Editorial: Thoughts on SGU’s Cancellation

After two years, Stargate Command has apparently decided to let the Destiny drift.  You can read all the details here.

I’ve made no secret of not liking the show, and I made no attempt to bash it.  I gave it multiple chances, hoping beyond hope that the creative teams that had given us 15 seasons of quality Stargate entertainment would change my mind and my perspective.  I’m of the opinion that any story in any universe, using any characters, can be salvaged.  If Star Trek could pull it off with both Voyager and Enterprise, then anything could happen.

Apparently, not in the Stargate mythos.  At the risk of sounding redundant, I’ll offer my two cents as to why: IDENTITY.  It’s a trend that seems to be happening in nearly every property and franchise that touches the realm of science fiction and fantasy.  Creative teams are called upon to “reinvigorate” and “redefine” a property with name recognition so that a new generation can latch on to it, and hopefully without alienating the audience that supported it the first time.  Pick a topic, any topic.  It starts out hotter than hot, then cools off quickly as people get bored with the “new, edgy” version.  See if these names sound familiar.  Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica.  James Bond.  Beginning with Deep Space Nine, Trek became Babylon 5, then Lost in Space, and finally Battlestar before finding Trek again in the final season of Enterprise.  Battlestar became a self-righteous and preachy version of Terminator.  James Bond became Jason Bourne.  And Stargate, dissatisfied with 15 seasons of fun and hope opted to become the bastard child of Battlestar, Voyager, and Lost.

I submit this for consideration and debate: if a property must be rebooted to make it work with a current generation, it needs to keep the fundamental values that made it work the first time through.  Yes, each generation is different and in search of its own identity, but in the end, each generation is still made of people, and people are fundamentally the same regardless of how much a younger audience wants to “keep it real.”  It is possible to tell dark and edgy character-driven stories and still stay true to the roots of what made a story work before.  Need proof positive of original stories that fumbled a bit in later versions then took it back to the roots and reclaimed their identities?  Star Trek.  Star Wars.  Doctor Who.  As you can see, it can be done.

And all I’m asking is that perhaps it’s time the people that run Stargate look at these examples.  If you have a show that makes its mark by giving us the best and brightest our country has to offer, fighting for all mankind, and bringing a little hope and snarkiness to the galaxy, then there’s something fundamentally screwed up when the most common line in every single episode is “these are the wrong people for the wrong job.”  That’s where SGU went wrong.  I liked the characters, I liked the actors portraying them, but these characters were not Stargate characters.  Fans of the show said “if you don’t like it, don’t watch.”  And so I stopped, mostly because I got tired of being mad at something I loved.  And no disrespect to the series creators, the cast and crew, or the fans, and it’s sad that it’s come to this, but… I told you so.  I’m sorry, somebody has to say it, not to rub your noses in it, but to make the point of the much larger issue of identity.  This is a common theme I have running in my world between classic sci-fi, superheroes, and every other genre I hold dear.  The bottom line is that if you make quality, you keep fans.  If you made fans the first time, chances are what drew them will draw the next generation of fans for the same reasons.  If you’re in it for the money, you’ll have to keep reinventing the brand name until it just needs to be killed in some horrible and unspeakable way… like Star Trek or Doctor Who.  Thankfully both did get obliterated, and both learned from past mistakes, coming back stronger than ever.  This is a lesson every reboot can learn from.

Star Wars gave us the past.  Star Trek gave us that bright and shiny future.  Stargate‘s identity is about where we are right now.  And maybe SGU‘s problem is it gave us exactly where we are now.  Maybe nobody wants to be a hero anymore.  Or maybe the big idea is that everyone’s just too cool to be a hero.  Nobody’s happy unless nobody’s happy.  Right?

Bull.  15 seasons and legions of adoring fans say otherwise.  There’s an old saying: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”  But now that it is broken, we need some top surgeons to inspire a TV audience to loyalty.  Give Jack O’Neill back his sense of humor.  Show us the next generation of heroes inspired by the exploits of SG-1 and the Atlantis expedition.  Give us characters we can stand behind rather than the ones that make us want to scream at the screen for all the wrong reasons.  Show us that Stargate is proud of its history instead of making it want to become something it’s not.  The world changes, but the adventure continues.  Show us what happened to the Wraith.  Give us the threat of the Pegasus Asgard.  Or maybe…just maybe, show us what happens to the stalwart heroes of the SGC when the Stargate is made public!  Whatever, just throw Rush out the airlock, and for heaven’s sake, get rid of the Lucian Alliance.  Real heroes require real villains.  Enough with the space corn!

Oh, and lest I forget, big congrats on the obviously classy operation that is the SyFy Channel.  How bad does it have to be when you opt release the cancellation to the public before you tell the people that work for you?  The cast and crew learned from their fans via Twitter!  Really?  It’s come to this?