‘Stargate SG-1’ and ‘Stargate Atlantis’

Having just recently watched the full Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, I cannot emphasise enough how good I think these series are. There are plenty of weak episodes but to keep the overall story and characters so good over a total of 15 seasons is a remarkable achievement.

This time I revisited plenty of episodes I barely remembered which was a very welcome distraction. There are some episodes which I have seen dozens of times, but especially SG-1’s season 10 and the later seasons of Atlantis are less well known to me.

What did irk me this time round was the weird nature of the moral compass of John Sheppard. Also, looking at the decisions the frontline teams make in general there are plenty of doubtful ideas that come through their minds. In some ways, it all feels very conceited, but I guess that is because it is. What can one do… The good episodes are still good.

This overall took me a lot longer than half a year, I would think, and was only helped along by the virtue of dinners that extend into the late evening. I was rarely enthralled enough to divert my full attention to the series, but that is perhaps what it’s really good at: some scenes are mindblowing and others are good background. Just like life.

‘It’s Good to Be King’, Stargate SG-1

I have generally avoided commenting on specific episodes of series, but I might be changing that — especially when I really like an episode. Stargate SG-1 is a series to which I have often returned to when I just want to relax or enjoy an easier evening, and on a recent one the episode I managed to select for myself was ‘It’s Good to be King’. I knew this episode to have some good fun in it, plus I remembered that Jack O’Neill got off-planet — something that generally increases the “fun” content of a Stargate episode.

Maybourne: I guess congratulations are in order. You made general.
Gen. O’Neill: You made king!

There’s an interesting dynamic at play in this episode with the Earth people trying to rescue Maybourne from an impending Goa’uld attack. Naturally, things get complicated with there being not enough time and wonderful technological discoveries that may not fall into enemy hands and some general evil-Jaffa-waltzing-around-the-place moments.

What I really appreciate about this episode is, however, the feeling of familiarity. For example, the moment where Maybourne tries to put down his office of King while the people keep him on is quite remarkable — even someone who has previously not been the most altruistic in their behaviour has clearly done some good to others. It is moments like this that make life worth it, and I’m happy to have experienced one such more.

And, well, aside from that aspect of the episode, there’s a lot of general Stargate fun with things being blown up and people not doing what is expected of them. And, as mentioned above, an evil Jaffa who clearly just takes pleasure in the sufferings of humans — queue duel and more entertainment.

Overall, what makes this episode good in my mind might be summed up in the words of General O’Neill…

God, I miss goin’ off world!

Stargate Universe

Stargate Universe is the darker, more serious brother to the two other Stargate shows, SG-1 and Atlantis. That darkness also makes it a bit incomparable to the other two, for it is essentially doing a different thing. SGU is more in the realm of Caprica and BSG for it manages to get as much into the soul of the characters as those two shows.

Stargate franchise never did delve too deep into the characters — sure, they had their flaws and their good parts, but people essentially survived to laugh another day, and were mostly likeable. SGU has changed this essentially, and none of the main characters can actually create that same “good” vibe the previous shows had no trouble with. Instead, there is a more believable real life person instead of the ones we had before, and in many a way that is a preferable way of going about things.

To be thorough(er), I’ll say a few words on all of the main characters (or the characters whom I saw as having a rather important role in the show)… and to begin with, I’ll bring up the unenviable position of Col. Everett Young. There has not been an annoying a superior commander in the entirety of Stargate, and his main flaw is not his annoying attitude (which is, however, quite well captured in the manner of his speech and responses to any questions or inquiries), but more in the incapable way that he goes about making decisions — for he truly seems to rather enjoy things falling into place (or out of place) rather than make a decision. And that makes him very much the antagonist for me (go Rush!). Then again, I would guess that this is a position we can expect from a person who did not want to be posted away from home in any case…

Rush on the other hand has lost everything, and that has made him annoying in his way. I believe that he would be as belieavable if he tried to explain some things to his underlings — especially given he is aware that most of his underlings are rather incompetent in everything but a very very slight portion of what they have to go about doing. Rush also allows a fair amount of emotion to get into way of professional relations which I find a bit “wrong” but overall, I believe that he makes for a better leadership figure than Young (but most of this is simply due to Young being a tool). In any case, Rush can at least acknowledge when he is outclassed in science, and that increases his character quite a bit. Naturally though, he doesn’t do that too openly… And finally, with Rush, great scientific discoveries take the priority place over other things, which I do agree with. Explorer’s spirit!

Lt. Scott… Well… well… a Lieutenant should be able to follow orders without trying to second-guess everything, but Scott fails this quite successfully. For some reason, he reminded me of Lee Adama for a long time, but clearly, of the Stargate “leads” (O’Neill, Mitchell, Carter, Shepherd) Scott is the least inspiring, which makes sense from his character point of view. He is trying to find his very own place in the universe, after all. But, I do not think that should be in the military.

Eli. Well, Eli is cool. A thoroughly good character some might say, and no matter what the best of the SGU ones (on the good-evil scale). Some of his ideas seem to careful though, which again is somewhat understandable given his background.

There are others that I could bring up, but I would say that these four (plus then Camile Wray and Chloe Armstrong) make up the main cast — or that at least they do for me. I do not have much to say for Chloe except that her storyline did unfortunately seem a bit too forced for me, and that Camile as a character was quite amazing even though I am not the greatest of fans for IOA people.

