Monday, October 19, 2009

"Lost" in Space

My buddies are big "Stargate" fans. I hated the movie so I never watched the TV show. They have followed all of them, so there must be something to them. Having recently switched to Comcast for my television service, I started checking out the On Demand feature when I needed something to watch during my daily exercise yesterday. Since the newest Stargate TV show had been a topic of conversation at dinner the other night (I thought it would be an appropriate time to use the restroom since I hadn't seen it) I gave the pilot episode of "Stargate: Universe" a shot.

I liked the show well enough. It's just that I'd seen it before. The premise is simple: There are stargates that go to various places and planets and people on Earth have figured out how they work...mostly. The stargate in this show is on a planet that has unique properties seemingly designed to operate the mysterious "ninth chevron." I'm guessing that the other eight have been solved in previous incarnations of the show. Young Eli Wallace, a normal civilian video gamer, solves a puzzle in a game. Of course, it turns out to be the key to an alien code that the smartest guys on Earth couldn't figure out, so they embedded it in a video game to find someone smarter than they are. Eli is recruited to join the Stargate folks on the alien planet in exchange for health care for his mother. If that doesn't say something about our health care system, I don't know what does. This is just a little bit like "The Last Starfighter." Eli is played by a previously undiscovered clone of Jonah Hill, because he is most definitely a Jonah Hill character. He is the awkward smart guy with no confidence, formerly known as the comic relief.

Eli finds himself on the alien planet, consulting with Dr. Smith--I mean, Dr. Rush. Dr. Rush is the scientific genius who twists the stargate experiment to his own ends and no one knows whose side he is on. I fully expect he will call someone a "bubble-headed boobie" before all is said and done. Dr. Rush is also a retread of Baltar, from the newer version of Battlestar Galactica, with his hairstyle, sideburns, and British accent.

The stargate experiment is interrupted by an alien attack. It's probably not relevant who is attacking, but it is critical to the plot that the planet is attacked, and so it is. Dr. Rush is ordered to set the Stargate to return the people on the base to Earth, but he decides to push forward and sets the Stargate to go to wherever the ninth chevron is supposed to take them. So, the ragtag assembly of military personnel, scientists, politicians, and bureaucrats escape into the Stargate and end up on an ancient space ship. The ship is travelling at faster-than-light speeds, and in short order our heroes find that they are several galaxies away from Earth on a course away from it. And their doctor is dead. It's too bad they couldn't have borrowed an Emergency Medical Hologram as long as they were borrowing "Star Trek: Voyager"'s (formerly "Lost in Space's) plot anyway.

The story is told in clips alternating between the present and flashbacks to the past, not unlike "Lost." The only difference is that the flashbacks on this show serve no other purpose than to tell us where the characters came from. They do not, upon first viewing, reveal anything about the characters that would advance the plot.

I'm going to watch this show because a few of the characters intrigued me, even though we've met before. I'll be interested to see if they move further away from their archetypical doppelgangers or closer to them as the plot advances and the characters grow.

I am not naive enough to think that borrowing doesn't occur between television shows. I guess, though, that I am too familiar with the source material and too cynical because I recognize the source of so many plot structures and character types. I hope more episodes will change my mind about it because the real "Lost" doesn't start until January.

1 comment:

Michael O'Connell said...

I'm a big SG:1 fan. Watched it all the way through (okay, I ended up stopping at one point due to my schedule and had to eventually watch the last three seasons on DVD, but still...). Not so big a fan that I could continue watching the first spinoff, Atlantis. Wasn't that is was horrible (and did, in fact, have one of my favorite TV characters of recent memory in Dr. Rodney McKay), but it just didn't do it for me, and at the time, I had no time in my life for that which did not completely "do it". I had time for Lost and Battlestar, basically.

I mainly got excited by this one because of Robert Carlyle being in it, as well as Ming-Na, as I'm big fans of both (for very different reasons). It was pretty obvious "SyFy" (ugh) was trying to sell on the SG name while trying to make it look as much like BSG as possible, but I was cool with that, as I like both sources. Plus, trying to make it more like Lost? Okay, big fan there, too, so I figured it was worth a shot.

When you say "pilot", do you mean you watched the first two hours (as they were shown on SCI-FI (that's how I'll keep spelling it, marketing be damned), or the first hour? Just curious. For me, it's gone like this - I watched it on my DVR, watching the first two hours as the pilot. Was intrigued. Liked some things, didn't care for some others, but I really try hard not to judge a show too much by its pilot (think back to some of the pilots of your favorite shows...some, looking back, are kind of cringe-worthy). Still, I wasn't completely sold.

Then I watched hour three (ep 2, for me), and by the end of it, realized I was really starting to get into it. With, again, a few concerns that I chalk up to first-season floundering. Last night over dinner I watched hour four, and by the end realized I'm now really connected to the show. I won't get into detail as I don't know how much you've watched, but I hope you feel the same as it goes along - just as I hope it stays with this momentum for me and doesn't delve into suck.

Sounds to me like you did a much better job than some other people I know, or have read comments from, at walking into it never having seen SG:1. You get the concepts (as you're no stranger to the genre, and you don't need everything handed to you and can figure things out on your own). There's some stuff, mostly in the first couple of hours, that draw from previous continuity (I know who was attacking the outpost, for example). But they're doing a pretty good job at leaving that behind after setting the table. I think it'll roll okay on its own steam. I mean, it HAS to. The whole concept of the show is based on these people being GALAXIES away from the rest of the established stuff, so to tie it too much to all that wouldn't make much sense.

I suddenly have high hopes for this show. I know Aaron and Jeni are really enjoying it, too. This could be a keeper, depending on which way they go with it. We shall see.