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Old March 26th, 2005, 03:33 PM   #1
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Stargate Why my friend Adam doesn't watch Stargate

From savedanieljackson.com:

Why my friend Adam doesn't watch Stargate

by Peaceheather

I was talking with my friend Adam a few nights ago, who was gushing about Battlestar Galactica, and one of the things that blew him away in the first part of the miniseries -- how the Cylon, more out of curiosity than anything, snaps an infant's neck while marveling at how small and fragile humans can be.

Adam was blown away because, as he puts it, the show broke one of the Big Three Rules Of Television right there like it was nothing (kids never get killed on TV), and the miniseries itself had barely begun. To him, that moment marked a huge commitment on the part of the storytellers behind Battlestar Galactica, a commitment to creating a world where an action like that would be possible, and believable to us viewers.

And then he said, "Come to think of it, that's why I don't really bother to watch Stargate anymore."

I blinked at him. Here was a guy who, during Season 6, spent most of his time looking at me like I was some kinda wingnut because I was so upset over the character of Daniel Jackson being replaced by Jonas Quinn, and now he'd stopped watching the show?

The short version of our conversation was that, as far as he could tell, the producers of Stargate had come to realize that they had a cash cow on their hands, and had adopted the policy of doing nothing that would endanger a working formula. Since they came to this realization right around the start of Season 4, I speculated that what really happened was that new producers came in and adopted the cash cow, but the result was the same.

The new rule on Stargate became "change nothing." Or, if you wish, "Commit to nothing," because to do so would risk changing the show's success.

The problem is, when you make a decision to halt a story midway through the telling, you lose the potential for any drama to come to the screen through the overall plot. You've made the decision to forever leave your story unfinished, so to create any dramatic tension at all, you have to pursue alternate ideas... but, you can't let any of those ideas go anywhere either, because then you'd be committing to a big change in the story.

Hence, we have Jaffa who are no longer bad guys, and a Jaffa rebellion that is in a permanent holding pattern, neither overthrowing great enemies nor tumbling to defeat.

We have Tok'ra who are inept and untrustworthy, and impotent.

We have Goa'uld who have no personal connection to any of the heroes of the show. The Goa'uld have been rendered "cartoons" by Martin Wood and the writers. The Jaffa have been cardboard-cutout bad guys for a few seasons now.

Osiris took a woman from Earth as host. We never saw the security risk played out, or the personal angle, and anyway Osiris is dead now and the host is back on Earth, free of the goa'uld... and, presumably, living happily ever after since we've never seen her since.

We have replicators who have become a rehash of the Borg. We finally found a way to defeat them, but then that was taken away (through a display of ineptitude that was infuriating for fans of the Heroes As Intelligent People), along with the miniscule bit of personal connection that they once had with the heroes.

Having rendered one enemy useless, the writers introduced a new bad guy in the form of "super soldiers", but did not commit to giving them any depth or dramatic hook for the main characters, and by the end of a two-parter episode we knew how to defeat them - and proceeded to do so regularly.

We have main characters who have halted all personal development. Stories about Jack cannot deal with his marriage, his son's death, or his friendship with the rest of the team, because those would change his character. Instead he is reduced to being the source of one-liner quips, big guns, and dumb looks. By all reports, Jack will be leaving the show in S9, but we will likely never know why, nor what it was like for Jack to serve as General of the SGC, unless those life-changing moments can be played for laughs.

Sam is now the universal source of all things scientific. Stories about Sam now can never touch on her relationship with her best friend's adopted daughter, nor with her father, nor with her friendships with her teammates. They may only revolve around a romance that, itself, can never be resolved. Resolving whether she does or doesn't have feelings for her C.O. would move the character out of stasis. We can have her get engaged to Pete, but never marry him because that would also mean a commitment to permanently changing something about Sam. I predict, if Pete returns in S9, Sam will continue to have an on-again, off-again relationship with him that ultimately goes nowhere.

Teal'c's primary storyline is the interminable Jaffa rebellion. With no clear adversary like Cronus or Apophis, the story lacks dramatic bite and always will. All that remains is to kill off Bra'tac, except that if he died, then we'd have a personal reason for Teal'c to move forward and develop. Instead, his job is to be a big black badass and to say "Indeed" a lot.

