SGU Thoughts

On the boxing day of its final episode, I’ve decided to publicize my opinion of this show, soon to be followed by a bit of a diatribe on science fiction on television in general. Please stay tuned!

This has definitely been the most controversial (by viewer’s opinion, not by subject matter, which is unfortunately lacking in social/political commentary, as much science fiction has been so keen to engage in) I’m going to try to address the many issues swirling about this series without spoiling the plot:

1) Similarities to other shows: There has been a great deal of speculation that the show is a ‘ripoff’ of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, or even Lost. While I certainly don’t disagree that it bears a cinematographical similarity to Battlestar Galactica, I don’t count that as a strike against it.

Prior shows are always going to have an impact on future shows. Film-making (whether it be TV or Feature) is an art that builds upon itself, and stands on the shoulders of those who came before it. The fact is the Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and Lost are all GOOD shows, regardless of your impression of it or whether or not it struck you the right way, they were the best of their genres at one time or another, and even bent their genres into something new.

That being said, to call this show a ‘rip-off’ or ‘carbon copy’ of any of those shows is grossly over simplifying things and intentionally misleading. Perhaps we should just create a new genre name, like ‘Adult Sci-Fi’, so we can get over all these intellectual property theft allegations.

2) Dissimilarities to other Stargate franchises: I generally take some heat for this, but I’m sorry to say that past Stargate shows actually weren’t very good. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched every episode of SG1, and most of Atlantis (still working on that), and enjoyed just about all of it, but even while enjoying it, I was fully recognizant of the fact that it wasn’t actually good. It’s campy. The acting is sub-par, even when there are good actors in the shows. The sets are generic and bland, reminiscent of the original series of Star Trek, the scripting is packed with fromage, and the plots, no matter how original, were all clearly predictable and lacking in tension.

But to a niche crowd (myself included) they were thoroughly enjoyable through a mixture of silly humour, sci-fi gratification, and a unique self-aware self-deprecation. Even so, the cinematography was regularly lackluster, the effects unconvincing, and the ratings carried along by loyal fans.

SGU lacks most of these shortcomings. There is the occasional campy humour, though typically coming from the same character. In that way this one character, Eli, has come to be the only vestige of the old Stargate franchises. This is made believable, though, because this character is quite similar to the people (like myself) who enjoyed the camp of previous Stargate in real life. I can certainly see how stripping these things away from the show would turn off some, but what’s important in this transition is not what was lost, but instead what was gained in its absence.

3) The mood: Many would say it’s much too dark, both in production design and in mood. I say that it’s about time. In past Stargate series’, no matter how far gone a situation was, no matter how much danger they were in, the show was never EVER tense. It never mattered. Nothing ever really mattered. The characters were always too happy and fun and funny and confident and amicable to be capable of expressing any kind of peril. As such, the plots were always completely hollow. Nothing mattered, because it would all be fine in the end.

The only episode in both original Stargate series’ that managed to capture any kind of deep emotional commitment or tension was “Heroes”, which just happened to be filmed in the documentary style similar to that of SGU. I don’t solely blame the cinematography for this effect, though, but instead, for just once, the characters were vulnerable and hurt, like real human beings. They expressed emotions, reacted realistically to the impossibly difficult situations that they were in, and it was Good.

When people are in a serious situation, they get serious (mostly), and their character flaws become more apparent. This is evident in this series, as it should be in such situations. Sometimes they go over the top with this, and are a little heavy handed with the montages and the tableau cinematography, but as a whole it’s generally effective.

4) The set/production design: As for the dark set design, it makes some sense, as the ship is very old, and trying to save power. In past Stargate, no matter how old something was, it always looked like it was cobbled together the day before. The ancient city of Atlantis looking like it was maintained by a team of maid-bots and carpenters right up until the team’s arrival. I will admit that the purposeful gloom goes a bit too far at times, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s better than skirting the edge of cardboard box grade production.

SGU is simply a great show. Yes, it shrugs off its past franchise for the sake of its artistic intent, but it does so with wonderful results. The acting is largely superb, and even the episodes that in other shows would be considered ‘in betweeners’ come off as being some of the best episodes on television (like the episode Human).

I definitely recommend this show to anyone, and I absolutely recommend that past Stargate fans try to leave their preconceptions at the door, and respect it as its own show.

The two seasons of the show have distinctly different flavours, and this is largely attributable to the critical/fan reception of the first season. The first has a very slow pace, one that focuses a great deal more on the characters than the events themselves, which I found to be refreshing. The second season slowly moves more toward the weekly discrete events that were the formula of the previous two series’. This was evidently not enough to bring back old fans, though, as ratings flatlined at around 1 million for the whole of the second season.

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Star Trek XI (11) (0) (Zero) (2009)

I admit it. I have no idea what to really call this movie. If I call it Star Trek, people will think of The Original Series (more familiar to me as TOS perhaps), if I call it Star Trek XI, people won’t associate it with the movie posters, or the idea of the movie, being a prequel, and the younger internet generation will likely think I just added some kind of skull and crossbones smiley after Star Trek because I want it to die . . . or have some sort of a necrophiliac fetish for J.J. Abrams. Some are calling it Star Trek Zero, but that won’t do, as my mouth still rings with the aspartame solution of Coke’s latest failure.

