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New blog by Jack Coleman & Season 3 approaches! September 16, 2008

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Interested in Heroes? Then you may want to check out Jack Coleman’s blog, the HRG Files. It’s new, with only one entry so far. But he’s off to a good start, and the spoilerish content is so negligible that even I, who hasn’t seen all of season two yet, was not spoiled.

Less than one week now, until the premier of season three! Are you pumped? I am. Looks like I’ll be finishing up with season two just in the nick of time, too. :)

Heroes – various thoughts from late in season one September 11, 2008

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying watching the first sesaon of Heros, which I’ve been renting. I’ve been averaging four episodes a night, on nights when I have a fresh DVD available. I love this show. :)

Right now I’ve got five episodes left in season one. In the previous episode—sorry, I mean the previous chapter, Claire Bennet leaves home, and it is revealed that her father Noah, who is surely one of the most ambiguous characters I’ve ever seen on television, may actually be the biggest hero on the show. At least, from her perspective he is. In other respects, is he working for or against his company’s interests? I admit I’m still a little fuzzy on that one, especially when he goes to New York to deal with Isaac, and he’s right back to his old, ruthless ways. I suspect what he’s doing is working in his company’s interests when it suits him to do so. What an intriging character. I love it. Jack Coleman is quite an actor.

I wanted to talk a little bit about Sylar mostly. The maker of timepieces, who goes on to become the murderer, the psycho, the boogeyman creeping out of the closet to suck out your brains. He’s such an ironic character. With his ability, he could be a healer, a fixer, he could solve the problems of so many people, and be the biggest hero of them all. For those looking in vain for a “cure” to their abilities, I have no doubt that Sylar could figure out how to cure them. He could cure them all, even Nuclear Ted. All he’d have to do is look into their brains, see how their abilities work, and figure out a way to turn them off. Problem is, he couldn’t do that for himself. I wonder if he realizes that at some level, and that’s what drove him mad.

Since I have five episodes left in this season, it won’t surprise me if there are further revelations about him or other characters. I wonder if I’m right about this? Anyway, as I left the last episode, Sylar was about to gouge Peter Petrelli’s brains out. What an awful cliffhanger. I knew I should have called it a night at the end of “Company Man”, but I just couldn’t help myself. There was one more episode on the DVD, and I just had to go and watch it, didn’t I? I’m a junkie for this show. :)

One other thing. In “Company Man”, it was revealed that Hiro’s father (George Takei!) is the power behind “the company.” Add that together with this helix icon that’s been appearing in various places, including on the hilt of an ancient sword that is supposed to bring superpowers to its bearer…and things really seem to be taking shape now. I think tomorrow is going to be a long day, as I wait to watch those last five episodes. (And then I heard there’s a gigantic cliffhanger at the very end. That just hurts. But oh well.)

Eureka – 2nd opinion September 10, 2008

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Even though my initial post about Eureka turned out to be pretty negative, I did go ahead and watch the next DVD as I said I would. It had five episodes on it.

You know what? This show is growing on me. I’m definitely going to finish up the first season, and then see what’s up with season two.

Overall, the keys to enjoying this show appear to be enjoying the humor, and appreciating the relationships between some of the characters (which are also played for humor, of course). After only watching a small number of episodes last time, the relationship side of the show wouldn’t have gotten along very far yet, and the humor side…well, that works better when there’s more familiarity with the characters too.

One thing I definitely need to mention is the episode “Dr. Nobel”—this was really well done. I really enjoyed it. If they can keep the show up to that level of quality, they’ll end up converting me into a fan!

Jack Carter is also growing on me, as is his daughter Zoe Carter. The characters I’m having the most trouble with? Nathan Stark, and Henry Deacon. With Stark, the dislike is not hard to explain. The whole point of his character, after all, is that he’s an arrogant, supercilious asshole. With Henry, the main problem seems to be that he is too good at too many things, to the point where it’s not very believable. He’s also the King of Technobabble on the show, and technobabble is always annoying. There’s more to my unease with Henry than these two things, though. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Probably what they need to do is give me an episode where he plays a more central role, so I can get a better handle on who he is supposed to be.

One other thing: I loved Zoe’s flaming red hair in…whatever episode that was (probably “Right as Raynes”, but I’m not positive about that). I have some other ideas for what she can do, as far as hair colors. I’m thinking BRIGHT BLUE would look cool—either a medium blue, or darker (or both!), as long as it’s BRIGHT. Another color she absolutely has to try is PURPLE. Heheheh. GREEN? Eh, not so much. Personally, I think green hair almost always looks like crap, thanks to the fact that it clashes horribly with almost everyone’s skin tones. Better to stick with the old standards, such as JET BLACK. :)

Anyway, I’ll be getting to DVD #3 in the near future.

Eureka – Some Initial Thoughts August 31, 2008

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After hearing some positive comments about this show, I decided to give it a try. I’ve watched the first three episodes, which includes the extra-long “Pilot”, plus the first two regular length episodes, “Many Happy Returns”, and “Before I Forget.”

Regrettably, my initial impression is not very positive, although I’m planning on watching a few more episodes, in order to be sure. After all, it often takes a bit for a good show to hit its stride at the beginning.

I have various issues with what I’ve seen so far. First off, the thing with Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) being an inept, guilt-ridden father, complete with snot-nosed teenage daughter who not only is the dominant person in their relationship, but who somehow has more expertise and moral authority than he does when it comes to relationships in general—this is really tiresome. Why do shows do this? It’s not fun, it’s not funny, and frankly, it’s a little bit insulting. I don’t know any real fathers who allow their daughters to treat them like this. It’s a cliché, and I wouldn’t feel at all bad if the whole idea went away forever.

There’s a femme fatal on the show (Dr. Barlowe, played by Debrah Farentino), although this doesn’t become apparent until the final few minutes of the pilot. A couple of things bother me about her. Having a character like her in such a picturesque, suburb-like setting reminds me more of Knots Landing than any sci fi show I’ve ever watched. That’s really not what I’m wanting to be reminded of. It also bugs me that she’s the only sexually assertive female character on the show, and she’s evil. This is another tiresome cliché (one even older and more worn out than the inept father idea). Why don’t they just call her “Dr. Mantis” and get it over with? And, as if those things weren’t enough, she’s also a psychiatrist. That alone would make her annoying, but with the rest, I’m just kind of hoping she mysteriously goes away.

Ok, I admit, it’s probably too early to fully judge her as a character. I’ll be interested to learn more about her motivation. Why is she evil, exactly? And how evil is she? Yes, she’s working for some shady corporate interest, but why? Is it just for money? That would be disappointing.

As for her being evil, this raises the question of how good and evil will be portrayed on the show. Are they going to be simplistic, black-and-white concepts? If so, then I’m probably going to have a hard time staying interested. So far it looks like that’s where they’re headed. In three episodes, we have one woman who’s a poisoner/murderer (and not for any reason other than pure avarice, as far as I can tell), and one guy who uses a magical memory-wiping gizmo to steal his wife’s entire life (which he does strictly for his own vanity). Not a very promising start. Villians need to be interesting for a show to succeed.

I mentioned a magical memory-wiping gizmo, which brings me to the next thing, namely that the show is pretty heavily gizmo-oriented. The stories seem to revolve around gizmos and people who misuse them. Neat gizmos and technobabble don’t make an interesting story, or a successful series. You can pile those things onto a story all you want, but in the end, it won’t really be about anything, other than a machine that goes haywire, or maybe an evil guy who uses an evil gizmo to commit evil. The messages conveyed with these kinds of stories are pretty suspect, too—”evil machine” or “mad scientist” or “innovation is dangerous.” I need something better than that if I’m going to really enjoy a series.

Believe it or not, there were actually some things I liked about the show. The cast is likeable enough. I especially enjoyed the deputy who molded her own bullets in the pilot: Erica Cerra, as Deputy Jo Lupo. I could see myself becoming a fan, if she keeps up with the coolness. In the succeeding two episodes she sort of reverts back into cookie-cutter mode, though. I hope she doesn’t stay there.

Matt Frewer (formerly of Max Headroom fame) also makes an appearance as the local whackjob, Jim Taggart. He plays the part with a prominant Aussie accent. Nice. :)

I also have to admit that I’m liking Zoe Carter (Jordan Hinson)…when she’s not being an annoying little brat. (Seriously, the teenage attitude problem is yet another tired cliché. Writers really need to figure out how to portray inexperience and immaturity in a more interesting way.) Will she develop into someone interesting? Hopefully she will. As a teenager, they are going to have to make her develop as a person just to be realistic. She’s also forming a friendship with Deputy Jo, which is very promising for both characters.

