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Stargate SG-1: Good for Wisdom Tooth Extractions

Posted by Sunday on Mar 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm in TV

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.

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March 26th, 2009 | TV

9 Responses to “Stargate SG-1: Good for Wisdom Tooth Extractions”

  1. xadrian Says:

    I’ve never given Stargate a chance either. It’s one of my most beloved movies, despite a huge sciency-fictiony plot hole. But I’ve never given SG1 or Atlantis a shot. I would watch 15 mins or so of it pre and post Doctor Who but that’s it. I don’t know, like you, why I always thought it was bad. It looked no better or worse than the now decade old (yes I said DECADE) Babylon 5.

    So I’ve been using YeohTV to find episodes to try and watch, but I’m not giving it much more of a chance that I am Buffy (of which I have all the DVDs but have yet to watch more than season 1.)

    If SG1 starts getting good, let me know and I’ll give it a shot.

  2. Dan Coulter Says:

    Speaking as a moderate fan of the Stargate franchise, the first season of SG-1 is kinda painful to go back and watch. Like with TNG, the show started to get a lot better a year or two in. It really matures a lot and finds a good sense of humor (even Teal’c is hilarious at times).

    While it was sad when Richard Dean Anderson left the show (I love that guy), Ben Browder is awesome. Sure, he’s pretty much just playing a less smart John Crichton, but I’m ok with that. Claudia Black’s character couldn’t be more different from Sun, though.

  3. Sunday Says:

    xadrian: So far I can’t really recommend watching SG-1 unless, like I said, you’re infirm and on opiates, in which case its pretty entertaining. But, like Dan says, I imagine it has that first whole awkward year. It’s definitely got good bones. Also: the 2nd and 3rd season of Buffy are the best (and then 4 is weird and 5 is, I think, terrible, and 6 is weird again and 7 is great) (I might have those mixed up).

    Dan: I can already see that Teal’c's (!) super-straight-man routine has tremendous potential for humor. There have also been a few great one-liners given to guest stars, which I think is really curious. I mean, I appreciate that the stars of the show are on some level willing to be straight men to total nobodies. It’s a good sign.

  4. Nastybear Says:

    Well I liked SG1 and SGA, I do think the first season was a bit ruff but it gets better. While I didnt dislike the Farscape crowd, I missed Richard Dean Anderson when he left. An of course I am going to try SG Universe when it comes out.

    Oh by the way Sunday what did you think of the end of BSG?

  5. Sunday Says:

    I haven’t seen it, of course! I haven’t seen any of the last season, we have to wait for it on DVD. It’s nice that they are airing online on Hulu and whatnot, but we missed some eps and didn’t want to skip ahead.

  6. quagmire Says:

    PLEEEEZ everybody, thank you for not going the ‘spoiler’ route about BSG. I’ve seen every single epi except for any of this last season (I canceled my expanded-basic channels with Comcast two years ago). Like our Cap’n, I have to wait for DVD release … damnation! I’d do Hulu, but the video card on this cronprooter is a wee tad anemic. Every time I see any casual mention of the final episodes of BSG I slap my hand over my eyes and close the tab …

  7. Dan Coulter Says:

    If you ever watch an interview with the guy that plays Teal’c, he’s pretty much the giggliest person ever. I think it’s great that he does the serious character so well and it probably makes it that much funnier when they give Teal’c a funny line.

    I’m not really sure where the show hit its stride, as I didn’t do a very good job of watching episodes consecutively, but I think I started watching it around year 5.

  8. rhiannonpowell Says:

    New Stargate Cast Members Rumor. The bodybuilder dude with the bald head is way too excited to actually be a new cast member on Stargate.

  9. SamuelM Says:

    I agree with Dan… My DVR captures every episode of SG1 as I am a TV scavenger: picking through previous seasons hoping to find veins of unseen episodes.

    Season 1 is painful to watch. Teal’c is uncomfortable, Anderson’s character is apathetic, but not in a humorous way as in later seasons. (Fun fact: Anderson, who is responsible for my initial interest in the show because I loved MacGyver, had previously worked with the General in SG1, who I thought looked a lot like his handler in MacGyver… turns out he’s not the same guy but did occasionally stand in as a body double)

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