All of this is quite beside the point that I’m trying to reach here, though. What I want to talk about it set design. Some pictures have finally surfaced, and the trailer will be coming out soon (a real one, not just another teaser), although the movie has been pushed back to the summer, demonstrating the studio’s confidence that this one has the possibility to be blockbuster, and not just a Christmas sleeper. In these peeks, we have seen a drastically different view of the future tech of star trek. The starships are slightly more angular and have a greater amount of small details. They look vaguely more militaristic, and the bridge looks like the lounge in an Apple store. And the kids are not happy.

Okay, I suppose that there is some sort of twisted sanctity to the Original Series (TOS, of course), and that the set designers back then had some great ideas, but the fact is that the design of those sets was entirely dictated by the Salvation Army budget they had available. They were extremely limited with what they could do, but they did the best they could with what they had, and created a vision of the future as accurate as they could. But here we are now, with a multi-million dollar budget, and a much clearer vision of design in the future (that we can think of. 75 years from now they will likely have an entirely different concept of this once more). The fact is, if things don’t look like what the general audience sees as being futuristic, it will not be believable (yes, even being science fiction in the first place). And the whole point of star trek is to resonate with current culture. And to make out with aliens.

So what do I say? As long as the characters remain largely consistent, the intent remains the same, and the struggles of the characters and humanity as a whole remain timeless and relevant (sorry, M), it’s all good in my books. And I can’t wait.

The return

After putting a new hard drive in my computer, reinstalling everything, losing all my bookmarks, getting them back, doing nothing with them while I write mid-terms, then pulling things back together again, I seem to be back into WordPress. And this time I’ma gonna write. Ooohhh boy am I ever gonna write.

I was going to embed a video in here, but since I’m at school, I have no access to youtube to get the code, so I’ll just have to post the link: http://www.picnicface.com/videos.php?videoID=56 thar ya go. Just slap that sucker right on in there and watch it up. You’ve probably seen it before anyway, since I’m so behind in my linking right now. I’ll catch up, though. I promise.

Now, what to post? I’ll dig up something from my past so that I won’t have to work so hard with this dreary old present. (i.e. lazy).

edit: I’ve since gone home and embedded the video.

Something’s not right.

Okay, this blog is currently receiving too many hits. Over 60 in one day? That’s preposterous. There’s no reason for anyone outside of my harmonious little bubble to be hitting this site. As such, I would as that it cease immediately. All this extra traffic may lead me to believe that my posts are actually interesting, and consequently begin posting more frequently, and more freely, on topics even more vague, esoteric, and specific than ever before.

Yes, I did just use both the adjectives vague and specific to describe the same thing. And believe you me, it’s entirely accurate.

Moving along, for the sake of objectivity, this renewed interest appears to be largely based around any comments, no matter how small and insignificant, I have made regarding Star Trek, or the late, great William Shatner. That’s right, in case you hadn’t heard, William Shatner died on May 19th, 2008. He choked to death on the number of hits I received for my post displaying a picture of him laughing (obviously either drunk, or having just made out with a chick entirely covered in body paint) in his captain’s chair.

Patrick Stewart Semi-Mega Post!

It has come to my attention that I have of late spent too much time relishing over one particular captain of the Enterprise, and largely ignoring another, who is, purportedly actually my favourite captain. Yes, I know, I am sorry. Though he may not be as iconic, or as rogue, or possibly even as much of a ‘has-been’, he is the one, the only, Patrick Stewart.

This first video kinda caught me off guard. Somewhat surprised that they used precious reel time for this. Though am I ever glad that they did!

The previous video may possibly have been inspired by this video (though entirely unlikely, but useful for a segue (sp?) into this next video):

This next video is just simply brilliant. Patrick making a guest appearance on the British comedy show Extra. Please watch it to the end. The last few seconds are the best.

And if you watched the last few seconds of the previous video, this is great, too . . . I’m going to have to find a few more of these. This smells a bit of repeat gag to me. I’m sure there are more out there.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Just thought that I’d catch you up on a couple of things that have been entertaining me the last couple of weeks.

And be sure to check out the rest of Bo’s and PicnicFace’s videos. Bo’s on YouTube, PicnicFace here.

If I May Draw Your Attention To Your DVD Player

Ahem.

Serenity named top sci-fi movie

And that’s about all I have to say about that.

Okay, that’s a lie. But I have a lot to say, and pretty much all of it is redundant anyway.

Game Reviews

Just in case any gamer-type I know hasn’t been to both these websites, I just thought I’d post them. As I enjoy them oh, so much.

And just a little warning, these aren’t for the feint of heart. Sometimes games suck, and sometimes you’ve gotta make up entirely new profanities to express it. It’s just a fact of life, my friends.

Zero Punctuation

The Angry Video Game Nerd

Enjoy.

Amory Wars RPG Update v0.4

It’s so close to being done I can almost taste it. I’ll work on it more later today (probably). For now all it’s lacking is some explanatory preamble, more info on how space combat works, and info on the Monstar subtypes. I’m saving the latter for last, as I don’t want my players to necessarily know too much about it (although there’s enough in here to be ‘too much’ anyway).

Word 2003: Player’s Handbook

Do You Like Italian?

Someone watched Star Trek IV today.

It’s definitely not possible for anyone to live up to Shatner. NO ONE. And that’s about all I have to say about that.

Awesome

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