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Atlantis goes pay-per-view August 22, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: Atlantis.
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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.

Hollowed are the Ori March 22, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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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. :)

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.