{April 26, 2011}   Stargate Universe Pick-up

From ::  Stargate Universe: Exec Producer Brad Wright Hasn’t “Given Up” on the Cancelled TV Show

When I first heard that a third Stargate series was in the works, there was excitement; when I understood the premise of its storyline, there was horror. I refused to watch this pretentious upstart of a TV show that had the gall to carry the same name as my beloved SG1 and Atlantis.

It took six months of my roommate (who’s not such a big fan of sci-fi) reminding me of a promise to watch it (which I made under duress because I couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen Lord of the Rings; seriously? Seriously??) before I finally did. It took me two weeks to get through the first three episodes, I hated just about everybody on board, hated that there wasn’t regular Gate-travel, hated how people died, hated how certain people lived, just a big ole heap of hatin’ going on.

Stargate Universe

Through it all, I have to be honest and say that it was Eli’s character that kept me coming back — there was this puppy-like feeling to him, something indefinable that raised my spirits through that week’s episode, his discovery of the Kinos, the creation of the Kino-sled, his genuine friendships that gave me a grounding through the military stick-up-the-ass and the civilian coup bullshit.

And then Young’s breakdown, his spiral into despair and when the need called for him to pull through, broken and bleeding as his heart and mind continued to be…the man did. And while he did things that I would not forgive if Iwas on Destiny, the fact that he understands why they were wrong is such a strong sign of character that I can’t help but want more from every one of his fellow strand-ees.

As I keep watching, I see that same sign of character in the others: Chloe, Camile, Adam, Brody, Riley (I love Riley so much), TJ — and Rush. He is the one with the most dramatic character development, I think, which is a good thing, because the bastard continually pissed me off throughout the first season and I kept wanting to reach through the screen and punch the arrogant little mindf***er. And then The Planet. And then The Aliens. And then The Rescue of Someone Other Than Himself For No Other Reason. There was, amidst the asshole exterior, a small piece of compassion and empathy that gave me the hope that he could be more. A very very SMALL piece, mind you, can’t have him pull a one-eighty right away, see.

That being said, with the assumption that some network (Showtime, please please please?) is going to pick up SGU, I’m hoping that more of the physical realities of survival training being adapted to space will come up — and, gross as it seems, feminine hygiene in space? Just where can a girl find a makeshift tampon/pad/menstrual cup when anything metal-ish has to be saved as scrap for ship repairs and most people on board don’t know how to make re-usable bits? And where to they get cleaned, when water is so precious? Come to think of it, with that many women together in a tight space, just how are the men able to survive that time of the month?

I don’t want there to be a sense of giving up on the idea of returning home: my most favorite Star Trek series was Voyager because it held such a different premise to the others, but the crew never gave up and still ended up with Talent Nights, birthday parties, cultural exchanges, burying-the-hatchets, romances, break-ups, while defending their ship from the Evils of the Universe. There’s no reason a similar idea could be applied to SGU. In fact, it would definitely give the Lucien survivors a chance to stretch their skills and lend a hand to the Earthers — someone will eventually wear holes through their undies and while that may be acceptable to some men, for girls it creates a problem once a month.

In other words, bring SGU back, keep it alive — it has the same potential as Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (another big favorite of mine), which forces us to look at ideas we aren’t accustomed to examining, and at least in my case made me uncomfortable with the results. Which is good, because there was little repetition and it hit me hard when a not-so-nice decision that I WOULD have made is shown to play out, and I’m forced to see the consequences and ugliness; it also means that I can see the results of compassion and empathy.