Of the episodes I considered most noteworthy, I would have to say ‘Light’ for quite obvious reasons once anyone has seen it (and yes, I would like to go for the same trip) as well as Gauntlet. Incursion Part 3 was a nice one, and rather good, but nothing overly spectacular. In general, I would say that the second half of Season 2 was by far the better part of the series. ‘The Greater Good’ might also be considered one of the more appealing episodes.

Stargate Atlantis

Stargate Atlantis is a spin-off of the quite wonderful original series of Stargate (that I have already commented on, somewhere below). It is only with great difficulties that I managed to finish my planned re-watching of the entire Atlantis series (a total of five seasons, which, when thought about, is not all that much), but I have done that now, and can offer a few thoughts, as well as the episodes which I considered to be the best for the series.

Namely, much like the original SG-1 but quite unlike the newer Universe, Atlantis has a very on-off comical attitude and humour is never too far from the screen. In that sense, (Rodney McKay) and the others do their fair bit to get some of a lighter attitude going even while death is just meters away. Thereby, the show is always of a more general tone and suitable for everyone — and also, it might be said, does not really touch upon issues we see portrayed in more dramatic sci-fi shows (say Caprica/BSG).

It must also be said that overall, seasons 4 and 5 are quite a bit better than 1-3 (that is, in my humble but honest opinion). Firstly, a cause for this is the prevalence of Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) in season 3, and secondly, the prevalence of (Elizabeth Weir) in the first three. For whatever values the in-universe people attribute her, Weir remains a very bad commander as I see it. Maybe not as much in season 1 where we’re really just getting to know the situation in general but most certainly by season 3 the “luck” of finally having her as commander had very much worn off.

On the other hand, (John Shepherd) manages to play his role as the next (Jack O’Neill) quite well and full to most expectations that could be made — he is also one of the few people that can make difficult decisions in Atlantis (the others being Sam, Richard Woolsely, and Todd). Todd could also be said to be one of my favourite characters in many a way — a Wraith that can work with humans (obviously trying to double-cross them nearly every time) and in general manipulating the Expedition into all sorts of interesting… maneuvers.

Overall, the episodes which were memorable in some way might be considered:

  • The Defiant One: —
  • Letters from the Pegasus: What would you tell your family/loved ones/friends if you had not spoken to them for three seasons, and you had the knowledge of quite possible imminent death…
  • The Intruder: —
  • Trinity: —
  • Epiphany: —
  • Last Man: A brilliant sad look at how things might turn out if just the smallest of changes were made, and one of the few actually dramatic episodes of this series in general.
  • Brain Storm: Not that great an episode on the part of what depth of reality is perceived but quite enjoyable due to the presentation for scientists which goes horribly wrong — and thereby people need to work together (which, must be in the context of “Theoretical physics is a very competitive field!”)
  • Vegas: overall, might be the best episode of the series. Done in a CSI-like way, we find a Wraith on the loose in an alternate universe Las Vegas, quite naturally trying to cause great harm and destruction. Plus, Johnny Cash. Altogether, many quite enjoyable scenes with a few brilliant touches and a radically different (or not-so-different?) Shepherd make for a very interesting look at how things may have played out.
  • Enemy At The Gate: Give everything or nothing, there is no other way when we need to protect.

EDIT: [28/11/2012] — I found the small note which contained the names of some episodes from when I started watching this again. I’ve edited the text accordingly. Or rather, I’ve added the names of the episodes in so that when I am to watch them again I would look into what made these episodes memorable.

‘Abyss’, Stargate SG-1

I watched ‘Abyss’ again today, after feeling for ages that I should do it. I was unsure what I would be meeting when I went into it, but after going through the episode again, I know that it must be one of the finest that Stargate SG-1 ever produced.

I am actually surprised how well it manages to come off with points that could traditionally be seen as Buddhist or Zen (and, yes, you can consider Zen part of Buddhism but the difference is substantial, so for the sake of the present, I’ll consider them separate). Indeed, while the pre-ascension beliefs can be summed up as very much part of that category, then ‘Abyss’ manages to transcend just that and add an aspect of humanity.

Just to demonstrate that, I would quote a monumental moment from a scene

Dr. Jackson: Come on, Jack. Y-You think the Asgard named a-a ship after you because they thought it was a cool name? Now’s not the time to play dumb, you’re a lot smarter than that. They saw our potential in you…because of who you are and what you’ve done. Humanity’s potential. That’s the same thing Oma saw in me.
Col. O’Neill: I am not you.
Dr. Jackson: Yeah, when has that ever stopped you from doing anything?
Col. O’Neill: Okay… put yourself in my shoes and me in yours.
Dr. Jackson: You’d be here for me.
Col. O’Neill: Damn straight! I’d have busted you out, blown this rat hole to hell and made sure that son-of-a-bitch suffered!
Dr. Jackson: The Others would have stopped you.
Col. O’Neill: They’d have a hell of a fight on their hands.
Dr. Jackson: You wouldn’t do that.
Col. O’Neill: Ba’al would be dead.
Dr. Jackson: Jack—
Col. O’Neill: And don’t think I’d stop there!
Dr. Jackson: [forcefully] You’re a better man than that!
Col. O’Neill: [yelling] That’s where you’re wrong!

Which I think is a nice insight into how much (or little) anyone can ever know of other people; or that people may have wrong ideas of themselves. Which might be what that episode reminds me of…

Stargate SG-1

It’s a pity how quickly people are apt to disregard sci-fi just because it is sci-fi. That is both disrespectful towards the shows (or books or short stories etc etc) as well as to the people who do so. In any case, the only thing they achieve is locking out a massive genre with potentials that reach beyond the stars.

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