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3 Sci-Fi Ships Perfect for Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve!  To celebrate the holiday season, we take a look at the three sci-fi ships most suited to live in during the festive season!

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1. Deep Space Nine (ST: DS9)

Okay, so it might not be a ship, but where better to spend your Christmas!  Imagine the Promenade lined up with decorations, festive shops and a warm gingerbread coffee (with some Kanar, of course!) at Quark’s!

Those dark corridors could quickly look quite cosy with some multicoloured LED lighting!

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2. Serenity (Firefly)

I’d imagine Serenity could be quite festive once Kaylee had time to get everything set up!  A homely ship, with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide presents and decorate, park on a snowy, forest planet and enjoy the 25th December.

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3. Destiny (Stargate Universe)

She may not look like much, but I’m talking more about the ship before it became deserted and broken.

With an arboretum and Ancient technology, you could create a nice wintery forest for the season and camp out there!  With the beautiful backdrop of the ship travelling between star systems overhead, it’s hard to picture a more tranquil and festive scene!

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Why Stargate Universe Failed

A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled ‘Why Stargate Universe Is Destined To Flop‘.  I was right, it did.  But not for the reasons I predicted.

Stargate Universe was actually a pretty decent show.  I’d go so far to say a very good show.  I didn’t think it would be.  I predicted it being a slightly darker Atlantis, when it actual fact, it was much, much darker.

Therein lay part of the problem.

Stargate Universe was simply too dark for the Stargate franchise.  SG-1 and Atlantis were quirky shows, full of humour and heroic characters who saved the day.  Universe told the story of humans; flawed, emotional humans put in a situation where they were, genuinely, stranded on the other side of the universe.  In some ways, it had a lot of what Star Trek: Voyager should have had.  Harry Kim would have been an infinitely better character had he been more like Eli Wallace.  But that just didn’t fit in the Stargate realm.  Stargate was never so much an exploration of humanity as a good old, exciting adventure.  Three years ago, I predicted Universe was destined to fail for similar reasons as Atlantis: inevitable cross-overs, miraculous escapes and dull characters.

Yes, Universe had cross-overs (handled much more sensitively and intelligently, I felt) and the odd miraculous escape, and some people did indeed find the characters dull (but more because they were too realistic and emotional than their compatriots on previous shows).  Instead of being formulaic and predictable for the franchise, Universe simply went too far in the opposite direction.

One of the criticisms levelled at SGU was that not enough happened.  ”The pacing was tedious and the plot-lines too uneventful.”  Similar criticisms were levelled at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and both shows share a certain propensity for thoughtful plot arcs that span many episodes, along with character development that is multi-faceted and can carry developments for several characters each week rather than “This is a Teyla episode” or “This is a Carter episode.”  The truth is that, again, this was not the type of story-telling Stargate had ever promoted in the past.  Deep Space Nine is surely the least well-known Star Trek today.  Upon further inspection, it’s probably the best in many ways.  Yet it took four years to really flourish.  Universe never had that chance, in an evermore ruthless television world.  Nor did it have the same core audience blessed upon Star Trek to keep the endeavour sustainable, even if it was less popular.

The show was said to be too depressing, and again, in comparison to its predecessors, it was!  Could one pick a more opposed character to O’Neill and Sheppard than Colonel Young?  Young was far more Kurt Russell’s Jack O’Neil than Richard Dean Anderson’s Jack O’Neill, and even then Young’s weaknesses were more explicitly exposed than Kurt Russell’s in the film.  Young was a great character, as was Jack O’Neill.  The problem was that within the same franchise, the two were so diametrically opposed that it was difficult to reconcile that difference for an established audience demographic.  Fans of the first two shows enjoyed the humour and the pacing and the brilliant silliness that comes with SG-1 and Atlantis, whereas new viewers were put off by the Stargate which suggested silly sci-fi.  The viewers that did enjoy the show were either those who happened to come across it, or those few SG-1 and Atlantis fans who held an appreciation for both types of show – such as myself.

