Stargate SG-1

1997-2007, MGM Television et al

It was only a matter of time before someone would adapt the hit movie Stargate for television. And I'll be the first to agree it was a promising move: the premise was perfect for an episodic series. Sadly, the success or failure of a show can sometimes hinge on a single element, which in this case is admittedly a pet peve: Richard Dean Anderson is So. Bloody. Annoying.

Anderson may be a decent actor. But the character he created for the series (which he's said is a lot like himself—oh, dear) got on my nerves almost instantly, which made an otherwise watchable show nearly unwatchable. I forced myself to suffer through all ten seasons merely for the sake of watching the scenes without him. When the behind-the-scenes drama started seeping through to the screen around season nine, I felt a mix of relief and disappointment: the über-annoying Jack O'Neill was mercifully absent, but the show's overall quality, such as it was, took a nosedive. The only thing that kept it afloat at that point was the addition of Farscape's two leads, who brought with them a light, playful sense of humor, as opposed to Anderson's gratingly cynical so-called sense of humor.

Stargate's popularity and longevity are truly mystifying. Performances (Anderson notwithstanding) and production value were about average, if slightly above average on rare occasion. But except for reasonably adult dialog, it almost came off as a kid's show. The writers seemed to revel in goofy what-if scenarios, creating a melting pot of mythology in order to justify a free-for-all costume party. Although we were spared the lumpy-forehead alien of the week, glowing eyeballs and digitally distorted voices were the go-to effects, which quickly became tiresome. And to think this nonsense spawned three spin-off series...

 

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Stargate: The Ark of Truth

2008, MGM Television et al

This direct-to-disc feature-length sequel is the result of unfinished business: since the original series was cancelled in season 10, writer/director/producer Robert C. Cooper felt fans deserved to have closure for a story arc that would have extended into season 11 (although, to be honest, I didn't notice the loose ends). While benefitting from Ben Browder's lead in lieu of Richard Dean Anderson, it's really just more of the same gobbledygook.

 

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Stargate: Continuum

2008, MGM Television et al

Another direct-to-disc sequel, Continuum features both Ben Browder and Richard Dean Anderson, who sort of cancel each other out. Another long episode with a bigger budget, it was praised by hardcore fans, as one might expect, but not being one, I remained unimpressed.

A third direct-to-disc sequel, Stargate: Revolution, was planned but shelved indefinitely.

 

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Stargate Atlantis

2004-2009, MGM Television et al

With a setting far removed from that of its parent series, Atlantis had the potential to be its own entity, and for the most part, that held true. But it still suffered from a number of critical flaws that made it nearly unwatchable. Indeed, on my first attempt, I made it through two seasons before giving up. A year or so later, I returned to finish it on the slim hope it might get better. Silly me.

The two biggest obstacles to any hope of enjoyment for me were Joe Flanigan as our "hero" John Sheppard, and the Wraith, Atlantis' primary antagonist aliens. Evidently a Richard Dean Anderson School of Annoying Cocky Ignorance dropout, Flanigan commanded a screen presence about as impactful as a roll of paper towels. Meanwhile, the alien menace was a race of could-not-be-more-lame life-force-sucking zombies played with zero skill by starving actors having no self-respect.

Worse, with the possible exception of Torri Higginson, who played the terminally-uptight Doctor Elizabeth Weird (sorry, couldn't resist), the supporting cast was abysmal, particularly Rachel Luttrell, utterly unconvincing as our resident bare-midriff warrior babe. Oh, and while David Hewlett may be an otherwise decent actor, his Doctor Rodney McKay character was so freakishly annoying that I'd often hit the mute button whenever he opened his mouth—which, as it happens, was waaay too often (his salary must have been tied to how much technobabble he could spew per minute).

On the brighter side, special effects technology had advanced considerably, and the show offered some perfectly splendid visuals. Sadly, they were wasted on pure Bantha dung that isn't even worth the price of a bag of popcorn.

 

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Stargate Universe

2009-2011, MGM Television et al

Ironically, this one was by far the best of the lot, yet it died on the vine after only two seasons. Go figure. Conceptually, Universe was to SG-1 what Star Trek: Voyager was to Star Trek: TNG, but thankfully not in terms of quality. Although it's occasionally bogged down by technobabble and exposition, its characters are refreshingly edgier than those of its earlier counterparts, and stories provide enough twists to be engaging (although relationships do get a bit soapy around the edges at times); plus, performances and production values are well above average, with massive, utterly gorgeous sets, top-notch visual effects and a great score, making its premature cancellation genuinely regrettable—although, in this age of seemingly disposable TV shows, I certainly didn't lose any sleep over the loss. The only thing I found truly annoying was that we're still haunted by the ghost of freaking Richard Dean Anderson.

       

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