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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stargate Universe

Okay, I'm a Stargate Universe fan. I like the show so much, I'll stay up to midnight to watch it. And if any of you know me, that's saying something because I'm definitely a morning person.

I like that they analyze the show afterward. It helps with my writing, believe it or not.

Take last night's show for instance. It was the fall finale and was excellent.

For those of you who aren't up on this show, it's a spin off from the other Stargate shows and this one has an unlikely and sometimes unlikeable humans who are on a distant planet by way of the stargate, but when the planet is under attack, they are forced to take the gate, hoping to get back to earth, but who find themselves on an ancient star ship far from earth. The mix of people is delightful, and each has both good and bad qualities.

Colonel Young, the leader, dislikes Rush, the leading scientist, because he's a bit of a know-it-all who is bitter about the loss of his wife. Eli is the nerd who can do just about anything because he's smart, but has pretty much no incentive unless his butt is on the line. There's a nurse who is struggling to be doctor to all, and there's Young's protegee, Scott who appears to love Cloe, the senator's daughter who adds a bit of class to every room, but whose virginity was lost sometime around the Clinton administration.

There are some darker characters, but what I love about the show, especially last night's episode, was how the writers are putting the pieces together slowly and tantalizingly. The space ship has a chair that appears to be able to inject all the ship's knowledge into whoever is seated in it, but could kill you in the process.

Rush refused to risk his own life, but rather was willing to risk others, much to Young's fury.

But Young isn't so perfect and justice filled, either. He's already proved that he could beat up people who act up, as he did in a previous episode.

Last night's show had one scientist, a secondary character succombing to the temptation and sitting in it. He's in a coma now. Young blames Rush, of course, because he doesn't like him.

This isn't all that's happened. A troubled soldier on board commits suicide, and Rush decides to frame Young, to get him out of the leader's seat and get Rush more freedom to experiment on the chair, something Young refuses to allow.

In the midst of that, the gate opens and allows them to check out a planet, something they need to do for food, water, etc, because so far, no replicators on this ship. The recon team finds another space ship, and Young takes Rush to investigate. But there, Young confronts Rush about his framing him for murder, then beats the snot out of the scientist.

Then leaves him on this distant planet.

Now, you may not like Young for this, and people are saying the stress of being on this space ship is getting to him, but I think he had it in him all along.

Now you may be bored stiff here, but let's look at this from a writer's POV. Young has already proved he'll do the dirty stuff if he feels like it, but we were fooled to think it was for a good reason only. He's been shown to prevent a fight by punching the aggressor, and he's already beat up a rival colonel for sleeping with his wife. All for the greater good, you think.

So this latest is a believeable act for him. Only, it's not for the greater good, at least not completely.

And because we've learned that there is another spaceship and Rush is now alone on the planet with it, we know Rush has everything he needs to get home. He's smart, motivated, and has a ship now.

But the motley crew on the ancient ship aren't without an ubersmart scientist. They have our nerd, but also that scientist who sat in the chair. Sure, he's in a coma, but they aren't up a creek without a paddle. It's amazing how the writers are piling on the problems for the people, but hope dangles in front of them. Our nerd who won't get off his butt is now motivated to step in and help. The writers have left some big carrot for us to follow.

Can we authors leave some carrots for our readers? Can we make our characters as believeable, too? Can we twist our plots around but still have them fully motivated, like they did with Colonel Young? Can we add tension and hope all at the same time?

Check out the show if you can and see for yourself how the writers are planting motives and suppositions in our minds, only to turn them around.

You'll be impressed.


Cecelia Dowdy said...

Hi Barbara. I don't watch this show, but I'll need to keep it in mind. Watching it may help me with my writing.

Beth Caudill said...

I can't say I love this new Stargate show. Then again, Atlantis took me awhile to get used to. I have to say...the drama of Young's wife back on Earth was getting to me.

I fully expect Rush to get the shuttle ship flying and show back aboard the main ship when the show starts up again.

Barbara Phinney said...

Cecelia, I usually don't watch TV to help my writing, but in this case, you can see how the writers are developing the storyline.

Beth, I totally understand what you mean. Young's story on earth was turning into a soap opera, but it sets the stage to buy into what he does with Rush. Who I also expect will come back with a vengance.
And with that, the possibilities are endless! Rush getting even, using that comatose scientist, smartening up. Who's to say what will happen. The point is, the writers are setting an excellent stage.

RhondaL said...

I'm so glad you brought this up because I've been wanting to discuss SGU with other writers.

I have to admit that warming up to each of the previous Stargate shows took awhile for me. Now, I adore both SG:1 and SGA - and this will sound like blasphemy to some - as much as I do the iconic characters of Trek. ::gasp!:: :) Indeed! :)

And I have to admit that I feel a little stung that SGA (let alone the SG:1 movies) got kicked to the curb for SGU. I have a feeling that the economy played into all decisions.

That said, I do believe that the SG producers have taken a Big Chance with their franchise's branding. No more joy of exploration, despite its dangers. A lot of, well, whiny characters. Granted, I'd whine, too, if I were in that position.

But I don't watch SG shows to see me or people I know. :)

Even though it's good drama, that Young left Rush behind goes against everything I've seen on previous Stargates.

Would Jack O'Neill or John Sheppard willingly leave a member of the team behind?

Yet, when Young left Rush on that planet, I thought that was a bold storytelling move and, I agree, well set-up. But he showed no qualms about leaving him.

In previous Stargates, there was a sense of community. In SGU, it's "every man for himself."

Anyway, I'll be interested to see how this change in the Stargate brand's direction will play out over time.

Barbara Phinney said...

Rhonda, great discussion. Thank you. Sure the other SG leaders wouldn't leave a man behind, but I like that the writers are moving in this direction. It makes for intersting watching. I can easily see the sense of every man for himself and I think this is very believeable because they haven't cohesed yet. They may even begin to develop that bond, but who's to say? Of course, there is that question of what we would do in their place? I'd be scared out of my mind. That ship is creepy.

Virginia Smith said...

I absolutely loved the original movie, but I haven't watched a single episode of any of the series. But I admit, I have frequently been sorry I didn't start watching them from the beginning. Tell me - is it something you can jump into in the middle, or do you need to go back to the very beginning of the series in order to enjoy it?

Barbara Phinney said...

Virginia, with SGU, I think you can get caught up pretty easily. There haven't been too many episodes, and if you watch the first one, you're pretty much up to snuff. They do manage to communicate with earth using special stones that can transfer consciousness, and that did set up some of the motivations and 'abilities' (such as believing that Young would leave Rush behind), but once you figure that out, it's easy to jump into the middle. Up here in Canada, our Space channel is going to run the whole series from the start over the holidays.
But Viginia, I know what you mean about some shows. They don't always catch your interest immediately, so you miss out on the set up episodes.

Susan Vaughan said...

Barbara,a very intriguing post. I don't watch any of the paranormal or sci fi shows on TV but I may check out this one for the characterization and plotting. I assume there'll be a new season after the holidays.
Thanks for pointing the way.

Barbara Phinney said...

Susan, you'll love it. The characters are wonderfully imperfect. I can't wait for it to start again. My fave episode was when they thought they were going to die when the ship was headed into the star. It was so full of tension. And at the end, Young accused Rush of knowing everyone was going to be okay.
I don't believe it because he was too surprised when he first realized what the ship was doing. But that didn't stop him from looking smug after Young's accusation.