Like I said, I’m going to give Eureka more chance than just these three episodes. There have been other shows with less than stellar startoffs that went on to be quite good. Stargate: SG-1 for instance, arose out of a movie that was just plain dumb, but then the TV movie was better, and its first season kicked all kinds of butt. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had some very good points in its short first season, but was quite rough around the edges and didn’t really become itself until season two. Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t get really good until its sixth season, and Star Trek: Voyager was totally abysmal in its first couple of seasons, getting much better later on. It’s a rare show that’s just plain excellent right from the beginning. So I’m going to stick with it a bit, just to see what happens.

Universe casting suggestion! August 27, 2008

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At some point, the Powers That Be at Stargate Productions are going to be casting their new Stargate spinoff, Stargate: Universe. It’s been said by Sci Fi channel president Dave Howe that the hope is for the cast to be more “fresh faced.” I assume he means “fresh faced” in comparison to the casts of the previous two shows, which feature all sorts of dull, middle-aged people, several of them bald. I suppose we can’t have that if we’re wanting to appeal to 20-year-olds, can we? (sarcasm alert!)

Actually, accusing the Atlantis cast of not being appealing to a younger audience is kind of ridiculous. Take a look at the leads, and what do you see? A whole mess of very cool people, and with the possible exception of Robert Picardo, not one of them appears to be middle aged. David Hewlett and Joe Flanigan are both slightly over forty, but I never would have guessed that if I hadn’t looked it up. (I’m 40 myself, and I would love to be in as good a shape as Joe Flanigan!!) Jason Momoa, on the other hand, isn’t even thirty yet, and Jewel Staite is even younger than him.

Furthermore, why do media industry types insist on believing that the characters on a show have to be the same age as the audience? Who the hell came up with that, anyway? I know identification with a character is a big appeal, but it’s not necessary for the character to be the same age as the viewer in order for that to happen.

Example: The leading actors of the original Star Trek series were all older than the standard which the Stargate folks seem to be shooting for, and yet the show really took off in popularity in the 1970’s, with an audience that was mostly college students and younger at that time. DeForest Kelly was in his late forties when he first started playing Dr. Leonard McCoy, and I never once had any coolness issues with him. I was only nine years old when I became an avid Star Trek fan—do you suppose that’s youthful enough? Likewise, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were both closer to 40 than they were to 30, and I practically worshipped both of their characters. James Doohan was actually the same age as DeForrest Kelly. There weren’t any women in the lead roles of that show, but for primary supporting roles, Nichelle Nichols was one year younger than Shatner and Nimoy. All of them were mid-30’s or older when the show began.

To take a more extreme example, in the most recent season of Doctor Who, the coolest supporting character of the whole season is probably Wilfred Mott (played by Bernard Cribbins), more commonly known as Donna’s grandfather. He’s just a fun character, and it’s hard to imagine him not appealing to pretty much any age group. I’m not sure how old he is, but as the grandfather of a woman in her 30’s, that must mean he’s in his 70’s at least, right?

A counter-example: How did people react to Wesley Crusher when Star Trek: The Next Generation started? I remember wishing he would die, frankly. :) That character was sort of a blight on the show, although he did get better in later seasons, thanks to better writing and Wil Wheaton’s acting talent. My reaction to early Wesley was pretty typical, though. I was 18 or 19 when that show was first broadcast.

So, who says you need to have youngish characters to appeal to a youngish audience, and who says that if you do, it’s even going to work?

So here’s my casting suggestion for one of the male leads on the new Stargate: Universe program: Adam Baldwin!

He’d be an excellent choice. For one thing, he’s got a bit of history in the Stargate universe already, having played Col. Dave Dixon, the leader of SG-13 in the double episode “Heros.” He’s in his mid 40’s, which is probably older than what they’re thinking of, but on the other hand, he’s younger than the parents of the target demographic, by roughly a decade, which means he could easily play a mature, leader-type role without conveying an uncool level of parentalness. Casting him would also create an opportunity to set up some inter-team conflict between him and another, younger male lead. Baldwin is also funny. Not just a little funny either—he’s a lot funny. Just watch his previous appearance on SG-1, or his 14-episode stint on Firefly if you don’t believe me.

One slight problem is that he appears to already be cast in another series. Oh well. I still think I’m right about this.

Season 5 – the best yet for Atlantis? August 23, 2008

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Based on the six episodes I’ve seen so far this season, I’d answer that question with a definite “yes.” Just a little while ago I finished watching this week’s story, “The Shrine.” As I was watching, it occurred to me that a lot of the criticisms I levelled at the show just a few weeks ago are being addressed fairly well by the six episodes so far.

Notice Sheppard in this episode, in particular. There’s a scene with him and McKay, the two of them just hanging out and having a beer while they wrestle with the painful fact that McKay’s brain is gradually being squeezed to death by an alien parasite. McKay, wracked with fear and embarrassment over his continually worsening condition, suggests that this meeting be their last, so that Sheppard can remember him as he really is. But Sheppard will have none of that, doggedly insisting that he’s going to be there for his friend until the bitter end. Why? Because that’s just the kind of guy that Sheppard is. And HEY! All of a sudden, in my mind, Sheppard wasn’t two-dimensional anymore. Not only that, he’s the kind of friend anyone would really want to have. Wow! I am loving this!

I wonder why they couldn’t have hit this point home back in season one?

Remember Firefly? That show makes an interesting contrast to Atlantis, when talking about issues like this. It managed to accomplish more with character and relationship in its mere 14 episodes than Atlantis did in its first four seasons. There were nine primary characters on Firefly, all with their own agendas, many of them in direct opposition to each other. Forming them into a cohesive ensemble cast would seem like a virtually impossible task, much less doing so in only a handfull of episodes. And yet, that’s exactly what Joss Whedon and his writing team managed to pull off.

I still remember marvelling at it, the first time I ever watched the series. In one particular episode (unfortunately, I can’t remember which episode), there is a moment of obvious resolution, when the last of the big initial issues between the nine characters is finally resolved. It felt at that point as if they were no longer nine disparate people, but almost a family. It also felt right, not artificial or as if it were being forced on the viewer by arbitrary writer fiat.

That’s some pretty good writing, and the way character based stuff ought to be done. It’s also similar to the way things felt on Atlantis this week, except on Atlantis it’s taken so very long to get to this point, and the journey has been as much one of trial and error as being intentionally planned.

And, of course, it’s happening just in time for the show to be cancelled, hallelujah!!!! :(

Atlantis goes pay-per-view August 22, 2008

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I became aware earlier today that the Sci Fi Channel, MGM and Stargate Productions have mutually decided to end the television run of Stargate: Atlantis at the end of its current season.

Really, I shouldn’t be surprised about this, but I am. Does that mean I’m gullible? Well, yeah, but apparently I’m not gullible enough to qualify as a viewer that the Sci Fi Channel is interested in. They’ll be replacing Atlantis with a new show, Stargate: Universe, that’s specifically aimed at a “younger demographic.”

People, “younger demographic” is simply marketing double-speak for “people who are more gullible and susceptible to advertisements.” In other words, if this new show is aimed at you, it means the Powers That Be are assuming you are dumber and easier to sway than the current viewership of Stargate: Atlantis. Are you?

What’s also disturbing about this is the way Atlantis itself is apparently being switched over to “pay-per-view” status. No, it won’t be like regular PPV. You will actually have to go to a store and buy a DVD, or use whatever other means they might offer for getting your money (iTunes, for instance). But paying is paying, regardless of the means of delivery. Right now, you can watch Atlantis for free. Next year, you won’t. What’s more, I think they are doing this specifically because they believe Atlantis is at a popularity peak right now, that it can only go downhill from here, and furthermore, why should they continue to allow people to watch the show for free when they can replace it with a more profitable show which will probably cost less to produce, which will also appeal to a more desireable demographic, while still popping off the occassional Atlantis “movie” to rake in a few bucks on DVD sales to boot? To summarize, we, the viewers of Atlantis, are being ripped off precisely because we made this show as successful as it is.

What are my sources for these allegations? The changes have been documented with multiple articles on Gateworld, with the one of primary interest being “Wright: Atlantis is going out on top.” This quote is of particular interest:

The decision to end Stargate Atlantis and jump to the movie format was made mutually by the SCI FI Channel, MGM, and Stargate Productions in Vancouver, executive producer Brad Wright told GateWorld today. Rather than canceling the show because of under-performance, the Powers That Be decided to go out on top while Atlantis is still popular enough to support the release of DVD movies.

See?

However, there is a potential positive side to this. While I’ve seen some concern expressed that the new Stargate: Universe show will end up being nothing more than the Stargate remake of Star Trek: Voyager (credit goes to Glenn H for that idea), it seems that the creators of the show are aware of some of the concerns I previously mentioned on this blog. An article entitled Stargate Universe Has A Go! states:

The show will be “a little more character-based, a little less rooted in a sci-fi mythology,” co-creator Brad Wright told GateWorld. “It really does come down to characters and stories that are engaging, and that people want to see — that they feel like they haven’t seen before.”

