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Warehouse 13 – Overview – 3 Seasons

SyFy's Warehouse 13

This overview encompasses the first three seasons as that is all that has aired at this time.

Minor Spoilers

When someone describes the Syfy series Warehouse 13, the words ‘unholy mix of’ usually followed by at least ‘X-Files’ or ‘Indiana Jones’ seems to come up. It’s about the most accurate description of the scifi drama but not a discouraging one. Warehouse 13 may be a mix of different shows but it’s the right mix, the perfect storm of genres, twists, actors, and production which makes for one very fun ride.

Warehouse 13 is built into the side of a mountain in South Dakota and holds powerful artifacts from all over the world. The idea is that events and people can imbue items with something of mystical/magical/scientifically explainable abilities. It is kind of a physics issue actually, because energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed. During a catastrophic or highly emotional event, energy is transformed then trapped inside an object. That energy then affects the world around them when activated. Sometimes one person simply using an item for most of their life can create an artifact, as it becomes an extension of their psyche and thereby attracts energy. And that’s about as science-y as I’m going to get on this subject.

Anyway, this makes the items dangerous and they have to be kept from running amuck. It is similar to the late 80s tv show Friday the 13th in that the main characters have to hunt down these artifacts, only in this case the protagonists are Secret Service agents, this is a government run (sorta) facility and so far the Devil has nothing to do with the reason these items exists.

Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering

Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering

The agents are Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Peter Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), your typical odd couple law enforcement partners. Myka is more straight laced while Peter is a goof ball. While the dynamic is pretty much cliché in this day and age, Kelly and McClintock are able to keep it fresh several ways.

For one, there is no overt sexual tension between the two leads. It never fails that when you get a male/female partnership the writers end up putting in the “they secretly want to hook up” vibe which becomes a ‘will they/won’t they’ tug. While that can be fun, it’s nice to see a show that can go three seasons without degrading into the trope. There is still the chance the characters will start to swim that way, they haven’t completely degraded into a brother/sister relationship, but for the time being the show doesn’t waste time with that romantic subplot which allows more time for everything else.

Secondly, Kelly and McClintock have wonderful chemistry together and play off each other perfectly. You could believe that they are either siblings or an old married couple, take your pick. When you get two main characters who work so well you can’t help but want to keep watching them perform.

Mrs Frederic, Artie nelson, Claudia Donovan, Leena

Mrs Frederic, Artie nelson, Claudia Donovan, Leena

It also helps that their task master, Arthur “Artie” Nelson is played by the great but underappreciated Saul Rubinek. Rubinek is one of those actors who literally can play anyone and each time you see him you have to wonder “is that really Saul Rubinek?” because even if it’s filmed in the same time, he makes the characters look so different, right down to their mannerisms and speech patterns, a true actor. He owns the Artie character and takes the cliché old, grumpy, but wise boss and makes him a real enjoyment to watch. Someone get this man an Emmy and a Golden Globe!

Then there is the enigmatic character of Mrs. Frederic. She is the warehouse gate keeper who has a special bond with the location and mad ninja skills. C.C.H. Pounder plays Mrs. Frederic, an impeccable performance which both leaves the characters and audience in awe. It’s one of those you got to see it to understand the level of awesome.

You also have Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) who takes her Wesley Crusher character and manages not to be annoying, a feat indeed. Leena (Genelle Williams), whose complete roll is a bit unclear, is a solid, down to Earth character for the others to latch onto and played just as solidly. And there is also Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) who could have also been real annoying as he can always tells when people lie, but the character is underplayed giving it just the right amount of focus. Here’s hoping he returns in season four.

There is a slew of other supporting/recurring characters, including the always wonderful Jamie Murray. They also manage several scifi alums like Mark Sheppard, Joe Flanigan, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Lindsey Wagner, Rene Auberjonois, Tia Carrere, Tricia Helfer, Anthony Michael Hall, and Eureka’s Neil Grayston (as Fargo!), Erica Cerra, Niall Matter, and Joe Morton. Acting wise, the show is very nicely rounded out.

