Thursday, May 12, 2011

No More Through The Gate

This week is rather a big one sci-fi, and myself, and not in a happy “Here’s the finale of Battlestar where we get all the answers” way… OK, bad example. Anyway, Monday saw the last ever episode of Stargate aired. Not just Universe but everything Stargate related. The producers have said MGM currently aren’t interested in continuing the saga of the SGC in any form having knocked back all four proposals for movies.

Stargate is an odd one for me. Over the last six or so years I’ve become a die hard fan, but before that I really wasn’t bothered. I’d watched the first three seasons of SG-1 on and off as Sky had shown it as came out. But then there was university and the adventures of Jack O’Neil and the rest of SG-1 wasn’t quite so much of a priority as drink and girls, probably should have been some education in there too but never mind. I still caught the occasional episode hung over on a Sunday with T4 but was easily lost with Daniel dying and being replaced and coming back to life then Jack stepping down.

However, news came down that Ben Browder was joining the cast as Richard Dean Anderson’s replacement along with Claudia Black playing a role I decided it was time to step back through the gate for a Farscape reunion. I watched season eight to see Anderson’s leaving and carried on through to ten. I think I’m one of the few major fans who will defend Browder’s Mitchell as a valid character instead of just being a poor man’s Jack O’Neill.

Still, with SG-1 proving itself to me, which had me going back and catching up on some of the seasons I missed, I resisted Atlantis. When it was announced Samantha Tapping as Carter and Firefly alumni and all-round cutey Jewel Staite were both joining the cast I mentioned it to a mate I was tempted. He promptly lent me the first two seasons, and promised I’d enjoy it, but I still just never got round to it. Then I was struck down with a major food poisoning which left me bed bound for three days. With my body not capable of much more than just laying and shaking except when stuff tried to evacuate it induced me with super-human speed to the bathroom, I figured I might as well as watch the two seasons that were just sitting there.

My first impression was that my initial decision to not bother was the right one. The first half of Atlantis season 1 was pretty weak, the show was quite obviously SG-1’s little sister with the episodes just copying their format. However, mid-season comes along and the crew of Atlantis found its footing and its own identity and the quality soared. Atlantis contains some of my all time favourite Stargate moments, Mackay loosing his mind in ‘The Shrine’ and Carson’s death and the resulting fallout particularly stand out. The interplay between Mackay and Shepherd surpassed that of O’Neill and Jackson for me, and Rodney Mackay is easily my favourite character within the whole franchise.

When Atlantis was cancelled I was quite angry, in fact I still am to some degree. Atlantis had the wool pulled out from underneath it as the producers had a ‘brilliant’ idea for a new show. Not wanting to run two shows alongside each other, a problem they claimed during its first three years with SG-1, Sy-Fy offered the chance to carry the series on in movies much like its older brother and commission the new show. I was convinced the correct action would have been to give the still successful show the warning that season 6 will be their last, allowing them to wrap things up properly, rather than jamming things together like Ark of Truth tried. I betting with Universe’s ratings the producers are wishing something like that too.

However with Atlantis ending with news of a movie follow up, a third SG-1 movie and Universe on the cards I started to think Stargate was unstoppable and would continue to grow and become the size of something like Star Trek. Unfortunately, Universe proved me wrong here.

It's first season was seen by many, and I’m certainly one of them, to be quite weak. It concentrated on characters to make the later story-arcs mean more to the audience, but it did it at the cost of the current goings on. It was haemorrhaging viewers week on week. The fact it was so different to any Stargate that came before certainly didn’t help either, especially as some Atlantis fans held it in such low-regard for costing them their show.

The second season was a definite improvement. There were times it even felt like Stargate. But the second season is too late to repair the damage. Viewers were at an all time low and Sy-Fy took the decision to end it. Brad Wright campaigned for another season, then another the aforementioned movies, sacrificing the Atlantis follow up in the aftermath of continuing Universe, then seemingly resurrecting it in hope of carrying on Stargate in some way.

Of course it’s not all MGM’s fault, they’re simply reacting to the market place. DVD movies simply don’t make the sort of money that they did when they first experimented a few years ago with Ark of Truth and Continuum. And they don’t exactly have a lot of money to be throwing round at the minute either. Sy-Fy seems to be forgetting its foundation as a sci-fi network and shedding shows in favour of wrestling and reality programming. I was shocked when it was pointed out they didn’t have a single space based show in production any more.

I don’t think this is the end for Stargate though. Like most franchises these days it’ll be brought back when someone has an idea. Hopefully someone comes along that breathes life into the existing storyline like Star Trek seems to be so lucky to get rather than a total reboot like practically everything else. In the meantime there’s always the DVD’s of SG-1 and Atlantis, and of course the more that are bought the more MGM are going to look at continuing the story.
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