I’m not sure what Wright means about “rooted in sci-fi mythology”, but I do like what he’s saying about making the show more character-based, provided they don’t end up with a bunch of squeaky-clean noobs like on the first couple of seasons of Star Trek: Voyager.

The other problem with that show’s initial seasons was pretty simple too: the villians were boring. Remember the Kazon? No? I’m not surprised. Theoretically, they could have been interesting, but in practice, I groaned painfully at their every appearance on the show, and jumped for joy when Janeway and the crew finally got their asses out of that sector of the galaxy. The Wraith are somewhat better, but not a lot, and I’d consider them to be one of the primary flaws of Atlantis as a series. If Universe is to succeed, they really need to work on the bad guys. Look back at Apophis and Ba’al, and tell me I’m wrong.

I admit, I’m already wondering who they’re going to cast on Universe. They’re aiming for a younger demographic, so there’ll probably be some 20-something male heartthrob in the lead. Zac Efron, anyone? He’s 21 now. Heheheh. (I suppose I should shut up, before somebody gets the idea to do High School Musical In Space!….)

All in all, if Universe turns out to be a better series than Atlantis, then I’ll probably be ok with this. There is one thing, however, which will disappoint me, even if that happens: Robert Picardo will only have one season to really show his stuff.

Atlantis: A Question of Character July 29, 2008

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The other night I watched the latest installment of The David Hewlett Show Stargate: Atlantis, the episode entitled “Broken Ties.” This is the third episode of the new fifth season. I’m glad that these new episodes are being aired now, because with Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica on hiatus, I’d be in a real pickle otherwise. Who knows—I might actually have to go outside, or meet some people or something!

On the other hand, Atlantis has never been a top-tier show for me, especially when compared to these other shows, or even to its parent series, Stargate: SG-1. I don’t think it has (so far) lived up to its potential, for a number of reasons. The main reason has to do with character, and this last episode just happened to bring the issue to the forefront of my mind.

In the episode, the question was raised whether Teyla, after the birth of her baby a couple of episodes previously, would be returning to “the team” [1]. As she hemmed and hawed about this question, I surprised myself by hoping that she would decide not to return, but instead would stay on the Atlantis station in some sort of advisory capacity or something. In other words, while I didn’t want to see Teyla removed entirely from the show, the prospect of integrating a new team member seemed more interesting to me than simply having her carry on as before.

Why? Well, I really do hate to say this, but, over the first four seasons, and even so far this year, she just hasn’t turned out to be a very interesting character. It seems like she hasn’t changed one iota since the very first season, and frankly, I’ve virtually lost interest. This recent development with her partner and her having a baby, it reminds me of Will Riker cooking omlettes for Enterprise crewmates on Star Trek: The Next Generation so many years ago: an obvious attempt to add “dimension” to an otherwise flat character, without taking the apparently forbidden risk of having real character development. It’s more tedious than interesting.

I could say similar things about many of the characters on Atlantis. Take Sheppard, for instance. The most interesting thing that ever happed to him was the one episode where he turned into a bug (“Conversion” in season two). Sure, this was an amusing story, and I imagine the ghost of Franz Kafka got a chuckle or two, but imagine how much better this episode could have played if only we had cared deeply about Sheppard as a person. “Ohmygawd! He’s turning into a bug!!!!! This is horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!1!” But no—it was more like, “Ha! He’s turning into a bug. Cool. This should be good. Hey—you got any more potato chips over there?” The writers have continued this pattern throughout the series. Once and a while, Sheppard is put through some sort of ordeal, presumably to give him “depth”, but really they’re just giving us more omlettes.

Carson Beckett is like this too. He’s very likeable guy, but I admit I didn’t feel much regret when he once again left the show at the end of last week’s episode “The Seed”, and I don’t find myself caring very much whether they bring him back.

This flatness of character is a systemic problem with the show. To take the Beckett example a bit farther: His character was originally killed, it was only later that they pulled a Mr. Spock on him and brought him back. So let’s compare his death to Mr. Spock’s death. When Mr. Spock died at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, people cried. Seriously. I had to struggle with every fibre of my being to avoid crying openly in the theater (as a teenager, I would have felt like a complete ass if I cried, even if nobody noticed). When Carson Beckett died, well, I did feel bad. There may have even been a tear. I mean, he really is a nice guy, you know? His dedication to his profession is more than admirable—he’s a genuine hero. However, while his death actually did suck, there wasn’t much to it beyond that. This was not epic tragedy the way Spock’s death was. Another good comparison would be to Daniel Jackson’s death/ascension on SG-1. That really hurt, and the fact that he was supposedly still around as some sort of mystical energy-being was no consolation at all. It would have been the same for any member of the SG-1 team. I loved those guys! They were the best! However, with the possible exception of Rodney McKay, I have never had that depth of feeling for any character on Stargate: Atlantis. I doubt that I am the only one who feels this way. Why is this so? Because the characters just don’t inspire that much feeling.

Replacing Teyla with a new team member might not have helped, of course. The last new person on the show was Dr. Keller, and where has she gone so far, as a character? Almost nowhere. Just as with Sheppard, the most interesting thing to happen to her is getting transformed into a bug. Ooops, I mean a giant tentacled creature. Whatever. (Does it really matter?) This happened in last week’s episode, “The Seed,” and, in fact, that story was even worse for Dr. Keller than Sheppard’s bug-guy transformation, because in “The Seed”, an episode revolving entirely around her, she spends the majority of her screen time unconscious!

I know full well that Jewel Staite can do more than what is being asked of her, too. Her completely delightful portrayal of Kaylee on Firefly was a highlight of that series—she stood out even though she had to compete with eight other well developed characters, and even though there were only fourteen episodes finished before the series was axed. But the character she’s playing on Atlantis doesn’t stand out much at all. I have to admit, if I wasn’t such a Jewel Staite fan, I doubt Dr. Keller would have made any impression on me. I actually had to look up her name for this article because I couldn’t remember it, in spite of the fact that she’s been on the series for a whole season already.

However, I do have a couple of reasons to maintain hope. The first is that Dr. Keller is still fairly new. Even though she’s been around a whole season, and even though her most significant moment during that time was her metamorphosis into a giant seaweed monster, it is still possible that some evolution could happen. She doesn’t yet have four seasons of inertia holding her back like some of the other cast. The writers might go with idea of hooking her up with Dr. McKay, for instance. Anything involving Rodney McKay is probably a good idea, so that is a ray of hope. I also know that, if there’s any shred of interest to be found in the Dr. Keller character at all, Jewel Staite will find it, if only the writers and directors give her the chance. She’s also got star billing now, her face right up there in the main titles with all the others. Can this be an omen of things to come? I hope so.

I’m being pretty so critical of this show, but the truth is that I really do enjoy it. I wouldn’t bother with all of this if I didn’t care. But, to lighten this up a bit, I’ll finish with a new development which I think is quite promising: Robert Picardo’s addition to the cast.

Those faithful Trekkers who, like myself, suffered through the first couple of seasons of Star Trek: Voyager will probably recall Picardo’s portrayal of The Doctor as one of the bright spots of that dreadfully dull early period in Voyager history. It’s for this reason, and for his previous appearances on the Stargate shows, that I was very happy to see him included as one of the regular cast on Atlantis, even if it meant losing Samantha Carter.

(I know a lot of people are not happy about Carter leaving. However, as much as I like Carter, I’m not inclined to agree that her leaving the show is necessarily a bad thing. That, however, is a whole other topic, one which perhaps deserves a post of its own someday.)

Like Carter, Richard Woolsey comes with some predefined developmental background, although not nearly as much as Carter did. Woolsey was one of the more enjoyable antagonist guest characters on SG-1. He first appeared as a butt-clenching bureaucrat sent to sabotage the entire Stargate program through procedural means. It didn’t work, not because he failed in his mission but because he changed his mind about the program. That right there was the beginning his evolution into someone interesting, and a sign that he wasn’t going to be a one-dimensional villian like Senator Kinsey or Apophis. A one-dimensional villian can be entertaining, sure, but given a choice, I’ll take a fully fleshed out antagonist just about every time (Peter Williams’ excellent portrayal of Apophis notwithstanding).

Woolsey has some qualities similar to General Hammond, who also came to SG-1 in a somewhat antagonistic capacity (although Hammond was obviously never intended to be a real antagonist). Like Hammond, Woolsey can be swayed through reason, and will even occassionally break the rules for the greater good. He also has a hard-nosed side, so he can make the tough calls when he needs to. On SG-1, he abandoned his prejudices about the Stargate program, and ended up becoming a firm believer in it and the members of the SG-1 team (just as Hammond learned to trust the intelligence and integrity of Daniel Jackson, who he was pretty skeptical of at first). That sort of attitude change isn’t just gratifying, it’s interesting. Furthermore, unlike Carter, who’s a character of action, thriving on movement and mission, Woolsey is entirely a thinker, a decider, a manager. Where Carter would carry out a mission, Woolsey would produce a mission statement. He’s the kind of guy who could be your boss at that cushy desk job you want so much (and you’d be lucky to have someone as fair-minded as him, too). Perhaps most promisingly, although Woolsey does have very strong desk-jockey tendencies, it’s already obvious that in order to be effective as the leader of the Atlantis team, he’s going to have to grow beyond that, to acquire a bit of that movement and mission quality that Carter possesses.

