Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The End Of Stargate Universe

I hate the SyFy network. At first their monster mash-up movies were fun low budget entertainments with visual effects straight out of the 1970s. They even had a few good original programs like 'Stargate SG1' and 'Stargate Atlantis' which successfully carried forward the premise established long ago in the Kurt Russel 'Stargate' movie.

I liked the TV programs. The characters and situations were interesting despite the fact that every planet that they travelled to looked an awful lot like the west coast of Canada where the show was filmed. The aliens the SG team encountered were real threats who needed to be defeated with brains as opposed to superior technology.

After 'Stargate SG1' and 'Stargate Atlantis' I thought I had seen everything this concept could produce until I was surprised two years ago with 'Stargate Universe'. This show promised to be more about character and how people with mixed agendas would survive if they found themselves on a derelict alien spacecraft millions of light years from Earth. They could still visit planets via their stargate but would constantly find themselves low on resources and patience for one another. The were the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. They just had to make it work or die.

This is my favorite idea in all of fiction. Throw a group of people who should never be together and have them learn to respect each other and trust each other while they fight to make it home. Make the obstacles almost too difficult for them to overcome but always hold out the tiniest bit of hope that they will succeed one day.

On one side you had civilian scientists who are fascinated with the technology they have discovered on board the ancient ship. They are 'led' by Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle), a genius who has little respect for anyone else's needs but his own. He is prepared to sacrifice lives just to see the mysteries solved. He cares less about getting everyone safely home than he is about this new toy he has to play with. Robert Carlyle was genius as Dr. Rush -the 'second' smartest man in the room who resented anyone telling him what to do.

Then you had Eli, a kid who had discovered the solution to an ancient puzzle placed into a video game by the military and that got him recruited to join 'Project Destiny'. He is smart but socially still a child. He is our naive observer who is excited about the adventure he finds himself on.

The third group were the military, led by Colonel Young who has the burden of seeing that everyone who is on the ship lives long enough to make it home. He has to make the hard calls and often his decisions often clash with those of Dr Rush. In fact, early in season one he left Rush to die on a planet alone rather than put up with his bullshit any longer.

There is also another group who are human looking aliens called the Lucian Alliance who want the ship, Destiny, for themselves. When they fail to take over the ship they have to learn to interact with the crew who neither trust them or want them using what precious resources are already had stretched to their limits.

So you can see that the show had a lot going for it. It was interesting stuff that dealt with eternal questions of what made a person a human and how sometimes bad decisions had to be made for the good of the group. It's stories pushed the limits of imagination but never lost focus like so many of these fantasy shows can.

This season the ship (which has to recharge itself inside a star) was pursued by mechanical drone ships who had only one imperative - destroy all technology alien to their own. It was a cat and mouse game much like the relationship between the Cylons and Humans in 'Battlestar Galactica' only 'Stargate Universe's aliens had no face or identity. Ever week I wondered how they would figure out how to defeat this new threat and in the final episode of both the season and series, they came up with a very elegant solution that I thought left room for big things to happen if the show had been extended past just two seasons.

Combine all that with the discovery that the members of Destiny's crew had been forced to escape to a planet thousands of years in the past and were only now meeting their ancestors in the present and you had head tripping story threads that I very much wanted to see played out. As I said, this is my favorite theme in science fiction and 'Stargate Universe' did its storytelling very well. It was often downbeat but always had a glimmer of hope that I found life affirming.

So I find myself watching the LAST episode of the the series because SYFY cancelled the show earlier this year. I have been warned by others and articles online that since this finale was written and filmed before the cancellation, it is not a proper ending to the show. Many questions will never be answered and it's tough shit if I don't like that.

Well fuck you SyFy. It's bad enough that you do nothing to upgrade your clunky monster movies ever since they became popular (in fact if anything the quality had dipped significantly) but now you just shit on people who have supported your 'Stargate' franchise for well over a decade. You owed us fans a proper ending to a show we invested alot of time and thought into. Even a wrap up movie would be acceptable but nothing has been announced so far. It's the worst kind of asshole studio bullshit that I have ever seen from a company that needs fans like me to keep their stupid network on the air.

The final episode turned out to more of a finale than the creators intended. Sure some story threads were left hanging but the sight of lights going off all over the ship as the crew slept away the years in stasis was as good an ending as I could hope to expect. It even left room for a made-for-TV movie in the future if SYFY wants to go that root. They did that with 'Farescape' and maybe if enough fans of 'Stargate Universe' demand it, it may occur.

Goodbye 'Stargate Universe', you were one of my favorite shows ever and like 'Fringe' I took a change watching you every week knowing full well the history and fate of similar themed shows. You never let me down. It was the network you were on that killed you prematurely. I hope you find the same rabid fan base that 'Firefly' has because the thoughtfulness you put into your storytelling and characters makes you worthy of that devotion.


DrGoat said...

It was a good show. Sorry to see it go. As far as movies go, SYFY has the worst CG monsters around. Don't even bother with those anymore. I'm also getting tired of soap-opera type shows like The Event, on NBC, as opposed to 'Justified', which is very good. Something satisfying happens every week on Justified, whereas on the Event, it's just stringing you along with crap until the cliffhanger season finale. I liked Heroes for the first two seasons, then it turned into that same equation.

Kal said...

The older I get the more I appreciate really well written character centered pieces. That is why I will miss 'SGU'. Those SYFY monster movies were fun at first but now I think they owe us more than crappy effects. I want to see some joy like their early efforts had. 'Frankenfish' and 'Mansquito' were lots of fun but when I am struggling to get through 'Sharktopus' you know something is wrong with that film.

'Justified' is so well written as well. I can just listen to the language all day long. I do watch 'The Event' but like 'Lost' I find it to be repetitive and unrealistic. People who should be caught or killed get saved at the last second and that happens at least twice an episode.

I have started watching 'Nurse Jackie' which is a great show that crams a lot of good acting into a half hour. 'Community' is funnier than any three sitcoms out there.

I decided to build up several episodes of 'Game of Thrones' before continuing with that one. Not much really happens in an hour when you have to give so many story threads their time to play out.

I am looking forward to the return of 'Warehouse 13' and 'Burn Notice'.

DrGoat said...

Yeah. Me too. Warehouse 13 is a fun show. Looking forward to it. Never watched Burn Notice, but I'll give it a try.
I have noticed I've become over-the-top critical about what I watch on the tube. Must be old age. I don't want to waste any time I've got left watching crap.

Kal said...

I really like Burn Notice. The voiceovers are very entertaining as are the missions they find themselves involved in. Bruce Campbell is in it and we all like him.

csmith2884 said...

I was ok with the turn out the lights ending. I started watching the Stargates way back in (crap) 1997 on Showtime before syfy was even thought of, of the three I liked Atlantis the best. I don't think Universe had enough time to "get there" Like Star trek maybe it will come around again. Of the new stuff I like Being Human and wish I had started watching on BBC not syfy.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I love Robert Carlyle. He is a brilliant actor.

Ricky Shambles said...

This was an awesome show, full of promise, cut down just as it was solidifying. I found it moving to the point that I probably wept more in its short life than SG1 & SGA combined.

And it makes me livid that this show goes but Haven gets another go. Arrgh!