The production values are good despite being an effects-reliant series on a basic cable channel. You can look at sister program Eureka and see a marked contrast. Warehouse 13 could easily be put on a network channel but I doubt its ratings would be good enough for network as the series is a throwback to the late 80s to 90s serials like Friday the 13th, Relic Hunter, Poltergeist: The Legacy and in addition it has a distinct steam punk element. While steam punk is gaining momentum, there isn’t really a big call for that at the moment among network viewers right now.

Warehouse 13 "Don't Hate the Player"

"I said myself, not elf!"

Warehouse 13 is one of those shows which could have gone horribly wrong but manages to keep it fresh and interesting in its story telling. The writers/producers are well aware of the cliché and trope pitfalls it has before it and instead of falling in either manage a good twist or run in full steam, no holds barred. The artifacts are fun, different, and often not all that you expect. If they hadn’t done this, then it would have been a very bland tv show, so kudos! I love a show that can recognize its own weaknesses and deal with them properly.

The series is strong going into its fourth season and its third season cliffhanger should be enough to bring viewers back to see how they are going to deal with the mess (literally) that they made. As long as the series keeps up the good work and the actors are up for it, I see at least a fifth and a sixth season in the future.

Score for first 3 Seasons: 4 ½ Ratings Star

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Television

 

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StarGate SG-1 – Overview – Complete Series

StarGate SG-1
Minor Spoilers

StarGate SG-1 was based off of the hit blockbuster, StarGate, and the series stands in rare company. There have been plenty of movie-based tv series but only a few have had so much success as to outshine their predecessor. M*A*S*H, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and to a lesser extent, The Odd Couple, are the only others that reached a level of fame far greater than the movies they were based on.

StarGate Feature FilmThe StarGate movie was the brain child of Dean Devlin (who never quite let it go that he had his story taken away from him). The film sets up the idea that aliens had been visiting Earth, using the pyramids as landing platforms, and stealing humans off to work as slaves. I can’t say for sure, but Devlin may have gotten the general concept from Erich Daniken’s ‘Chariot of the Gods’, the book which launched a thousand Ancient Aliens conspiracies. I’ll take Dr. Daniel Jackson over the guys from the History Channel series any day.

The StarGate television series, developed by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, was first aired by Showtime, a premium cable channel which started to create its own shows in order to draw in subscribers. While the initial ratings were low compared to the networks, it was a hit for Showtime and they kept it for five years, a decent run by even network standards. Showtime decided that they didn’t want to keep it anymore because they weren’t getting any more subscribers and they were paying leasing rights to MGM for it. So fledgling channel SciFi (now Syfy) picked it up for similar reasons, to get viewers to come to their basic cable channel. It worked, it was a hit for SciFi and lead to two spin-off series as well as StarGate SG-1 becoming the longest running science fiction show ever until beat out by one season by CW’s Smallville.

The pilot starts up where the film left off, O’Neil, sorry, O’Neill, is retired on Earth and Daniel is living on the alien planet from the first film. A new alien threat has appeared in the form of Apophis and they have to get the band back together to see what’s going on. They add in a female scientist/Air Force Captain character and a human-alien ex-patriot to round off the main cast. From there they explore the worlds of the StarGate, help people, cause problems they have to fix, stop threats, and keep the whole thing secret from the general populace despite building space ships in later seasons which have to be staffed by Air Force personnel. Well, this was in a time before Wiki Leaks so I guess it’s plausible.

Let’s look at the main cast first. I’m not going to go into huge details because over ten years, well, you can imagine just how long this article could get.