It all sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Everything is set up just so: We’ve got a moderately developed and fairly interesting character in a position where he’ll have to develop some more if he wants to succeed at his job. The question now is, will the writers take this ball and run with it? We can only wait and see. So far, Picardo himself seems to be making the most of the opportunity he’s been given. Witness the little moment in this most recent episode where Woolsey couldn’t figure out how to get the conference room doors open. It wasn’t just played as a matter of technical ineptitude, but also as an element of his larger struggle to earn the respect of the team. He’s frustrated that the team doesn’t yet respect him to the degree that he would like, but he’s not simply throwing his authority around to gain that respect. He genuinely wants Sheppard and the others to respect him, and he wants to earn that respect fairly. He wants to deserve it, without compromising his authority, and this goal is important to him. Using the door-opening problem to illustrate this was a welcome detail, and a sign (I hope) that he will end up being more than just a cardboard cutout character. Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens with Woolsey.

——-
[1] By the way, why doesn’t “the team” have a name? SG-1 had a name. Shouldn’t Sheppard’s team have a name too? Or at least an official designation of some kind???

Back July 28, 2008

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Well, I’m back.

What can I say–I didn’t intend to be gone this long, but on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to come back. Some things went pretty wrong a few months ago, and only recently am I starting to feel the creative juices flow again.

My plan to analyze the entire Stargate: SG-1 series is on indefinite hold. In fact, that project may have proven to be too ambitious. It seemed like a great idea, but SG-1 is a HUGE series, and as I got into the process of writing about the episodes in the first season, I found myself not wanting to spend time writing when I could just go ahead and watch the next one. This is commonly known as “lack of self discipline.” I also found myself wanting to delve into more and more detail about each episode, so what started as a general summary of the series was evolving into a full-fledged episode guide, for a series with over 200 episodes. Yikes. So I got farther and farther behind. I even started watching season two, thinking I could get caught up any old time. That was wrong. Before I knew it, I was hopelessly behind. This was also about the time that the new seasons of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who were getting into full swing, and the prospect of trying to keep up with both of those shows, plus get caught up on my SG-1 project, it was just too much. So I tabled this whole idea for a while.

In my absence, I ended up skipping the entire fourth season of Doctor Who, which is unfortunate, because there’s a lot that could be said about it. There’s also Battlestar Galactica‘s fourth season. Wow. And that was only half a season. Of course I can always come back to these later. Regarding Galactica, I’ll just say for now that I think the revisioned series is turning out to be the finest program in the history of television. I’m not really qualified to say that, mind you, since there are way too many shows I haven’t seen. But if there’s a show out there that’s as good as this one, I’d sure love to see it. (Ok, one more thing–is it just me, or was there a marked upward jump in the quality of this already-excellent show at the point when Jane Espenson came onboard?)

Today I started work on an article pertaining to Stargate: Atlantis, particularly some of the developments in the new season. The article is going well, although it still needs some polishing up. That should be ready for publication sometime very soon, maybe even tonight.

I am also going to be broadening the focus of this blog a bit. My initial idea was to limit myself to “Television Sci Fi” programming. However, I have to admit, there are some movies I’d like to mention on here from time to time as well. There’s also the question of that “science fiction” parameter, which I wondered out loud about when I first started this blog. There’s some very imaginative work out there that is well worth talking about, but which doesn’t exactly fit into the proper realm of “science fiction” at all. The new theatrical release Hellboy 2 is one example. But there are others, even farther afield than that. Take David Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholland Drive, for instance. In no way could this movie be considered science fiction (unless you have developed an entirely new take on it, in which case, feel free to tell me about it), but it’s certainly imaginative. And I do like that word, “imaginative.” So. “Imaginative fiction” it is. Seems like a good topic for discussion, no? However, the emphasis will still be on science fiction, since that’s really where my heart lies.

Finally, I want to close by posting something which really helped to motivate me to get back on track with this. This is an interview with Wil Wheaton, done at ComicCon. It’s quite interesting. Wheaton is an interesting guy, and he says a thing or two here which I really appreciate, in particular some advice he offers towards the end of the interview, intended for aspiring internet writers. It occurs to me that his advice applies to people with other creative inclinations too. That means me, since I’m also struggling with various photography and music projects, in addition to writing. Anyway, here is the whole thing. Enjoy!

Box Set Madness, and Cause for Celebration March 25, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Doctor Who.
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The newest seasons for two great shows are starting up soon: Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who. Yay!

It’s been so long since Galactica has been on that I can’t remember anymore what was happening. Luckily, there’s a recap video located here. Click on “What the frak is going on?” on that page and then twiddle your thumbs while the commercial plays. Note that this covers the entire series, including the mini series. There are also two other videos there, “Revealed” and “Phenomenon.” I’ve watched the latter one only (didn’t have a chance for both yet). It’s good. It’s fun. Joss Whedon is heavily featured. :P So are a lot of other interesting people. Regarding the recap video, I wish they would have concentrated on the previous season, rather than going all the way back to the beginning, but in any case, watching it was enough to refresh my memory at least a little bit.

I also picked up the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 box set last night. :) That will be a lot more helpful in remembering all the various ideas and brainstorms I had last year while watching these episodes for the first time.

However, in the meantime, I’ll turn my attention to Doctor Who.

This show is a lot easier to mentally jump back into, because there’s only about two things to remember: Martha’s gone, and an almost-new companion is scheduled to appear, namely Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) from “The Runaway Bride.” Other than that, the Doctor will continue on his random adventures as before. I’ve heard rumor that the Ood will be making an appearance. This is a coolness. The Ood are interesting, if for no other reason than it’s fun hearing David Tennant say “the Ood.” So I’m looking forward to that.

While I was buying the Galactica box set last night, I decided to really splurge and get the Doctor Who Season Three box set too. This was quite expensive, so I’d been putting off buying it. I had also been dissatisfied enough with the ending of the season that I had considered not buying it at all. But now I have it, and I began watching it last night.

As a warning to people who are on the fence about buying this set, there are ads on the discs at the beginning, at least on the first two (I haven’t had a chance to check all six discs yet). In my humble opinion, this is completely ridiculous. Not only is this clearly a collector’s set, but considering the extremely high price tag, people should not have to put up with advertisements on these discs. Even worse, the ads don’t seem to be confined to just the first disc—there was some additional crapola at the beginning of disc two, not just disc one. This is a very bad sign, for it suggests there will be ads at the beginning of all six discs. Very, very bad. It means every single time I want to watch something from one of these discs, forever, I’ll have to go through the trouble of skipping over these. I shouldn’t have to put up with that. No one should. And let me emphasize one thing: These are not paid advertisements, they are simply ads for other BBC programs available on DVD (at least, as far as I bothered to look). If they had had the sense to stash these in with the other bonus features, I would most likely have gotten curious and watched all of them. Jamming them right in my face at the beginning of the discs is not the way to get me to watch. (And furthermore, maybe if they didn’t charge so much for their DVDs, they wouldn’t have to push them so hard! Ya think????)

However, other than that complaint, it’s a really nice set. The design is superb—similar to that for the first two seasons, but, if anything, even more elaborate and well done. If not for the ads at the beginnings of the discs, I’d call it the finest box set I’ve ever purchased. There was one small flaw in mine. I noticed that one of the pages in the included booklet was collated face-down compared to the others, so the pages of the booklet appear out of order. I could fix this by removing the staples, flipping that page over and reinserting the staples, but I’m half inclined to leave it the way it is. Perhaps this error will make it more valuable, you know? Kind of like that postage stamp with the upside down airplane on it. :)

The first programmatic item on Disc One is, of course, the 2006 Christmas special, The Runaway Bride. I had seen this before, so this was a rewatch. As I did the first time, I really enjoyed the first part (especially the TARDIS chase scene) up until they meet up with the Empress of the Racnoss. That part was less than inspiring, but not as horrifically awful as some of what happened later in season three.

The most interesting aspect of rewatching this was from the standpoint of sussing out how Catherine Tate is going to fare as a new, regular season companion. When I first heard that she had been picked for the role, my reaction was negative. To be perfectly honest, the problem was that I had been hoping so much for Sally Sparrow to be brought back that I would have been disappointed in just about anyone. However, having had time to get used to the fact that my Sally Sparrow fantasy was not going to come true, it became possible to evaluate the Donna Noble companion idea more dispassionately. And, you know what? I think they may have made a pretty good choice with her. She’s a good, strong, assertive character, and she has one trait which I think will work out really well, if the writers remember to exploit it: She’s not afraid to tell the Doctor to shut up when he starts babbling. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out. I’m also hoping they refrain from having her fall in love with him. Probably they will, since it’s already been done with the previous two companions, and doing it with the third one in a row would be really obviously repetitious, right? ;) So, notwithstanding what happened in the “Voyage of the Damned” Christmas special, I’m hopeful.

