattered and half-hearted in their attempts to "do great things," or "make big money," or whatever their goals are as companies.

Re: Young and Rush, I agree that they constantly waver between finally getting along and disagreeing to the point of epic, backstabbing betrayal. But Young's got precedent for believing Rush would do that, and Rush's personality hasn't changed enough for him to think otherwise. Even Eli knows that, and he wasn't personally involved in (m)any of the fights between the two.

Folks have pointed out how convenient it was that they had exactly the number of pods for the folks on the ship, but I think it was luck more than anything else: if they'd had to face that situation with the original amount of people, way more people than Eli would have been left out. But people died on planets, stayed behind, got killed or sacrificed themselves... so the numbers dropped. I do think the pods are big and COULD have fit multiple people, but probably the technology wasn't meant for that, and retrofitting to make them as such would be more troublesome than getting that palladium hydride (which, really, how did they turn the ore into something workable for the pods so quickly?!). I do think shunting the power would have been a convenient answer for that, but since when is anything convenient...in space?!