It’s that same stark, unflinching portrayal of people at their strongest and their ugliest that is so worthy of further development: take the latest episode, “Epilogue.” Basic idea is that a second Destiny was created due to a temporal glitch, leading to everyone on the expedition save Rush and Telford leaving the ship and being thrown back 2000 years in the past. That temporal Rush ends up dying, but our Destiny (with Rush intact) comes upon the planet where their temporal copies ended up founding nations and descendants — at the end, when they learn what happened to their other selves, Dale Volker says to Rush: “It kills you, doesn’t it? That we got along just fine. Without you.” The look on Rush’s face just tore me apart and I wanted to slap Dale silly, which is new for me, because I really like the astrophysicist. Rush is still a bastard, he isn’t getting away with being an ass (Eli’s fury at the Bridge decision, Eli’s heartbreaking stoicism at locking away his own girlfriend and Rush’s paramour to SAVE Rush) but it still hurts because I’ve come to care for him. His well-being matters to me in a way I certainly did not expect when I first forced myself to watch the show.

If there was to be one suggestion: leave Jack out. It hurts seeing him and Sam now, knowing there was never any confirmation as to them getting together, and I actively dislike episodes with him: he doesn’t ring true to the Jack I knew and loved for 8 years. The character I knew would not have gone to Washington, did not care about the “Program” more than he did his team; hell, he could have retired and signed on as a consultant instead. Just….no more Jack, please. Ever since Season 9 it’s been my mantra that THIS Jack has been taken over by a half-Goa’uld, half-Replicator ‘thing,’ that’s why he’s changed so much. I wasn’t kidding before, it actually hurts to see him — we weren’t part of that character change, we didn’t see it happen, so I can’t empathize with him changing to conform to The Man: the Jack I knew would never do that. Daniel is Daniel, always a breath of fresh air, and Michael Shanks is phenomenal as always. Teal’c, of course, doesn’t really make sense to have an appearance, but I think if done well would be truly worth it. And Sam follows the same lines as Jack: I’ve been a fan of Stargate since the original film, a faithful follower of Sg1 through middle school, high school, and college, and it hurts never having a without-a-doubt confirmation of the hints, suggestions, alternate-realities: I don’t want them there if they can’t be true to the characters they’ve grown to be over the last ten seasons; they are more than publicity gimmicks, to fans at least.

The same goes for any future Atlantis character crossovers: I loved Rodney’s appearance, David Hewlett portrayed him with that same character development established in SG1 and through Atlantis (a truly arrogant asshole on par with Kavanaugh at his worst — to an arrogant, earnest pain in the mikta that I nevertheless wanted to hug), but if anything less had been given, I would’ve hated that too. Atlantis lost that spark when they created Michael and when they LOST ELIZABETH. Losing her so completely just cut through my patience with the show: it was harder to watch without Torri. And that FRAN-Elizabeth? To the characters and the fans, there was little point to that exercise in cruelty, there was no character development except on the side of Elizabeth’s soul, which we already knew was among the strongest and most noble, and it twisted the people left behind for no good reason. And by good reason I’m extending a generous line of belief because hey, it’s another galaxy, life’s not perfect, bad things happen, but damn it we’d already seen her pseudo-die, what, three times or so? Stop twisting the f***in’ knife, guys.

Losing Riley, though I love him so much, was just as heart-breaking as losing Elizabeth and Carson, but I was given the opportunity to see his goodness and friendship with the others onboard, I was given the build-up of Rush’s paranoia, I was given a basis for similar situations for longer than a single episode, I was given the beginning of trust between military and civilian, and when that plot point came and they passed the point of no return, when they showed Riley’s last request, Young’s response, his later withdrawal and downward spiral, Rush’s guilt and remorse which he can’t show because the others don’t know it was HIS fault — we are forced into these people’s heads and hearts and it isn’t all lovely, it is even more imperfect than I would imagine, but as real as I CAN imagine…it’s phenomenal.

Not quite a soap-opera, more survivalists-in-space-when-two-thirds-of-the-party-aren’t-survivalists — once I made that connection, Stargate Universe became something else, something capable of standing apart from SG1 and Atlantis had so many strengths and potential character-explosions that I don’t want the ride to end.

So Brad, don’t give up.


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