Next on the first disc is a Doctor Who Confidential special entitled “Music and Monsters.” This is fun. The special centers on a concert which was presented in the Millenium Hall in Cardiff—that big, odd looking building with all the funny words on it—Torchwood viewers will know which one I mean. There’s quite a lovely concert hall inside it. The event featured music from the new series, all composed by Murray Gold, and performed by a live orchestra, with choir and whatever other additional musicians were needed. There were also special guest appearances by characters from the series, most notably David Tennant himself, and a Dalek. The Dalek is quite amusing, proclaiming in it’s mechanically stentorian voice that the entire facility is now under Dalek control, that the audience must “OBEY!” and so forth. What’s really impressive about this is that Nicholas Briggs, the genius voice actor responsible for the Dalek voices, was not given a script. He pretty much had to make it all up on the spot.

Not only is this concert a lot of fun, it’s a bit incongruous, too. It was actually staged prior to the airing of “The Runaway Bride,” so in terms of the series, the last thing that had happened was Rose’s getting trapped in an alternate universe. Martha hadn’t even shown up yet as a character (although Freema Agyeman is shown sitting in the audience). This means the program as a whole has a bit of emphasis on Rose Tyler, which I like. I still miss Rose. She’s easily my favorite of all the companions, in either series.

Also on this first disc is David Tennant’s Video Diary for “The Runaway Bride.” This is short but amusing. I still like Billie Piper’s Video Diary from the first season box set the best of all of these, mostly for trivial reasons such as the fact that she’s short, so seeing everything through the camera from her perspective is quite a novelty for six-foot-one me, and also because you can hear her chawing on a wad of gum throughout the commentary. This is not only totally hilarious, but gives it an extra bit of authenticity and informality that I really like. Plus, hey. Billie Piper. I’m just a sucker for her, you know?

There is a Freema Agyeman bonus feature on this disc too, wherein she goes around with a camara operator to talk to various set and prop people as they get things set up for an episode. This is pretty interesting, and I’ve got to say, Freema Agyeman is such a hottie and so endearing that this is not difficult to watch at all. Plus, she’s wearing tight jeans. :) The funniest part of this is when she interviews Nicholas Briggs as he rehearses his Dalek lines for an upcoming episode. For a minute, they take a copy of the script and trade roles: Agyeman as a Dalek and Briggs as Martha. The Dalek voice is normally achieved by not only electronically modifying Briggs’ voice, but also through his own efforts, so a person can’t just pick up his microphone, talk into it, and expect to sound like a Dalek. Seeing Agyeman try her hand at this is pretty funny, although she does catch on pretty quickly, getting a much more realistic effect after a few initial tries. She ends up sounding remarkably like a Dalek, albeit with a higher voice.

There are a couple of other bonus features on this first disc, but I decided to skip over those for now, because the segment with Agyeman got me wanting to go right ahead and watch “Smith and Jones” again. I suppose I should rewatch the rest of the season before actually saying this, but screw that—I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say this is likely one of the best Martha Jones episodes of the series. It’s always been a challenge, trying to put into words the gut feeling I began to notice partway through watching this season last year, namely that Martha Jones, as a companion, doesn’t seem to measure up to the standard set by Rose Tyler. A big part of it is simply that Rose is such a tough act to follow. But I always felt there was more to it than that, and especially that the blame did not rest with Freema Agyeman herself. Simply put, I think it was a mistake to have Martha develop a crush on the Doctor, primarily because David Tennant’s Doctor needs a foil, someone to cut him off, to tell him when he’s full of crap, a character with similar forcefulness to his own. Martha could have been like that, I believe, but when they decided to put her into unrequited love with him, that weakened her position considerably. This idea is borne out in a few different ways, most notably by the fact that the best Martha episodes are the ones where her character acts on her own, rather than in concert with the Doctor, and also by her recent apperance on Torchwood, where she seems to be much more in her element. I’m looking forward to her return to Doctor Who this season, to see how things get on when things are different between her and the Doctor. It could prove interesting, especially with there being two companions. That could end up being the best combo yet!

I haven’t even had a chance to crack open the Battlestar Galactica set yet. I figured that set has a lot more episodes, so I could whip through Doctor Who faster. It was a tough decision, figuring out which show to watch first. :)

Hollowed are the Ori March 22, 2008

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I had promised some comments on the new Stargate movie, Ark of Truth. Here they are—100% spoilerific! ;)

In short, it’s not bad. I wouldn’t rank it with the finest all-time Stargate: SG-1 series episodes, but it’s worth watching. Is it worth buying the DVD, for roughly US$20? That’s a tougher call, especially when you consider that DVD sales will have a direct impact on whether more movies are made. If you’re a fan and you want to see more movies, then yes, definitely buy it, especially since the non-fans aren’t going to be flocking to the store shelves themselves. The movie does seem to be written more for us, the fans, than for a general sci-fi audience. Overall, I’d consider Ark of Truth to be on a par with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In other words, it’s great to see the story continuing, and the movie has its moments, not to mention being fun and enjoyable, but it isn’t exactly everything I’d hoped it would be.

So what happens? Well, the Ori turn out to be dead after all, but, as is often the case, where great power is extinguished, someone else fills in the inevitable vacuum. In this case, Adria (aka The Orici) is the guilty party. My Firefly-fanboy side was immensely pleased with this development, because I can sit in my chair drooling over Morena Baccarin pretty much any day of the week, you know? Ba’al is nowhere to be seen (or heard)—apparently, his ill-fated attempt to take over the Orici remains ill-fated. It’s too bad, since Ba’al was a fantastic villian, but, on the other hand, half the fun of him is his smug Goa-uld unkillable-ness, so what would be the fun of killing him off in ninety minutes? Besides, bringing him back too many times would be dumb, and the series writers already came very close to making that mistake with Apophis.

One other villian makes a surprising and much-welcomed reappearance: The Replicators! :) I don’t mean those tedious, second-rate ones from the Pegasus Galaxy, either. Nor do I mean the less-than-inspiring humaniform Replicators from late in the SG-1 series. I mean the original, whirring, clacking, glorified-erector-set, geek-boy-nightmare, shoot-em-with-a-machine-gun, mechanical-bug Replicators! Damn! :D I’d missed these little bastards. They wreak loads of havoc, too. What happens is this: Essentially, some fool in the IOC decides that replicators are the best way to kill the Ori ships, forgetting that real replicators would happily go on to destroy the whole universe after they were done with their original job. So yeah, that plan is necessarily scrapped, which means not only does SG-1 have to find another way to zap the Ori ships, they have to kill off the Replicators at the same time!

About those Ori ships: The premise here is that Origin, the religion, would continue on even if its gods were utterly destroyed. Obviously this is reasonable, since the life of any religion isn’t its god, it’s the collective belief that makes up the religion, whether that belief is true or not. This isn’t the first time that Stargate has dealt with this subject, either. There were a substantial number of Jaffa who refused to join the resistance because they really did believe the Goa’uld were gods. If I remember right, they created a bit of a mess after the system lords were overthrown, too.

More recently in the Stargate universe, while the religion of Origin may have been started by the Ori themselves, the faith of the Priors is the more immediate problem, as they are the ones piloting huge, galaxy-conquering ships. The only reason the Ori had to be destroyed at all was because they were the ones who made new Priors. There’s Adria, of course, who seems to have assumed much of the power of the Ori, but does she have the ability to create new Priors, or to do any direct damage at all other than keeping the Priors organized? They are about to bring another wave of Ori ships through the supergate to continue the invasion, but again, it’s the Priors who are doing the dirty work here, not Adria herself. However you cut it, this movie isn’t the mop-up after Season 10, it’s the main battle.

So, how do you kill a religion, anyway? The answer given in the movie seems pretty accurate, namely that you can only usurp one idea with another idea. In this case, that other idea is “the truth,” but note that the only way to cause the Priors to believe it is through the force of the Ark. They’re not going to believe it just because it’s true. This creates an unfortunate problem for the story, in that the only way to resolve things in one single movie, as opposed to a series-spanning holy war, is through the use of a magical super-duper gizmo where a switch is flipped and the problem is solved. The Priors’ minds are instantly changed and the war is over. It would have been nice if the writers had been able to find some devilishly clever way to weasel their way out of this problem, but they really couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough story time available. The gizmo is The Ark, obviously, and it’s why I didn’t find the overall story to be all that satisfying.