StarGate SG-1 Cast - Teal'c, Carter, O'Neill, Jackson

StarGate SG-1 Cast - Teal'c, Carter, O'Neill, Jackson

In the film, Jack O’Neil, one L, is played by Kurt Russell, a character on the verge of self-destruction due to the loss of his child. By the end he’s at least moved through that stage of grief thanks to being given new purpose by surrogate son Skaara. The television roll was given to MacGyver alum Richard Dean Anderson who decided to play Jack with a much more comedic element, throwing out witty dialogue, showing irreverence, and generally having moved past the stages of grief (though by no means is he completely over his son’s death). Due to the change, the character’s name was changed to Jack O’Neill, two L’s, and it becomes something of a small running gag. There is apparently a Jack O’Neil, one L, out there, and he has no sense of humor. It could simply be a way to separate the two character personalities as portrayed by Russell and Anderson, or it could be a gentle jab at Dean Devlin… who has one L in his name. Regardless, RDA as he’s known, took over the character of Jack and really made it his own. He traded his MacGyver stereotype for a Jack O’Neill one, but it worked out for him in the end.

Daniel Jackson is the other character that made it into the series as a lead role (a few others show up but were given very small recurring roles). He’s played by Michael Shanks who, in contrast to RDA, played Jackson as the film version’s James Spader did. But over the series he grew Jackson’s character, both physically and emotionally. Jackson gets much more development than Jack does which makes a stark contrast. Both characters are beloved by fans so the dichotomy works.

New addition Captain Samantha “Sam” Carter at first seems like the token female character/partial love interest that every tv show thinks they need. She’s even given one of the most horrendous lines ever to be spoken in television in order to express her as a strong independent woman. Thankfully, Amanda Tapping who plays Sam is able to also grow the character out of some of the clichés and create a genuinely strong female character that female audiences can relate to and appreciate. Although her boyfriend issues, i.e. they always seem to end up dead, does get annoying after awhile.

Then there is Teal’c played by Christopher Judge, a human-alien (a human not born on Earth) who is the resident Spock. He’s strong, tough, but a bit out of touch. While he has emotions he chooses not to express them and his biggest expression is raising his eyebrow and saying “Indeed”. As lame as that kind of sounds, Judge pulls it off so well and with such nuance that it became an instant fan favorite and meme. Possibly the best and most underappreciated actor of the whole series.

These are what you’d call the ‘Top Four’, because while you also gain two Farscape alums in the later seasons, one season of the underloved Corin Nemec, and both Don S. Davis and Beau Bridges playing SGC commanders, it’s these four that make the core of the show.

Unfortunately, while SG-1 was on Showtime and Syfy, it suffered from a woefully lack of a budget. I assume this because the production values are sometimes a bit sad, effects questionable, and clip-episodes abound. However, this lends a bit of a cult-series charm to the show. It also makes it more about the characters than the shiny toys.

The writing in the first season is also a bit questionable as there was a lot of what I like to call “seemingly required trope plotline episodes”. There has to be one about a former SGC trying to pass himself as a god. One where Carter runs into a planet where women are subjugated and she has to prove herself. There has to be one where Jack is forced, again, to face the fact his child is dead (Star Trek: TNG is just as guilty of these episodes and both shows fail just as equally). At least StarGate has some gems and its original concept ideas really make up for it, keeps the first season from being too off-putting.

From there on, the show is able to really explore their characters and the worlds around them, even throwing in some wonderful political intrigue sub plots. Ten seasons is a long time to let a series run but StarGate maintains a level of consistency sometimes not even seen in series who only run three or five.

StarGate SG-1 Villians

StarGate SG-1 Villians

Over the years StarGate makes the smart move not to try to keep the same villain through the whole thing and bring about new villains every couple of years, often overlapping story arcs. Also, they don’t try to completely one-up with the villains either. Sure, some are more powerful than others but it’s not like they stop one guy only to turn around and find someone who made the previous one look like a chump. They are all pretty tough in their own ways, either through smarts or their own power. The differences between them also helps as it allows an asymmetrical tint to the plotting which is always a plus when done right.

Overall, StarGate is far from perfect, but then what is? It’s fun, has something for everyone, and allows for the viewer to relate moreso to the characters than, say, Star Trek, because this literally could be going on under our noses and we wouldn’t know. In fact, there is a room at NORAD labeled with the words StarGate Command. It’s a broom closet… but still… maybe that’s what they want us to think?

