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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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The Finder – Overview – Pilot

FOX's The FinderThis overview is based on the pilot only. Updates will be forthcoming as the show progresses.

FOX’s new series The Finder is based on The Locator books by Richard Greener which I haven’t read so I can’t say much on that subject at this time. The series was created by the same creator/exec producer as the popular series Bones and he used the show to introduce The Finder as a backdoor pilot. Basically, Bones produced a normal episode for them only with the The Finder characters prominent in it. This way the creators of The Finder received an instant test audience to see if the show was viable on its own. However, The Finder is not really a spin off in the same sense shows like NCIS are spin-offs. Sure, Bones and The Finder share the same universe but that is about it. If there was no Bones backdoor pilot and you put them up next to each other you really wouldn’t be able to see the resemblance.

This is one of the most obvious yet sneaky moves made by FOX lately but it might have paid off. The Finder did premiere with so-so ratings but its lead-in Bones underperformed as well so it could just be a matter of external factors keepings the fan base away from the television that night. Since both shows were down it’s too early to judge if this is a bad sign for Finder or not.  If The Finder can rise up to Bones’ average audience share, and scare up some more, then it’s got it made as a Thursday night television show that competes against powerhouse Grey’s Anatomy.

Does it have what it takes? Let’s take a look.
Cast of FOX's The Finder

The story centers around Walter Sherman, an ex-military, PTSD suffering, savant played by Geoff Stults. After a combat injury Walter gains Sherlockian level observation skills but he has the tack of a fifth grader (which makes the character similar to Bones’ Dr. Brennan but that is where the similarities end). Walter also has a compulsion to find things and once he’s on the trail he won’t stop until he finds the item, hence the title. Other characters make the obvious comparison to blood hounds and worry he will run himself to the ground.

He’s accompanied by his own Chewbacca in the form of Michael Clarke Duncan’s Leo Knox. Leo basically owes Walter a life debt and so faithfully follows him around acting as financial advisor, Jiminy Cricket, and steam roller. Michael Clarke Duncan is great and really underappreciated, he pulls off the subtle, Zen-like, traits of Leo despite being, well, Michael Clarke Duncan. He’s a big, intimidating looking man and one hell of an actor.

The love interest (because there is always a love interest) is Mercedes Masohn ‘s Deputy US Marshal Isabel Zambada. Walter helps her with catching felons and she gets him information. There is a sexual relationship between them, a friend’s with benefits situation, which is positively underplayed.

The main cast is rounded off with the troubled gypsy teen, Willa (Maddie Hasson), a seemingly pointless addition to the cast from the backdoor pilot. She is the ‘daughter never had/just needs someone to believe in them’ cliché and might be a possible grab at pulling in younger audience members. At first she reminded me of Zoey Carter from Eureka, styling and all, but Zoey was better acted and had more depth in her debut episode. Still, some promise here as long as they avoid the obvious cliché pitfalls.

As for the show itself, the tone is very similar to Bones as to be expected. With a smaller cast and no ‘outsider’ character the story can skip the ‘breaking in’ period of story arcs. Since everyone already knows each other it’s just a matter of showing those relationships to the audience. Dropping the viewers into a show without the benefit of story arc exposition required from having a character get to know other characters is always a plus in my book.

There is also a strong comedic element of quick witted dialogue and visual (non toilet humor) gags in the pilot which I hope carries into the series. I am a sucker for snappy one liners as long as those speaking them can pull off the timing and Stults and Duncan play off each other quite nicely. There is something about Walter’s socially recluse scrawny neurotic to Leo’s gentle giant who could kick your butt that works wonderfully together in that ‘odd couple’ way.

In the pilot they had a celebrity guest star, John Fogerty, and it’s unclear at this time if this was a one-off because Fogerty wrote the theme song or if the series will employ more guest stars to jazz up the place. Could be interesting. Fogerty was looking for his favorite guitar, makes you wonder what other celebrities might need located.

On the technical side, the pacing of the pilot episode was off but this is the pilot episode. The writers and director had more exposition and groundwork to lay than usual so hopefully that’s a one-off. The ending was also very ‘scooby doo’ but again, that could be pilotitis (yes, I think I just made that word up). Thankfully everything else in the pilot was spot on from the camera work to the set pieces. Let’s hope they keep that up.

Overall, the pilot did its job and peaked this viewer’s interests. The show has lots of potential which it has already touched on (always a good sign). Next week it will have an American Idol lead in so hopefully it can get those ratings up. I should have an episode specific review of the pilot with more details up soon, so look for that too.

Score: 3 1/2 Ratings Star

Here’s a question, if you could have the The Finder find you anything, what would it be? And no, your dignity after your 21st birthday party does not count.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Television

 

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