However, I did enjoy the movie, and I’m looking forward to the next one. :)

Death and, um…Transfiguration :) March 16, 2008

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I took in two episodes of Torchwood last night, episodes eight and nine of season two: “A Day in the Death,” and “Something Borrowed.”

The death being referred to, of course, is the death of Owen, from a couple of episodes previously. He was then brought back to life. Except not really. He’s actually still dead, he just walks and talks and stuff. Basically, he’s a zombie.

So what does a zombie do with his life existence? He can’t eat or drink because stuff just sits there in his stomach, never being digested. He can’t breathe (how he manages to talk without breathing is never explained). Sex is out of the question, thanks to lack of blood flow (it’s probably fortunate that he didn’t die with an erection, isn’t it?). He also has to be careful not to injure himself, because his body doesn’t heal, a fact which can really put a damper on things. He can’t even do his job because it’s against policy to employ a dead person! It’s a pretty bleak existence, I’d say. Pointless, even.

At least, it’s pointless until Captain Jack happens to really, really need someone with no body heat.

I won’t go into the plot at all. I won’t talk about the neato glowy alien gizmo, or about the girl who’s ready to jump off a building, or about the dying old man who Owen tries to save, even though all these things are integral to the story. I’ll just say, this is a good Owen episode, perhaps the best since a certain aeroplane landed and three people from the 1950’s got out. Burn Gorman really shines, and we see the full spectrum of Owen’s personality here.

At the end, we are left with questions such as: Where is the series going with this zombie-Owen thing? He’s obviously not a vampire (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but is he going to end up resembling any of the other classic movie-monster types? My best guess so far, as I’ve said, is that he’s a plain and simple zombie, but will there prove to be any sort of twist on that? Anything which might help his body heal? Or is he just going to gradually deteriorate over time until he’s too repulsive to look at? Perhaps eating a few brains will help? :) I’m actually hoping the writers take his undead-ness in a new and original direction. That would be refreshing, although difficult too, considering how many times the subject has been covered before. They also still have to deal with questions about the resurrection glove(s) and the weevils.

In previous weeks, I was starting to feel resigned to the fact that Torchwood‘s second season wasn’t going to be quite up to the standard of excellence set by the first. That’s not to say it was going badly, just not quite as excellently as before. However, by the end of this episode, I began to have some hope that I might be wrong. “A Day in the Death” is a serious and dramatic episode, dealing with some pretty dark subject matter, but it ends up being quite uplifting and positive. It’s definitely the best episode of the season up to this point, and on a par with all but the very best of the stories from season one.

Not being able to settle for just one episode of this show in an evening, I then moved on to “Something Borrowed.”

This episode is a total riot. :) I guess the producers felt they needed something more lighthearted to contrast with the previous episodes, and did they ever succeed.

The main thing that happens here is that this is Gwen’s wedding episode. They’ve been working up to this for a while, so here it is, finally—although, honestly, I am a bit bummed that Gwen is now married, what with wanting her for myself and all. :) Just look at her in this episode—she is absolutely too cute and adorable for words in that beautiful white wedding dress, with her belly bulging out in what must surely be the final days of pregnancy…. Whaaaat?!?!?!?!? GWEN?!?!??!?????? PREGNANT?!????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since when?????

Well, yeah. See, there’s this alien shapeshifter thing that bites her, thereby implanting an egg sac, so the next morning she wakes up and looks to be about nine months gone. If you ever saw the Angel episode “Expecting,” it seems a lot like that, at first. But the resemblance is mostly superficial. Also, in what must surely be the most inconvenient coincidence ever, this alien pregancy happens to occur on Gwen’s wedding day. Poor Gwen!

But never fear—you know she’ll be fine, because it’s obvious from the start that they are playing this for comedic value, not making a serious drama out of it. The first indicator is Gwen’s decision to go ahead with the wedding in spite of her condtion, thinking nothing at all of how on earth she’s going to explain things to her parents, Rhys’s parents, and to the friends she was with the previous night, who witnessed her in a most definately un-pregnant condition. Perhaps it’s the stress. We all do silly things when we’re stressed out, right?

In any case, hijinks ensue. Things get even better when it’s determined that these particular alien shapeshifters travel in pairs, that one of their favorite delicacies is human flesh, and that the female of the species births her young by physically ripping it out of the body of the human female host! Obviously, she must be stopped!

Alas, I won’t go into any more details. A lot happens. It’s all hilarious, especially the thing with the chainsaw (Kai Owen really has a gift for his character, I tell you). This is easily the funniest Torchwood episode yet, not to mention one of the best.

Ark of Truth March 11, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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Released today:

Ark_of_Truth

Comments coming soon, hopefully. (Sorry for the low quality pic—I snapped it myself, real quick-like.)

The Nox, Hathor, Cor-Ai March 8, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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Friday night, I continued my SG-1 marathon with three more episodes.

The first of these was “The Nox,” a truly fascinating episode, and one of the best in the entire ten-year run of SG-1. Aside from being brilliant and very enjoyable, it lays some groundwork for a lot of what happens in the remainder of the series. Although the SG-1 team members don’t know it yet, this is their first face-to-face encounter with one of the four ancient races, who will play (to varying degrees) such an important role in their mission in the years to come. It’s also the first indication we have that the U.S. government isn’t entirely satisfied with the performance of the SG-C, a fact which will lead to all sorts of interference, oversight and outright shennanigans by a variety of other people, continuing even to this day on Atlantis. We also begin to get a sense in this episode of just how wily and challenging an opponent Apophis will be, when SG-1’s straightforward and simple plan to capture him ends up with O’Neill, Carter and Jackson all getting killed. If it wasn’t for the extremely sophisticated healing abilities of the Nox, the series would have ended about ten minutes into this episode.

Of course the Nox are the main point of this episode, so let’s talk about them a little. There are four of them shown, and their leader is played by none other than Armin Shimerman, of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Casting him in this episode was a stroke of genius, because the character Anteaus is such a marked contrast to Shimerman’s well-known roles in the other two series, and it’s always a pleasure to see a good actor do something different from what he’s done before. He’s just delightful here, managing to quietly eclipse much of his more well-known work in what must be only fifteen or twenty minutes of screen time.

The other Nox character to play a major role is Nafrayu, the cute little Nox kid, played by Addison Ridge. Observe Carter’s expression when she looks at him, as if she’s never seen anything so adorable in her entire life. Can you blame her? My favorte of the other Nox, though, would have to be Lya, played by Frida Betrani. She’s a sweetie. Pretty, too. :) I am quite infatuated with her, I admit—this is why I’m saying such totally unprofessional things. ;) She is the only one of the Nox ever to appear on the series again, after this episode. I had high hopes that they would play an important role in the series, but only Lya comes back a couple of times, very briefly. This is very disappointing, because the Nox are an uncommon thing: an advanced alien species who actually seem advanced and alien. This makes them extremely interesting.

Apophis also plays a major role in this episode. In fact, is there any other episode in the series where he is “in play” as much as he is here? Not very many of them, that’s for sure. Peter Williams is still starting to get into the Apophis character at this point—later on, he gets better and better at it, until, eventually, the very sight of him makes a person want to scream in frustration. He’s the second best of all the Goa-uld to ever appear in the series, I think, bested only slightly by Cliff Simon’s hilarious, frustrating and brilliant portrayal of Ba’al, much later in the series.

In other matters, I must point out how much I enjoyed the musical score in this episode. I’ve noticed that, in general, the quality of the incidental music this season is pretty high. This is important to me, personally, so I thank the composer(s) for their efforts in these episodes, as well as the people who had the sense to hire decent composers in the first place.

In the realm of trivia, we see SG-5 briefly at the beginning of the episode, and I noticed that all of the Jaffa in Apophis’s personal guard are sporting gold forehead tattoos identical to Teal’c’s. This once again contradicts the idea that only first primes have gold emblems. I suppose it’s realistic to assume that different system lords would have different, um….systems to their Jaffa insignia, since they certainly would not be interested in trying to standardize something as trivial as this. After all, they have much more important concerns, such as how to kill all their rivals, live forever, and achieve domination of the galaxy. :P

I mentioned I watched two other episodes Friday: “Hathor” and “Cor-Ai.”

“Hathor” was better than I had remembered. I believe there are some inconsistencies between what’s presented in this episode and what comes later on, both with respect to the creation of the Jaffa, and to Goa-uld reproduction. It’s been a long time, though, so I will have to wait and see. The most enjoyable thing about this episode to me was Suanne Braun’s portrayal of the “goddess of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”, Hathor. She’s just plain hot, in a beautiful, sensual, sultry and full-hipped way. I love it. :) It must also be said that Carter and Dr. Fraiser both kick a lot of ass in this episode. Indeed, this episode is all about the girls, since the boys end up spending most of their time in pheromone-induced thrall to Hathor.