Series Score: 4 ½ Ratings Star

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Television

 

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Fringe S04E08 – “Back to Where You’ve Never Been”

FOX's Fringe

Fringe S04E08 – “Back to Where You’ve Never Been”

Spoilers for Previous Episodes

Fringe made a pretty gutsy move at the beginning of the fourth season by erasing Peter from both universes, and that has paid off in bits and pieces, but it’s in the mid-season premiere “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” were Fringe fans really get the ‘money shot’ as it were. As the trailer promises, Peter travels over to the Other Universe in order to speak to Walternate and ask his help but that’s only the tip of the little nuances buried around this episode. Acting from John Noble is top notch, as always, cumulating in one of the best exchanges of the show’s run. And the ending is worthy of LOST and almost as frustrating. Definitely one of the best episodes this season, a great start to what hopefully won’t be the end of the series.

Score: 4 ½ Ratings Star

>Spoilers Ahead<

Peter wakes up.Peter awakes to Water cooking pancakes and Olivia greeting him with a morning kiss, all is right with the world, except that the waffle machine is broke. The waffle machine is a euphemism for the rift machine used to hold the universes together (I believe) and Peter wakes again to realize it was a dream. He goes to Walter to ask for help and the scene is stunning. From Walter’s reaction to Peter’s stoic plead, and Walter’s explanation… he tried to help Peter once and ruined two universes, lost his sanity, and his wife committed suicide. He simply can’t help Peter again because the cost is too high.

Peter then turns to Olivia who has her own reasons for wanting to get to the Other Universe covertly, to track down the shape shifters. They use Walter’s original rift machine at the theatre where the Olivia’s were switched before. Lee pretends to be himself and is pretty close to getting Peter to Liberty Island but is stopped by LieLee and Bolivia. Before this though, Lee admits that he and Olivia have their own plan to try to get information about the shape shifters, an act which could ruin Peter’s chance of getting Walternate to help him. Peter once again sees the divide between this Olivia and his Olivia growing wider and wider.

Plot point hint was dropped where Peter mentions Olivia can pop over to the other Universe any time she wants… but she doesn’t know that… maybe this will come up later?

A tale of two Lee's.During Lee and Peter’s transport to Fringe HQ, their driver gets a call, shoots his partner, then is going to kill Peter and Lee but of course they manage to get away. Lee leads LieLee and Bolivia away while Peter goes his own way. Wonderful first interaction between Lee and LieLee, you can see the similarities in the characters and how they really are the same person, just one more reserved than the other. Nice call back to Joe Flannigan’s character who was killed off in the season premiere, hopefully this means we might see him again too.

Peter has headed to the one person he knows who can help him, his mother. Of course she’s not really his mother, she understands that, and the underlying tone to the scene is very heartbroken. Joshua Jackson who plays Peter took an interesting turn in this episode, playing the whole thing straight faced, stoic even. He’s trying really hard to tell himself that these people don’t matter to him, they aren’t his people, but methinks he protests too much. They are affecting him more than he cares to admit.

Peter’s mother takes him to see Walternate and a wonderful exchange is made between the two men. Peter knows how ruthless and cold Walternate can be and Walternate has a possible enemy of an unknown quantity in Peter. Peter accuses Walternate of being behind the shapeshifters, but Waternate proves in one shocking move (literally) that he is not.

Walternate tells Peter that he is the only person he can trust because he has no allegiances to either side, he only wants to get home, and so asks Peter to help him by letting the other side know that he is not the bad guy. Then follows one of the best exchanges of the whole series:

Peter: You aren’t exactly the kind of man I thought you were.
Walternate: You are exactly the kind of man I thought you’d be.

Absolutely wonderful scene between father and sorta-son. Fringe fans couldn’t ask for anything better.

Of course, that isn’t all! An old enemy returns from the dead and LieLee and Bolivia head into an ambush because the other Broyles is a bad guy, probably a shapeshifter!

As for that ending… Olivia waits in the theater for Lee and Peter’s return only to have The Observer show up, shot, dying, and telling Olivia that he has seen every possible outcome and it’s inevitable, she has to die. Well… hell…Olivia waits.

 

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Television

 

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