Strip it Down

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

Two sci-fi series ended their run in Mid-May: Stargate: Universe and Smallville.

Another series I liked – Human Target – was cancelled. I will miss you. I loved you in Season 1 and didn’t quite like Season 2 – yes, it had its moments, but it ultimately was the ugly love-child of Season 1 and Chuck. Jackie Earle Haley, I will miss you lighting up my TV screen as the amazing, unique Guerrero.

Stargate: Universe limped to its last episode on Tuesday, May 10 2011, in Canada. The ninth and last Chevron, encoded for the last time. Now packed away, gathering dust.  Until the eventual reboot, or another Stargate spin-off.

What started off as a mediocre movie with a fantastic concept in ‘Stargate’ (the film), turned in to a fun sci-fi techno-romp, spun off into an interesting concept (on paper) with Stargate Atlantis, managed a 17 year run on TV. The show did have the potential to be a really good sci-fi series. Potential is one thing, the end result; another.  Bad execution, bad characterisation, bad everything. Too dark, too obscure, too much of anything. SGU never found its soul.  Too much of a copy of Battlestar Galactica. Imperfect. Homage is good, but the show never really found itself.

I’ve read many recent exit interviews with the show’s creators and stars and have been struck by  the ‘I think we’ve been watching different shows’ stories. The intended story of ‘the wrong people in the wong place’ did not translate. There appeared to be a complete disconnect with the actors’ interpretation of their characters and what was ultimately shown on-screen.

There was little to care for or admire in any of SGU’s characters. Throughout the show’s two-season run, characterisation was all over the map. X may mark the spot, but the X appeared to move each episode.  And change font.  Semi-schizophrenic. Sure, we got some glimpses of the show’s potential in Season 2.5. Too little, too late. Still incoherent. Attempts at year-long story arcs, and mini-arcs, failed miserably. Arcs started, but  were abandoned mid-arc. Stitching up Frankenstein produced a better result. Confusing and conflicting characterisation that seemed only to serve the ‘story’ of the week.

No, maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to ‘get it’. Maybe I simply did not have the time to invest in the show.

I did like that Eli, SGU’s everyman, looked longingly and happily in to space at the end. A grand adventure. The voice of the audience.

Too little, too late. We didn’t find out who, if anyone, was on the shuttle that zipped away from the ship ‘Destiny’ (third episode of Season 1).

I did read on Gateworld that the show’s creators and producers had plans for a third season.  Joe Mallozzi blogged that there were ‘vague notions’ of where the show was going. Okay. The first two seasons were a disaster. No where to go but up.  Vague or not.  How do you get to the end of a season and not have any idea where your show is going?  You decide when the ship’s gas tank runs out? Or the GPS fails and runs out of maps?

I’m working on the plans for a pilot of what will probably be my real ‘series’. It’s still in the initial ‘it’s an interesting idea, let’s see if it can be viable’ stage. I’m excited about it. There is a five-year plan. An ‘infrastructure’ of sorts. Challenging. A huge creative stretch, wondering can it be done?

I didn’t get the impression that there was a five-year plan for SGU. It just seemed made up as it went along. This is cool now, so we’ll inject this. The music montages work in other shows, so that’ll work here. Not even ‘cool’ music. The dark sets will be cool and edgy. No. They were annoying. The show is really interesting. Maybe to those who are writing it. The writers forgot  the rule that as writers, they are the audience. Perhaps they were in over their heads with trying to write ‘serialised’ drama.

The show failed at trying to do anything interesting, complex, or bold. We were given a character that was a flawed hero. Not Joseph Campbell. Having Col. Young be a good commander on paper while underneath flawed, complex, and not-so-shiny, may have worked. SGU also had little to no conflict. Most of the characters seemed to only react to things. None seemed proactive. Just one throwaway thing after the next. Plots, characters. I never really got to know many of the show’s characters. Whatever they were seemed to serve the week’s thin plotline. Random facts. Perhaps it’s just Web 2.0. You are what you are this week in 140 characters or less. And if you’re lucky, you can be repackaged and retweeted. ‘My next tweet’. The new montage. The new mash-up. It’s only word reorganisation.

I won’t even talk much of SGU’s treatment of female characters. Most seemed based on the needs of the show’s moments. Which weren’t many. Vanilla, boring. Manufactured garbage.

I did like Robert Carlyle as the enigmatic Rush, but even he couldn’t save the sinking ship Destiny.

Smallville ended its ten-year run. It had its ups and downs (I had stopped watching for a while but tuned in briefly to Season 9 and was impressed that the show had ‘grown up’), but the last year or so stayed true to the Superman mytharc. As a series, it did have a good ending, replete with  Clark Kent becoming Superman and John Williams’  Superman theme closing the show. Clark Kent has grown-up.

Dr. Who is moving to its mid-season break. It’s been an interesting season. Amy Pond continues as the Doctor’s most uninteresting companion-to-date. Most of my attention has been on Rory. I did like the Neil Gaiman-penned ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. This week’s first of a two-parter does raise an interesting question of ‘cloning’. But doesn’t delve deeply enough in to the complex moral, social, societal, and ethical aspects.  What does it mean, exactly, to have the thoughts, memories, and life experiences of someone, but not be that someone? Is your experience just as real, as valid? Or are you just stealing memories and time? Is your experience fake? Do you know it is unreal? Reflections have never looked so bad. So unreal.  Both music choices – Muse’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and Dusty Springfield’s ‘You don’t have to say you love me’ worked quite nicely – the first talking about deception, the other, unrequited love. The season appears to be following the theme of ‘identity’. Who are you, really? All characters are questioning who they are – the Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory, and River Song. The impossible astronaut may not be quite what or who he or she seems.

One small step, one giant leap.


~ by hooklineandthinker on May 23, 2011.

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