“Cor-Ai” is a really good Teal’c episode, and pretty excellent in general. I really enjoy how it deals with questions relating to guilt, innocence, forgiveness, redemption, victim’s rights, the burden of punishment of a criminal, and so on. It’s quite fascinating. Briefly, some background: During the 1990’s, a hot political issue in the U.S. was the question of victim’s rights, namely the belief that the rights of the accused were being accorded too much weight by our legal system, and that this needed to be corrected in favor of victims of crimes. This episode hypothesizes a rather extreme solution to the problem, namely a legal system where the trial itself is controlled by the victim, who is also responsible for determining and carrying out the sentence. On the surface, it seems like a hopelessly barbaric way of doing things (at least it does to me, civil libertarian that I am), but the episode is written intelligently enough so we see that it wouldn’t really be that simple…although I still much prefer the American way of doing things. This episode is what science fiction is all about: using the story in a way that’s not only relevant to the complexities of the real world, but doing so thoughtfully, so that the viewer is actually drawn into thinking about an issue in a new way.

Blood, Fire and Torment March 7, 2008

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I ended up watching three more episodes last night, after “Thor’s Hammer”. They were (in order) “The Torment of Tantalus”, “Bloodlines”, and “Fire and Water.” These are all pretty good episodes.

“Torment of Tantalus” is a sweet and touching story. I was pleasantly surprised to see the young Ernest Littlefield played by none other than Paul McGillion (who goes on to play Dr. Beckett on Atlantis). Actually, both actors who portray Littlefield, him and Keene Curtis, do remarkable jobs—Littlefield ends up being a wonderfully sympathetic and tragic character. This is a good Jackson episode too—his passion and frustration with the discovery and imminent destruction of the ancient book device really help to remind us of what he’s all about as a person. He’s a seeker of knowledge, truth and understanding, and it’s this inner need which will drive him throughout the series, even after his quest for his wife ends.

As the series was originally broadcast, the episode “The Nox” would have appeared before this one. As I was watching last night, I began to think the ordering of the episodes actually is better on the DVDs, but I want to see “The Nox” before deciding for sure. What they’re doing with all these references to ancient and powerful races is presenting pieces in a puzzle, and I’m thinking the order of presentation may make a difference in the overall perception that’s created for the viewer.

“Bloodlines” is notable because of the first appearance in the series of one of my favorite recurring guest characters, Bra’tac, so fabulously portrayed by Tony Amendola. I like this character so much, I typically greet his appearance in an episode with a hearty, “Bra’tac! Dude!” or something similar. ;) It was so fortunate that the writers didn’t kill him off after a few seasons, the way they did with some of the other guest characters—he ended up making at least one appearance in all but one of the show’s ten seasons.

This is also the episode where we begin to realize why Teal’c is so quiet—he’s an introvert! Witness the emotions flooding through him when he discovers his old home, burned to the ground. He says very little, yet it’s obvious the experience is tearing him up inside. This, now, is the beginning of the character who, in my opinion, ends up being the best sci fi alien since Mr. Spock.

Regarding “Fire and Water,” I have a theory about the bizarre fish-faced alien in this episode: He is a Furling. I’m almost certainly wrong, since the technology in his lab bears little resemblance to the Furling technology shown in the sixth season episode “Paradise Lost,” but it seemed like a really cool idea when I thought of it last night. It fits, in a couple of respects—fish-faced-guy possesses very advanced technology, and his race is very old and powerful. Okay, I admit, that’s pretty thin. I guess I’m mostly amused by the idea of a fishlike alien race being referred to as “Furlings,” and frustrated that the mystery of the Furlings was never resolved.

In any case, this is a fairly good episode, not one of my favorites from this season, but interesting enough. The memorial service for Daniel Jackson is quite well done. I also enjoyed the look of the alien’s lab, and the planet itself.

One bit of trivia I want to note down here for future reference: SG-6 makes a very brief appearance in this episode.

Thor! Buddy! March 6, 2008

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I remember O’Neill greeting the loveable alien Thor with those words, a few seasons down the line. I’m not sure if the memory is accurate, but it sure seems like something O’Neill would say if he hadn’t seen his friend in a while.

The first episode tonight is “Thor’s Hammer”, which is also the very first Thor episode. We don’t actually encounter the real Thor this time around, just some pleasant and suspiciously timed thunderbolts, and an imposing Norse-looking simulacrum.

There’s a lot to like in this episode. Jackson correctly guesses that the Goa’uld did not, in fact, build the Stargate system, and that the Norse gods must be friendly to humans. He also learns of a way to save his beloved wife, a way taken from him at the end. It’s a cruelty to him, obviously, but at the same time, his act of voluntarily destroying Thor’s Hammer so that Teal’c can escape unharmed shows Teal’c once and for all that the members of SG-1 are truly his friends. I got a real kick out of the dialog right after this—Jackson remarks after his destruction of Thor’s Hammer, an act which casts a heavy pall of improbability on his hopes for saving his wife, “Well, at least we know it can be done.” Teal’c looks at him, understanding fully the depth of his sacrifice, and says nothing. But, if you listen very, very carefully, you can almost hear the word, “Indeed.”

In the realm of trivia, I notice that the characters are now starting to refer to the Goa’uld in the aggregate plural rather than ordinary plural, i.e. “Goa’uld” instead of “Goa’ulds.” In fact, the first character (other than Teal’c) I noticed doing this was the blue crystal alien in the form of O’Neill’s dead son in “Cold Lazarus.” All of the team now appear to be sporting the finalized SG-1 insignia, the familiar one with a solid colored “1” in the center instead of a black “1”. And they’re still stumbling through the Stargate some of the time, barely managing to keep their footing on the other side.

Regarding the order of the episodes, this continues to be different from the original broadcast order. According to the GateWorld episode guide for Season One, the correct order is as follows: “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Cold Lazarus”, “The Nox”, “Brief Candle” and “Thor’s Hammer”, while the DVD puts them in this order (listing those on Disc 2 only): “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle”, “Cold Lazarus” and “Thor’s Hammer”. “The Nox” ends up being the fourth episode on Disc 3. I wonder why they ordered the episodes so differently. Not that I’m complaining—I do like them this way.

Nutjob commanders, alien hotties, brilliant blue crystalline entities—what’s not to love? March 6, 2008

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The next three episodes in my SG-1 marathon (all watched last night after “The Broca Divide”) were “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle” and “Cold Lazarus”. This is the order in which they appear on the second DVD in the box set. I’ve noticed on GateWorld’s series index that the order there is different. GateWorld’s listing is ordered by broadcast date—I’m not sure why the DVD episodes are in a different order, but it seems perfectly fine to me. I’m not sure if it would make much difference to watch them in one order or the other.

“The First Commandment” features SG-9 going native (and nuts) when their CO loses his mind and decides he actually is the god the locals believe him to be. This isn’t the most memorable episode, but enjoyable enough. It contrasts with “Emancipation” in being more morally relativistic, instead of casting things in such black-and-white terms: Captain Hanson is obviously a whacko, viewing himself as a god, but at the same time, it’s apparent that he genuinely loves “his” people, in his own twisted, megalomaniacal way. In spite of the fact that a lot of them will be killed because of his madness, there is some element of altruism in his motivation.

Another thing that interested me in this episode was noticing the difference between Carter’s and Jackson’s reactions to the situation of a man getting beaten. Initially it’s Carter who goes against O’Neill’s implicit orders and gets involved, not Jackson, meaning they are both doing the unexpected. Carter’s military background makes her quick willingness to mess up O’Neill’s plan surprising, while Jackson’s opposition to helping out seems to go directly against his idealist tendencies. I’m guessing Jackson’s motivation is simply the fear of getting tied to a stake and left out in the bright sun to die, because it’s hard to imagine the Jackson of season ten hesitating like that. He probably wants to help, but at this early point in the series, he hasn’t yet developed the level of confidence in his own abilities which would allow him to risk injury or death to do so. Carter’s motivation is easier to understand—she just needs to help. In both cases, their actions serve very well to help us see them as more complex people, rather than uninteresting two-dimensional stereotypes. I think it’s this sort of thing which, over time, made viewers really care about this series.

Does SG-9 ever appear again? I’m sure they must be mentioned in passing, but we’ll see. By the way, this is the only time I can recall hearing about an SG team being led by a Captain—in all other cases, it was either Majors or Colonels (and I vaguely recall from my first time watching the series that there were never any Lieutenant Colonels at all, until Carter herself became one).

“Brief Candle” was very enjoyable. I have two favorite things about this episode. One of them is pretty obvious: The gorgeous Bobbie Phillips as Kynthia. What a hottie, and a sweetheart, too :) The character was interesting—one of the other “Chosen” people states her age at “31 days”, which I assume would correspond physiologically to a normal human age of 31 years. However, she plays the character as quite naive and innocent, knowing full well that no matter how much nanotechnology is thrown at someone to age them quickly, she’s not going to develop the maturity of a normal 31-year-old woman in only 31 days. Careful observers may also notice the appearance of crow’s feet around her eyes in the later scenes, by which time she would be much older, physiologically—like a woman in her 40’s.