Criticisms were inevitably drawn for the show being too akin to nu-Battlestar Galactica, but aside from the darker ambience of the show, political in-fighting and the ‘one ship against many’ factor, it doesn’t seem to hold much weight as a comparison.  Universe was completely devoid of the religious undertones, the mythological sub-plots and the Perhaps it was simply too soon after Battlestar for a show that was, I suppose, a bit similar, to air.

I became a fan of Stargate Universe.  I recently re-watched the finale, and smiled along with Eli as he stared into the racing cosmos.  It had been fun, it had been worth the adventure, even if this was the end.  Stargate Universe, had it launched outside the Stargate universe as it were, may have done better.  It would have needed better advertising, and probably to be carried on a channel like Showtime, but it could have succeeded.  Yet, without Stargate preceding it, it would probably never have been made in any form.  The name ‘Stargate‘ ultimately proved to be both its inception and its demise, and while there was a certain inevitability that the show would not enjoy the sustained longevity of SG-1, I’m glad to came to be, albeit briefly.

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7 Great Morally Dubious Characters of Sci-Fi TV

Topless Robot have uploaded their 7 Great Morally Dubious Characters of Sci-Fi TV.

Quite how they can put Nerus from SG-1, and Todd from Atlantis in ahead of Robert Carlyle’s Nicholas Rush from Stargate: Universe is beyond me.  And where is Earth: Final Conflict‘s Ronald Sandoval of Season One?  The Machiavellian agent driven purely to serve the Taelons, but whose love for his wife is never truly eradicated.  Or is it?

It’s not a bad list, and characters such as Q, Baltar and Garak certainly deserve their place.

Who would you put in there?

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Why The Decline?

Stargate Universe. Firefly. Angel. Bionic Woman. Invasion. Jericho. Terra Nova. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The list is pretty much endless.

The last ten years have seen a vast array of science fiction blast onto our screens, and too often fizzle out very quickly. In the cinema, endless sequels such as X-Men, Men In Black, even the upcoming Star Trek threaten to milk the cash-cow of each franchise dry.

People ask why science fiction is dying. Some debate whether its decline is even an actuality, but it’s difficult to argue with the ratings and the facts.

The answer is simple: originality and understanding. Lest we forget, Star Trek: The Original Series was cancelled back in the day before its time, and has gone on to be one of the most enduring series in the history of television and cinema.

Yet today, little is appearing on our screens with the originality of Star Trek. Today, we lack a visionary like Gene Roddenberry to transport our imaginations into a plausible future. Television networks are afraid to go too far out for fear of losing their audience’s understanding: science fiction today is almost always diluted with some form of contemporary normality. Lead characters are characters from today, transplanted into a science fiction setting (think Stargate). Some shows like Jericho are allocated in a science fiction genre when, thirty years ago, they would barely be considered. True science fiction – the really visionary material – is not being written. Shows are stagnant, over-produced, under-thought and woefully advertised.

There’s not a lot of good television being written, period. It’s not exclusive to science fiction. But whereas realities and dramas continue to be popular with lousy storylines and hapless acting, maybe because they often provide a form of less intellectual and hard-talking escapism, science fiction can fall very swiftly from the realms of tremendous to absolutely awful. (Disclaimer: I love good dramas, but there are a lot of terrible ones that remain popular.)

Perhaps hope is not entirely lost.

One could argue Firefly was original, different and visionary to a degree. It presented likeable characters with great storylines in a plausible future. Yet, the network had no idea what to do with it. Was it a western? Was it a sci-fi? What they failed to grasp, of course, was that the beauty of Firefly lay in its synthesis. It blended the two uniquely, and created an original, dynamic and entertaining universe. A bit too much for the American audience to handle, FOX mused.

Until we have someone truly talented and with the vision to project humanity’s future onto our television screens in an entertaining, touching and ground-breaking way, science fiction will continue its slow and sad decline. We can, it seems, but hope.

