Sunday, October 04, 2009
Note: As ever, my apologies to non-US readers for the (cht)Hulu streams, but I'm sure you folks are resourceful and can find alternate outlets for the shows in question.
"A Stargate for the rest of us," the headline reads, and so far that seems to be the case. The Stargate movie was a good old-fashioned guilty pleasure, but the two series- SG-1 and Atlantis- strike me as nothing more than elaborate fan fiction or LARP (that's "live action roleplay" for all of you who -unlike me- have a life).
Believe me, I really wanted to like them, particularly since I was left without a space opera when the Star Trek franchise shat the bed with Voyager and Enterprise. I was curious when Mitch Pileggi and the adorable Jewel Staite showed up on SG: Atlantis, but I just couldn't get past the nerdy, unfunny banter that the spinoffs traded in.
I scanned some of the fan boards* and it seems the SG crowd has its knives out for Universe, bemoaning the lack of "humor" and the riffs lifted from Battlestar Galactica. That should be an endorsement for the rest of us, as the review pointed out. As with politics and religion, sci-fi TV has a major problem- keeping the base and the infinitely larger mass audience happy.
I love Firefly and Serenity, but I'm not even remotely mystified as to why they never appealed to the mainstream. Sure, Buffy and Angel have a large and rabid fanbase, but neither would have lasted a full season even on Fox. Ergo, Joss Whedon's weird and creepy Dollhouse is dying a hideous death, this week posting ratings a fraction of the size of the late, great Sarah Connor Chronicles when it got the ax. And still the EW site shills for it as if it were a cult smash.
So in a meta sense the new Stargate parallels the conflict between the vocal (and often hysterically whiny) hardcore fans and the silent majority of the real audience. And the story itself is yet more pessimism and woe- the series has a crew lost aboard a scuttled alien ship after fleeing through the Stargate from a dying planet (shades of the execrable Voyager, but certainly more interesting). The series is produced in my beloved Vancouver, but is probably written in California, which the UK Guardian has declared a failed state.
Sync-wise, I was amused by all of the talk of chevrons, but so far no really interesting semiotic stuff like we saw in the movie. But I was struck again by the militarism of the Stargate concept, which is much more pronounced than the Star Trek Universe. I've also been watching some old TNGs with the missus and realized that huge swathes of the world look a lot like the post-war earth of First Contact, and Southern California might not be far behind that.
As we've discussed, there is no doubt in my mind that a lot of movers and shakers believe the universal conscription implied in the Trek franchise might be the answer to the post-capitalist dilemma. Many of you will tell me that's been the idea all along, and I wouldn't necessarily argue with that. Certainly the Stargate franchise (not to mention BSG) has picked up on that as well, most certainly in this new series.
* "FAIL" is about as hip and edgy as "not!" Whenever I see it used on a board, particularly in a thread title, I automatically disregard everything the poster has to say. Seriously.
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