My relationship with SG-1 started as I imagine many have: I had no idea what was going on, so I ignored it. Years passed. I would find myself in hotel rooms or back home visiting parents — my only exposure to cable television – trying to watch the Stargate Channel Sci Fi Channel, wondering if they ever air anything but Stargate spinoffs. It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine that I cannot watch a television show unless I watch it from the very first episode (and I despise skipping episodes) – I hate the feeling of tuning in for a single glimpse into what is probably a complex, varied and delicate storyline. As you can imagine, broadcast television is difficult for me.
Somewhere in there I became convinced that the Stargates were terrible despite having never seen an entire episode. Now I know the truth: yep, it’s not great. As of today I am halfway through the first season of SG-1 (please, Jebus, tell me I can double up on these Darvocet) I can already tell you what every single episode is going to be like:
- the team arrives on a planet of pre-industrial age people
- of ethnicities that are similar too, but slightly evolved from, old Earth,
- the team is mistaken for gods
- (conversely, for demons),
- there are minor hijinks due to cultural misunderstandings,
- everyone learns a valuable lesson
I don’t have an issue with this set-up. The concept of the Stargate itself is interesting in exactly the same way that Star Trek’s interplanetary travel is interesting: each week is a new chance for a totally new idea, a new set of risks and jokes, new costumes. The longevity of any TV series is dependent on the writer’s ability to carry on – an ethereal skill that doesn’t have a set formula (Lost is stalling out and losing people while House, unchanged for five years, is better than ever). According to my own logic, SG-1 should have something going for it. I just can’t figure out what it is.
Maybe it’s the throbbing, swollen sockets talking, but I’m already bored with the show. The acting is better than I expected, the special effects are fine, the writing has never devolved into abject idiocy (sometimes even Bones, another favorite of mine, is almost unforgivably absurd) and every episode I watch I find myself checking my email, fiddling with CSS, editing photos.
One cause of my frustration is the shows tendency toward dropping plotlines into conversation that have zero exposition – I know, I know, I grouse about exposition all the time – with little-to-no follow-up. I suspect this Story Bomb tactic of theirs is an attempt to avoid exposition, but they’ve swung too far the other direction. In a weekly TV show, clumsy catch-up is a trade-off for time, one that viewers are generally willing to make. An exceptional show can get around it (in a particular episode of House, for example, a character with the ability to accurately mimic every other character managed to advance the individual plotlines of each person through pure exposition without ever feeling like it), but most can’t.
Of course, I’m reserving my once-and-for-all judgement until I see Ben Browder and Claudia Black (of Farscape fame), not to mention Jewel Staite (of Firefly) and Robert Picardo (of Star Trek: Voyager) in the Stargate: Detroit Lilliput Atlantis series. Because I’m a nerd and I get to have caveats like that.