The other aspect of this episode that I really enjoyed is how Kynthia’s brief relationship with O’Neill, coupled with his rapid and extreme aging, serves to round out the O’Neill character. There’s a side of him visible here that we don’t get to see very much. What starts out as an almost Captain-Kirk-like tryst between the two of them ends up taking a totally different path, especially as O’Neill ages. I absolutely love the tenderness he shows her in the later scenes.

There are some other things too. One is right at the beginning—the team discovers a young woman in labor, and Daniel Jackson gets stuck delivering the baby. Very amusing. :) Another is Teal’c’s “parting message” to O’Neill, which really touches me: “Colonel…I’ve learned very much from you. Thank you.” This is a nice little bit of foreshadowing of the great character Teal’c will eventually become, although I wonder how much of that the writers had worked out at this point.

Finally, it was getting late, but I really wanted to watch “Cold Lazarus” before I turned in for the night, because I always loved those nifty blue crystalline aliens. :) This is another really good Richard Dean Anderson episode, even though he mostly plays an alien instead of his normal character.

It’s no wonder I got hooked on this show so easily—this whole season is actually pretty excellent. It exhibits very little of the “rough-around-the-edges” quality that so many good series show in their first seasons. Plus, a lot of these episodes prove to be pivotal for the entire series—I just finished watching Season 10 recently, and there were two explicit references to these early episodes, one to O’Neill’s temporary aging experience, and the other to the crystalline aliens. Also, the concept of the Goa’uld using people as lab rats will continue to be important for quite some time. Obviously the writers realized early on that, if they were going to keep the series going for more than a season, it needed to amount to much more than just “four people having random adventures on a bunch of weird planets.” There’s a lot of real meat here in this first season.

This is fun! March 5, 2008

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The SG-1 marathon is going very well—I’m three episodes past the pilot now, and I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying this. Last night, after writing out a draft of the previous entry about the pilot story, I then watched “The Enemy Within” and “Emancipation”.

The first of these is the story where Kawalski, who got infected with a Goa’uld symbiote at the end of the pilot, ends up dead at the end, after wreaking a lot of havoc in the SG-C. This is actually a pretty good ep, even though they never leave the confines of the base. It’s the first good Teal’c episode, too, unlike the couple which follow this, where he is more flat and two-dimensional. In this story, we see a lot of the character that Teal’c becomes later on in the series. This episode is also, by my guess, the last we’ll ever see of SG-2. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that unit in future episodes, but I don’t recall ever seeing them again. My guess is O’Neill had the number retired after Kowalski’s death. But that’s just a guess.

The next ep is the one I typically dread whenever I consider the possibility of watching early SG-1 episodes: “Emancipation.” Yes, it was just about as bad as I had remembered. The political content of the story is way over the top considering when this was first aired (seriously, a story like this would have played better in 1967 than 1997), but beyond that, some of the dialog was like a bad parody of a classic Star Trek episode, and performances by a couple of the supporting cast were fairly painful to watch.

Soon-Tek Oh as Moughal On the other hand, there were some bright spots. One was the performance by guest actor Sooh-Tek Oh, as the elderly tribal chieftain Moughal. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed him in this small but sympathetic role. The main benefit of watching this episode, however, is that it throws down some building blocks for the development of the SG-1 team. Right at the beginning, the dialog gives away the fact that this isn’t their first offworld mission after the pilot episode, that in fact, they seem to have been on at least several missions in the interim since “The Enemy Within.” More important is the way the team reacts to Carter’s plight in this episode. At first they joke about it, and tease her about it, but when things turn ugly and she is abducted, O’Neill wastes not one second in taking action. It’s also the first big Samantha Carter episode, obviously.

Tonight, I started things out with “The Broca Divide.” I won’t say too much about this one other than that I enjoyed it, especially the happy ending. A couple of interesting trivia bits: This was the first SG-3 episode, the first episode with Colonel Makepeace, and most importantly, the first episode with Teryl Rothery as Dr. Frasier!! She saves the day too. :)

Now I’m about to go on to the next episode: “The First Commandment.” I actually don’t remember what this one is about, although I’m sure it’ll come back to me pretty quickly.

Children of the Gods March 4, 2008

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Okay, done with “Children of the Gods”, the pilot episode of SG-1.

There were some things I wanted to mention. I decided to skip the Stargate movie, because I never really liked it all that much. What’s more important to me are the SG-1 characters, as portrayed by the series actors (even though I’m a raving fan of James Spader). A long time ago, my dad remarked that one of the primary strengths of the original Star Trek series was the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and I think he was absolutely correct. Those three characters just clicked really well, and that went a long way towards making the series fun, interesting, and most importantly not stilted or phony in feeling. It made a person want to be there with them, on the Enterprise.

When I first started watching SG-1, it didn’t take me very long to realize that here was another show like that, only with four people instead of three. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to watch the whole thing over again, in order to see that interplay develop.

I also want to note of some other things here. For one, this pilot is just plain good. I had forgotten that, or perhaps not appreciated it as much during previous viewings.

Other interesting things fit more in the category of trivia. For instance, one of the serpent guards that comes through the stargate with Apophis’ party at the beginning, the one who is later shown dead on a gurney, is sporting a gold forehead emblem identical to the one Teal’c wears. According to what would later be said, this would make him a “first prime.” I guess that hadn’t been thought of at this point, however.

  1. When Apophis, Teal’c and the others come through the gate, the “puddle” disappears behind them, and then, after the shootout, somehow it’s back again, allowing them to effect their escape. How did it get back? I suspect that’s just a mistake–writers can’t have every detail worked out right from the beginning.
  2. The frostiness that the teams suffer from while going through the gate–I made a point of watching, and they only suffer from it while going from the gate at the SG-C to a remote destination. Coming back, they are fine, other than the problem of being rudely thrust through the gate so they stumble. I’ll have to remember to watch, but I suspect these problems are due to minor issues with the SG-C’s computer system not being perfectly in tune with the stargate.
  3. Members of SG-2 are shown in this movie, and play an important supporting role. I can’t remember offhand if SG-2 ever makes another appearance at any point in the series, other than Kawalski playing a major role in the episode immediately following this. (Actually, I might want to keep track of which SG teams appear in which episodes–it could be interesting, along with my Jaffa tattoo-cataloging project).
  4. General Hammond sets up nine SG teams in this initial movie. That answers a question I’ve had for a long time–I couldn’t remember and thought it was 12, except 12 seemed too high.
  5. The SG-1 and SG-2 insignia are different here than they are in the main part of the series. Briefly, the SG-1 insignia features a black “1” superimposed on the chevron in the center of the insignia. Later on (beginning in the very next episode, actually), they start moving over to the final design, where the “1” is the silver color of the rest of the pattern. As for SG-2, in this pilot, their insignia is similar to that of SG-1, namely a black “2” superimposed on a chevron in the center. I’ll have to watch carefully to see how this changes, because in later episodes, SG-1 is the only team to feature a number and a chevron in the center of the design. All the others just have the number of the team.

Finally, I’d like to raise my proverbial hat to the persons responsible for the musical score in this pilot–again, I hadn’t noticed in previous viewings, but listening to it again, the score in this is second-to-none compared to scores throughout the entire series.

That’s all for now. I have tea brewing, and after that’s done, I’ll be on to the first “real” episode, “The Enemy Within”. If I remember right, this is the one where Kawalsky kicks the bucket.

A Stargate SG-1 Marathon March 4, 2008

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I recently got caught up on my backlog of Stargate SG-1 episodes, completing my watching of the tenth and last season of that show. While watching that, I began to feel more and more tempted to re-watch the whole series, from beginning to end. I realized I could make it a project. This is actually feasible for me, since I own the DVD box sets for all ten seasons (yeah, I’m that much of a gategeek).

I’m also about to run out of Atlantis episodes to watch, having caught up to the 18th episode of the fourth season last night, leaving me with episode 19 and the as-yet unbroadcast final episode of this season (scheduled to be broadcast later this week). I’m not ready to be done with Stargate yet! I want more! Hence this project.

So my SG-1 marathon will start tonight, and I’ll be making various notes about the experience as I go along. It should be fun—for one thing, it’s been a while since I’ve watched an episode from the Richard Dean Anderson days. I’m also considering an idea I’ve had for a long time, namely creating a catalog of ALL the various Jaffa forehead symbols. As far as I know, there is nothing like that anywhere on the internet, and, quite frankly, I’m sick of watching an episode, seeing a Jaffa appear, and not knowing which Goa-uld his or her tattoo corresonds to.

Anyway, that’s all for now, I’ll be back soon with more. :)