Through the Stargate

A long time ago, when Saturday night actually had shows on that I liked, I watched quite a lot of Stargate. I lost interest after awhile. Probably the show became a saga and sagas usually bore me. But I've started rewatching the show through Netflix. It doesn't have the same enthrallment factor for me as Star Trek or Law & Order or X-Files, but there are some definite pluses.

First, the premise makes slightly more sense than Star Trek. In science-fiction terms, of course. The only aliens are nasty, bad snake things (although more aliens are implied). Everyone else is human. No weird foreheads. No strange ridges. No elongated earlobes. Of course, it is highly doubtful that, absent a universal translator, they would all be able to understand each other. Language evolves, and a bunch of ancient Greeks, ripped away from their original culture, aren't going to speak anything that sounds even like modern Greek, let alone English. But, as E. Nesbit says in The Story of the Amulet, "I think I must have explained to you before how it was that the children were always able to understand the language of any place they might happen to be in, and to be themselves understood. If not, I have no time to explain it now."

Secondly, Stargate is darn good storytelling. There's a rather startling lack of theme. SG-1 goes to a planet. Bad guys are there. SG-1 outwits them. SG-1 goes home. And in the meantime, the audience gets a little bit of mythology and anthropology and lots of statues and stuff. In fact, it is really more fantasy with sci-fi trappings than anything else.

Thirdly, it is a military operation! Thank goodness for a military operation that doesn't pretend to be anything else. Earth is trying to find a way to defeat the bad guys and get allies; there's a notable lack of diplomatic speechifying. And, well, let's face it, fatigues are sexy. Guns are sexy. And those little earpieces that secret agents always wear are super sexy.

Of course, the team breaks protocol about every three seconds. It would be nice to watch a show where the team didn't break a thousand rules in order to go back for that one person or one friend or one artifact, consequently jeopardizing their lives, their mission, Earth and the entire human race. But still, it is nice that there is some structure/heirarchy to the whole operation. (Although I must say that the "President" is a stunningly understanding man who agrees with General Hammond to a truly extraordinary extent.)

Fourthly, they kept the same characters as in the movie. I really admired them for this. There seems to be a (largely American) idea that if you don't have the same actors, you have to create a whole new back story. Timothy Hutton's Nero Wolfe series proves that viewers are fully capable of separating actors from characters and can accept the same actor in different roles or different actors in the same role. It's all fiction. So, I like the fact that in Stargate, Daniel is still Daniel and Jack is still Jack even if they aren't James Spader and Kurt Russell.

Along the same lines, the team is a likable team. This is very, very important to these kinds of shows. I happen to get a huge kick out of Richard Dean Anderson (who I much prefer as Jack rather than MacGyver). He reminds me of Charles Parker from Dorothy Sayer's Peter Wimsey mystery series; they have the same laid-back "ohhh-kay then" kind of attitude. It's a refreshing change from angsty, furrowed-browed heroes (although Jack O'Neill has plenty of furrowing stuff in his past). On top of all that, Andersen is willing to do just about anything. Shortly into the first season, he plays both a caveman and a 90-year-old. In both cases, there's no self-consciousness. You can always tell. Self-conscious actors make the viewer uncomfortable. Andersen doesn't seem to care what the writers throw at him (this was one thing I always liked about Jonathan Frakes).

Plus I like Daniel and Carter. And I really like Teal'c. I think Christopher Judge is a whole bunch of fun as well as a very handsome guy. I admire him for unabashedly acting in Stargate kinds of shows (rather like Kevin Conroy--Batman--who I also really admire; I like it when actors find their range and stick to it).

CATEGORY: TV

2 comments:

Eugene said...

I agree with you about Richard Dean Anderson. He totally gets the role. One thing he does so well--that when you think about it you should see in any consummate professional--is exasperation, often eye-rolling. William Petersen plays this well on CSI, as does Nathan Fillion on Firefly and Anthony Head on Buffy. Mark Harmon on NCIS reminds me a lot of Anderson, except that Harmon seems to play every second with a clenched-jaw intensity that wears you out after a while. You've got to turn it off sometime, and Anderson makes you believe that he can turn it off. It's a job, not his whole freaking life (even if it's portrayed that way).

Cherndawg said...

Stargate was a lot of fun, at least until it started getting complicated. most of its appeal lied in it's simplicity and easy fun. Deep space Nine was kind on the same situation- a fun show, but once they started the whole "alien war" scenario they just couldn't seem to free themselves from it. Oh, and I have internet again, btw- new blogs will be served regularly.