Monday, November 30, 2009

Such a Small Universe

In an earlier blog post I said that the only person I’ve ever been able to talk Stargate with, live-and-in-person, is one of my cousins. But he lives in Madison Wisconsin and I don’t see him much.   So it was nice having him in town for Thanksgiving to talk TV. (Turns out he’s also a big Farscape fan; so now I’m even more determined to find the DVDs and watch them.  And he and his wife are working their way through The Wire so we three had a nice chat about that.)

He hasn’t yet watched Stargate Universe, though, so we couldn’t  talk about that show.   I’m still left on my own to think about it.  

I’ve been watching it since the season started.   After nine episodes I’m starting to wonder if the writers have decided to make this space travel series the anti-space travel series.  I’m becoming convinced that anyone who watches it is supposed to think to themselves, “Thank GOD I’m not on that space ship.  If I WAS on that space ship I would be SO wishing myself off of it.  Ordinary civilians do NOT belong in space and the whole thing should be left to professionals.”  Quite a switch from other sci-fi space travel shows.

The first few episodes (appropriately titled with elemental names like Air, Light, Water, Earth) were about the basics of survival.   A group of persons, most of whom never really wanted to do space travel, were transported to an old spaceship whose operating  code they cannot crack.  Like The Flying Dutchman the decrepit old ship  just sails on not needing a live crew.  But the newcomers need to figure out how to replenish the power, the water, the food supply.  Every day is a struggle to survive.   

All of that might be realistic.  If you happened to be transported to a decrepit old spaceship you probably would be concerned with those things. But it isn’t particularly fun to watch.   Mostly the passengers all just want to go home and I can’t blame them.  The problem for the producers is that I have no limitations on my ability to leave the ship – all I have to do is change the channel (or, in my case, turn off hulu).

So far, even though they are light years away from earth in another galaxy, they haven’t done a bit of real exploration – mostly because they can’t control the ship which is travelling at light speed except when it detects that it needs something like water.  Then it stops near a planet that it knows will provide what is needed – even if it is an ice planet like the Planet Hoth (one of the few jokes on this series).  Most off-ship activity involves, not travel on other planets, but the passengers using special communication “devices” to make visits back to earth using the body of someone on earth.  This lets earth people also come on board the ship as the two persons “switch” bodies for a period of time.   

I really don’t see the point of a space space travel show where the people seldom leave the ship.  It would be like a show about world travelers who never left the airplane except to go into airports to replenish necessary items.   Airplanes are interesting inventions.   But the day-to-day life of people stuck on a decrepit airplane that they can’t get off autopilot isn’t much of a concept for a TV show.  

I continue to hope that this series will be to the Stargate franchise what Deep Space Nine was to the Star Trek franchise.  After all, the space station that was home on Deep Space Nine was a bit derelict when the series started.  And the characters seldom left the space station and spent most of their time interacting with each other.  It too had a rocky start.  But the series eventually found its legs and ultimately became my favorite series of the franchise. 

I think the concept ultimately worked because the people on Deep Space Nine, despite their intense struggles with each other, ALL had some kind of job on the space station so they couldn’t spend a lot of time in their quarters moping.  Also, they had visitors.   Pretty much every week there was a visitor.  They didn’t leave the space station but people (and aliens) came to THEM and the crew had responsibilities toward those visitors.    Also, the visitors were not limited to known visitors.  

But imagine if Deep Space Nine was only visited by the Starship Enterprise (and then mostly only by people on the Starship Enterprise who we don’t know.)  Think how boring that would be.

I realize that the odds of this ship encountering a planet with human type life are not good.   So far they have only encountered microbes and people-eating space monkey type beings.   Not much to work with there.  They need to find some of those aliens who can shape shift and look human.  Or something.  They need to find something outside of themselves.   Otherwise they might as well have kept the whole cast on a planet – still cut off from earth – and not wasted a space ship.

I’m willing to give this an entire season before I make a decision. But it is a bad sign when I’m beginning to be disappointed that characters are NOT dying each week.

EXTRA:

This is a “conversation” between Amanda Tapping (who played Samantha Carter on SG-1, one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever seen on television) and the women of Stargate Universe:

Part One:

Part Two:

It is so strange to see her with long dark hair.   But good to know she has a new series.