My experience with the Stargate franchise is somewhat limited: I’m fairly certain I’ve seen the movie, likely stumbled upon SG-1 at some point, and saw quite a few random episodes of Atlantis while home during holidays. It is a series that, for me, has always failed to keep my interest largely because of the repetitiveness of its procedural construct, especially with Atlantis. While there were some interesting ideas on that show, and even some interesting performances, I found that the universe being constructed wasn’t interesting enough for me to come back week after week for very similar storylines that would either end quickly or, at the most, develop into a 2 or 3 episode arc.
However, like any show of this nature, by the end of its run Stargate Atlantis had built up a large following based on a cast of characters that audiences related with, characters which would prove capable of sustaining repetitive storylines. It is for this reason that the decision to end Atlantis somewhat prematurely, before fans had felt its time was up, seemed particularly strange: yes, Stargate Universe (which debuts tomorrow night at 9pm on Space in Canada and SyFy in the U.S.) offers many of the same procedural elements, albeit with a twist, but because this cast of characters is completely different it means that audience goodwill starts all over again.
The biggest problem with tonight’s two-hour pilot for Stargate Universe is that I felt absolutely no emotional connection to these characters, or this story, and perhaps most importantly nothing the episode accomplishes makes me feel as if this is going to change in the immediate future. I won’t suggest that over time this group of characters couldn’t be engaging, but in the pilot their actions feel contrived and lifeless with a thin back story and an overbearing sense of helplessness which should bring them closer together but actually just operates as a false tension.
Free from the pressure of establishing a whole host of characters and the show’s premise, it is possible that these kinds of issues will be ironed out. However, even then, there is something about this Universe that feels muddled in a way which seems inherent to creative decisions that have the franchise starting over with a direction both too clear and too unclear.
September 8th, 2009
It may seem weird to a few days out be blogging about a show that’s pretty unheralded in terms of critical analysis, but there were some observations I wanted to make that wouldn’t quite fit into a Twitter comment and so here we are discussing “Breakdown,” what’s really the last “minor” episode of Warehouse 13 before the Michael Hogan guest spot next week and the finale the week after.
One of the things that I’ve discussed about Warehouse 13 is a rather annoying trope wherein the people attempting to solve the mystery (so to speak) end up getting personally tied up in it. Take, for example, a while ago when the life-draining Spine of Saracen latched itself onto Pete as they attempted to solve its various properties. I liked the story itself, bringing in past agents and kind of offering a sense of the self-sacrifice which can be involved in the job, but by placing Pete at the center of the conflict it meant there was only one conclusion: we know Pete is going to be fine, so the threat of his death is a false one. If it were on someone else (say, the female former Warehouse agent), there’s some semblance of uncertainty, and a chance for the show to head into some darker territory.
But the last couple of weeks have demonstrated that there is value to this kind of structure so long as it is handled in the proper fashion. Last week’s “Homicidal Prison” was an example of the show dealing with a couple of lingering story beats (Myka’s boyfriend dying in Dallas and Pete ignoring his second sight (of sorts) and not warning his father against going to that fire) in the midst of a fairly interesting story. It wasn’t that we ever thought Pete or Myka were going to kill themselves, but rather that we needed to see them face off with those struggles. In that context, placing them in the center of everything worked, and the episode felt stronger because of it.
In “Breakdown,” meanwhile, Pete and Myka are once again at the mercy of various artifacts, but in a way that didn’t feel like a forced ramping up of tension, and that captured the fun and enjoyable side of the show without necessarily foregoing the more suspenseful moments. It wasn’t the deepest episode of the show yet, but it showed the kind of potential behind having the show’s leads front and center in the battle between free will and artifacts, and that the producers know what they’re doing heading into the finale.
March 26th, 2009
When Robert Carlock confronted “Apollo, Apollo,” it was if he were taking all of the elements which have made his past episodes (“Jack-Tor,” “Subway Hero,” “Sandwich Day,”) so fantastic and pulling them all together into one rather stunning half-hour. Moving from joke to joke at a breakneck pace, with barely any time for breathing yet alone for truly appreciating the genius on display, the episode achieves the right balance of total absurdity, stunning wit, marvelous delusions and genuine heart in pretty well every single storyline, although to the differing degrees required.
It’s almost unfair to other comedies that 30 Rock can combine all of these things and still feel as if it was cohesive: we have brand new show-specific terminology, one of the show’s best recurring guest stars (Dean Winters), muppets, Adam West, a wonderful viral video, and along the way so many small moments that the episode was without a dead zone.
And after all of that, anyone who isn’t Lizzing or Jacking needs to get themselves checked out by a doctor/trainer…or should that be the opposite? Hmmm.