A Stargate Universe Repentance

About twelve months ago, with ill-deserved confidence, I foretold the early and untimely demise of Stargate Universe as a result of creative failings and writing ineptitude. The article certainly got people’s attentions, with Universe producer Joe Mallozzi declaring himself “alarmed”, but considered the article merely my “thoughtful, nicely presented opinion, but an opinion no weightier than yours or mine or those who thought SG-1 wouldn’t last or those who predicted Atlantis would crash and burn.” Good on Joe, who approached the dilemma with a calm and assured rationality. I, on the other hand, leapt wrongly on the negativity bandwagon.

Of course, Joe gets the last laugh here. Sod’s law. While Stargate Universe has certainly not been without criticisms, and its ratings have barely risen above the concerningly lacklustre, the show has surprised me creatively. I’ve been widely impressed by the acting, the production and even the storylines. Yes, the show may lack the quirky humour of SG-1, but after fifteen seasons of SG-1 and Atlantis milking the same cash-cow, I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. Robert Carlyle and Louis Ferreira have evolved as effective leads as Rush and Young respectively, and the supporting cast have been strongly developed over the course of the first season to form a genuine and effective ensemble. Good stuff!

I find myself even eagerly anticipating the second series. The final shot of season one of Young and co. being forced to their knees for execution makes me tingle in anticipation, although I realise they’re not all going to be shot. The second season could still disappoint, a la Earth: Final Conflict, but I don’t imagine it’ll be a train wreck by any stretch of the imagination. The foundations and groundwork is there to craft a strong series of television. I look forward to uncovering new parts of Destiny, new characters and new intrigues and revelations.

All I hope that more people will open their minds in the same way I have been forced to by the quality of the show, and stop clinging to the hope that Richard Dean Anderson return full-time. The show doesn’t need it. Heck, it doesn’t suit it. And Universe is more than capable of standing on its own to feet with Robert Carlyle carrying the torch for the franchise.

Universe to get ‘darker’; SGA actors to guest

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Stargate: Universe show-runner Brad Wright has revealed that the dark atmosphere of the show’s first season was only the beginning: the show is set to get darker next year.

"When you try to adopt a more realistic tone, where frankly we don’t win every time, then there have to be real-world repercussions like death and injury and loss," Wright said. "You can dig deeper into characters and the deeper you dig the repercussions can get bigger. We are going to some places with these characters, and already have really, that we would never go with the heroes of our other series.”

And things don’t bode will for Everett Young, played by Louis Ferreira. 

According to Robert C. Cooper, "After everything he’s been through – and it gets worse for him initially at the beginning of Season 2 – it’s impossible to imagine that a person wouldn’t go to a very dark place at least for a short period of time.

In other news, according to GateWorld, we’re set to see some Stargate Atlantis actors guesting on Universe next year.  No word on who, or to what extent yet, however.

Stargate Universe Returns to Strong Ratings

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Press Release:

SYFY’S FRIDAY NIGHT SPRING SEASON OFF TO ROUSING START AS STARGATE UNIVERSE DRAWS 1.5 MILLION TOTAL VIEWERS, UP 11% VERSUS SEASON ONE FINALE

Stargate Universe delivered 1.5 million total viewers

The series also grabbed 936,000 Adults 25-54 (+11%) and 768,000 Adults 18-49 (+12%), while averaging a 1.2 HH rating (+9%).

Stargate Universe delivered 319K page views and 164K video streams the week of March 29th, the highest week since December 2009

Despite network television generally losing ratings, Universe actually gained on its mid-season finale.

I was amongst the first to predict the show would flop, but I’ve been forced to eat my words.  The show’s actually been entertaining me, especially the last episode.  Very Q-Who.

Why Stargate Universe Is Destined To Flop

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Stargate: Universe.  It’s an unusually usual title compared to SG-1 and Atlantis.  And I fear the show itself may end up being similarly usual.

