Karma Chameleon

Stargate: Universe – 2009-2010 (well, spring 2011).

Another sci-fi series done and dusted.

Today, the US Syfy network announced the cancellation of Stargate: Universe. Not truly a surprise, but I had expected at least a half season of a Season 3. For the goodwill of the franchise, the ‘brand’.

The good folks at www.sgusucks.com are thrilled.

The news is good, and also not-so-good. At least in terms of the larger picture. Danger, Will Robinson.

A thoughtful, insightful read on SGU is Maureen Ryan’s current column at TV Squad.


Stargate: Universe had a lot of potential. I was initially excited about a darker, more adult Stargate. I tuned in week after week hoping to get a glimpse of it. The star’s light became dim and well on its way to becoming a Red Star by midway through the first season. The wrong people in the wrong place, a mystery ship, destination unknown. Motivations of some of the characters, unknown. Motivation of the actual show, unknown. Unlikable characters, tedious plotting, overuse of musical montage, clumsy use of sex and sexism to appeal to the younger male demographic, little to no humour to balance the show’s darkness (both figurative and literal), glossing over serious ethical issues. A poorly plotted, convoluted mess.

Viewers started to revolt fairly early on. For some, their discontent may have stemmed from the cancellation of Stargate: Atlantis. For others, it wasn’t Stargate as they knew and liked it. For some of the rest of us, we wanted to like the show but it was failing us.

Which brought about the infamous ‘smackdown’ alluded to in Maureen Ryan’s linked post. The fan community accomplished something really interesting and somewhat unprecedented. It got a chance to speak and to possibly be heard. Things needed to be said, and they were. In detail. Much detail. Scifi fans are loyal. And have good memories. Some of the fanbase were also turned off by negative comments about the fans/viewers by the show’s creative powers.

The show took a better turn in season 2 after the lacklustre and maligned season 1. A bit more focus, a bit more speeding up of the plotline. A bit of an arc forming. Too little, too late. A move to a new night, the negativity of season 1, and the fractured fanbase did not bode well for the show’s chances. Ratings dropped. Viewers were blamed. Actually it was the show itself. Too dark, too uninteresting, too unfocused. Unlikable characters. No audience investment in the show. No reason to care, really. No heart, no soul.  No ‘show me a wonder’. Just alienation, boredom, and despair; in ever-increasing weekly doses. I get enough of that in reality.

I tuned in each week, hoping that it would get better, or that some little light would flicker even so softly that there would be hope for the show’s potential. The execution simply…. failed.

The issue of whether the fans should dictate a show’s direction came up. No. Pandering to X group of fans only tends to ruin a program (see the X Files). The creator’s vision should be honoured. Whether the viewer agrees with it or not, the  show’s creator should be able to instill his or her vision on his creation and let it speak for itself. Compelling in letting the viewer choose to tune in week after week. Having something that interests, challenges, excites the viewer. In the end, seeing the big picture. Without everyone’s interest group sticking its fingers in and demanding personal changes to suit them. Not the integrity of the show.

Integrity. A little-used word.

Wrong show, wrong time.

Riding the coattails of the darker ‘Battlestar Galactica’. An imitation. The thing about copies is that they are not perfect. Always a slight difference than the original. A slight mutation.

Syfy announced the show’s cancellation on Twitter. Fast and clean. The new way things are done.

SGU turned in to Enterprise, the swan song of the tired Star Trek TV franchise. The same creative malaise by the same people running each series. Little fresh creative blood in few new writers or showrunners. Just recycling. There are lots of gates out there, and lots of stories to tell. With a new creative team and fresh ideas, Stargate can return to awe an audience.

The question remains of what happens to sci-fi on television? Should the genre take a short rest? V will return in January, for what will probably be its last season. Fringe moves to Fridays – the death slot of TV.  Back in the 90s, The X Files ruled Friday nights. So, it’s not the day. It’s the show, it’s the change of viewing patterns. It’s  also an issue of creative malaise. No new ideas, just the recycling of old ones. No daring to take a chance and build a show, and let it breathe. More like a case of throwing things in a blender, over-focus group it, and throwing it at a cynical, weary, jaded audience. Hoping to get an audience within three airings. No chance to have something that resonates. There is no shortage of good sci-fi stories;  it’s the storytellers. The story matters, not the high-tech.

Just preaching to the choir at the church of the poisoned mind.


~ by hooklineandthinker on December 17, 2010.

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