Daniel is the only one to have been partially spared this deconstruction -- and only partially. The big reason my friend Adam liked S6 was because having Daniel die, having Jonas replace him, marked a genuine change in the movement of the show! And even then, Adam acknowledged that the writers tried to make Jonas a replacement-Daniel rather than his own character, but fortunately for Jonas, that didn't work. Jonas was a truly different character from Daniel, and Adam appreciated the commitment that was required.

Except now, Daniel is back. And Daniel's character has gone through some changes to fit back into the show as it currently sits (in stasis), but once those changes were made, he hasn't really moved forward either. The consequences and repercussions of his death, ascension, and descent have never been dealt with on the show. Yes, I'm saying it here, god help me but it's true -- even Daniel has become boring, because the writers don't dare move him forward along his arc either. I did say that he's suffered less in the reconstruction department than the other characters, but that's mainly because the writers for this show haven't wanted to mess around with him. Daniel is too much work to write.

Janet Fraiser is dead -- but never mentioned, and no storylines past the first two episodes of S8 have even dealt with a doctor character who might have replaced her. She may as well not really be dead, just off-screen somewhere. Again, no commitment.

This has been the pattern of the past several years: introduce a story idea, a character, an arc, an adversary -- and then kill it as soon as it starts to show dramatic potential. To do otherwise would be to commit to actually moving the show forward, rather than letting the cash cow stand still and produce money. The drama comes from the introduction of something new, not the development of something already present.

The problem is, after four years of this pattern, "introducing something new" no longer generates any dramatic tension. We viewers know that whatever it is, it won't last and it won't go anywhere, so why should we bother to get excited about it? The producers' refusal to make a commitment to Stargate's story has become, itself, a commitment to standing still, one that is now all but etched in stone.

And that's why my friend Adam doesn't watch Stargate anymore. That's also why, as much as I adore Michael Shanks as Daniel, I'm pretty much ready to follow him. The show is going nowhere, which is boring to watch and annoying, as a storyteller myself, to realize. It's worse when you realize that this was a choice that the producers of the series made deliberately.

Incidentally, this is also why I don't watch Stargate: Atlantis. I don't believe that the producers actually have a new story to tell. I think that they will spend two seasons developing the world, creating a new cash cow, and then... sitting still with it. I predict lots of unresolved story arcs and character who do not engage one another or the viewers. It'd be nice if I turn out to be wrong, but then, I'd prefer to be wrong about Stargate and see the writers really turn it around. I believe that they could - but I also believe that they won't.

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Old February 8th, 2006, 12:49 PM   #2
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well what I can say (I didn't read all of it). The New Battlestar Galatica breaks new grounds, so don't except it to follow the "Rules of TV". It is meant to be dark, really dark, yet at the same time very human. You have heroes, that are anything but a role-model. You have villians believe in an all powerful and forgiving God. You have constant conflicts between family, friends, and allies. Even the Allies are the villians at times. The show is extremely complex and almost real drama, and shows the dark side of humanity.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 01:31 PM   #3
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This thread is about Stargate.

It is not about GINO (or nuBSG or TNS or whatever).

This explains our policy regarding discussion of GINO (or nuBSG or TNS or whatever):


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Old February 8th, 2006, 01:38 PM   #4
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I tend to agree with the observations about Stargate as deadending itself in a play it safe format.

BTW I dont regard highly Michael Shanks as an actor(My opinion; others may find his skill as an actor to be acceptable and they could probably defend it on technical grounds. For me, I find him to be a bit of cardboard prancing about in front of the cameras.) . His character, Danial Jackson, I consider badly written. The character specifically as currently written is a fool, as demonstrated in the episode, ^ETHON^. Why should his, Danial's, advice be followed? The Mitchell character had it correct. Why meddle? The previous Stargate series history and backstory provided enough evidence that the Rand Protectorate and the Keldonian Republic deserved each other and should wipe each other out.

Instead we follow the advice of an archaeologist who shows(typical) appalling bad judgment. Thirty dead SGC personnel and a destroyed Prometheus is the outcome; with the same end result for the Rand and the Keldonians happening as would have happened; if the SGC had not intervened.

That kind of writing is why I watch SG1 and grit my teeth at the indicated character stupidity.

Think about that.

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