The Stargate franchise today is a far cry from the creative strength SG-1 displayed some six or so years ago.  Why?  Simple.  The writer’s room has suffered from the same affliction that suffers all long-running sci-fi shows.  It happened to Star Trek, The X-Files; some would argue that Lost is suffering from it already.

The problem lies in the fact that no show is infinitely sustainable.   Individual concepts will last longer than another – SG-1 for instance lent itself well to an episode-of-the-week format that was likely to be able to survive quite a long time.  And it did – ten whole seasons.  Atlantis had a similar concept – episodic adventures of the week – but this time there were half a dozen years of material already written by essentially the same writers team.  Could originality really by expected for another ten years?  The show lasted exactly half that, and was arguably weaker than its predecessor.  What fate Universe, therefore?

robert_carlyle There are several things going for the new sequel.  Namely, it has the potential – note: potential – to shake up the format a little.  Robert Carlyle’s character – the lead of the show – could well be the first lead character of a Stargate show to be devious and manipulative rather than the clichéd and stoic American hero the writers have known to embrace.  Coupled with the supposedly darker nature of the show, Universe has the potential to rely further upon character conflict than previous Gate incarnations. Certainly the acting talent is there. Ming-Na and Carlyle for instance are tried and tested actors with a great array of talent. Then again, David Hewlett was a fantastic talent for Atlantis, and there’s only so much individual talent can do to shore up collaborative failings above.

Additionally, the setting is slightly different.  Set on a starship rather than fixed planet (yes, I know Atlantis was a city ship, but it didn’t go places often), the series should be able to tap into a wider array of story possibilities than the planet-of-the-week concept that has driven the franchise for over a decade.  However even then, the show has strong Battlestar Galactica vibes – which it clearly shouldn’t have if its aiming to be something original: something Stargate clearly needs. Whether the writing department realise that potential is, however, another matter.

Star Trek: Voyager promised isolation from Earth, real danger and character conflict in the form of the Maquis/Starfleet divide.  But the show was even lighter in tone than Deep Space Nine had been, and within a few years ways were found of limiting the extent of the isolation from which Voyager suffered.

Similarly, the Stargate writers have fallen into similar traps with Atlantis.  Another tale of isolation, Earth was involved within a series, and crossovers became a bi-weekly occurrence.  The tell-tale sign of a flagging concept: the child show falling back upon the success of its predecessor.  That Universe should be immune from such failings is a pretty optimistic outlook – they’ve been made by the same writers before.

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However, is it really their fault?  If the network continues to order and accept the pitches for these shows, then the writers are just doing their job.  It is surely the job of Sci-Fi (I’m denying the change to the SyFy brand) to rectify that – for instance to demand more challenging scripts.  For the talent is surely there – see Atlantis’s The Shrine for further details.  The problem is an absence of ideas symptomatic of a show or idea on the air for far too long.

Shows like 24 seem to get by creatively (for the most part) by drafting in new writers each season from other shows in order to inject fresh ideas.  The Stargate team could perhaps do with a few outside views in order to ensure Universe doesn’t fall back into the same old tricks. 

Of course, such creative rejuvenation doesn’t automatically mean success.  Given the direction in which Sci-Fi/SyFy is heading, it wouldn’t be too surprising if  the channel drafted in the writers of The O.C. or some other teenage hit in order to sex-up and rejuvenate the show.  The whole younger/edgier nonsense works in some cases – even in some unexpected ones, when the talent is there (e.g. Battlestar Galactica).   Does the current writing team have the talent to pull of a directionary overhaul?  I fear not, given how Atlantis turned out.  Could they surprise me and create a good show?  Absolutely.

But for how long?  How long will it be before they can gate back to Earth each week?  How long will it be before Atlantis and SG-1 alumni turn up to save the day?  I hope my cynicism is proven to be nothing more than bitter, nonsensical rambling, but deep down I know the show will turn out something like Atlantis or Voyager, or even Enterprise: squandered potential.

Here’s to being wrong.