Herbie J Pilato: “Stargate SG-I”: The Unforgotten “Star” in the “Wars” Game Part 2

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by Herbie J Pilato

(Continued from yesterday…just like we promised)

Upon viewing any opening sequence of any Classic Trek segment, such as, “Miri” or “Metamorphosis,” one immediately knows one in for an entertaining ride.  Immediately, the story and action is set up in the tease, and boom – the opening theme commences and, upon completion of the broadcast commercials, the segment begins to boil.  The crew’s on a quest to some mystic or fantastic world.  They receive a distress signal, or their journey is disrupted by an alien force who we’re certain at one point will zap at least one of the crew members across the planet’s surface with a resounding bolt.

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Trek fans ultimately craved similar segments, and eagerly anticipated small-screen viewings upon hearing of The Next Generation’s debut (in 1987).  But after a while, as many critics pointed out, one kept waiting for something to happen.  But nothing ever did.  Oh, sure, the late, great DeForest Kelley’s reemerged his Dr. McCoy persona from the original Trek for a cameo appearance in TNG’s pilot.  And later, Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock and even James Doohan’s Mr. Scott came aboard that new edition of his Enterprise (in episodes, by the way, which happen to be the highest-rated and best-loved segments in Generation’s history); even William Shatner’s iconic Captain Kirk paired up with Patrick Stewart’s TNG’s Captain Picard in the big-screen Star Trek Generations.

But the sacred triad of Shatner’s Kirk, Nimoy’s Spock, and Kelley’s McCoy were nowhere to be seen in their regular weekly TV spot, docked or in flight, on their own beloved Starship Enterprise.

As I have stated in a previous post, no one ever asked for the film series (the second of which, The Wrath of Kahn, is at least superior to the TV sequels), or a Next Generation, or new characters on a new ship Voyager.  And Enterprise, the fifth Trek TV series sequel, focused on the formative years of the Federation, pre-Kirk, Spock, etc.

“Trekkies” (or “Trekkers,” which they…ahem, “we” prefer to be called) seemed to be getting everything but what they (we) originally wanted.  Trek lovers merely sought fresh adventures for the same wonderful people that they had come to know and adore – on the small screen – in their living rooms, every week.

That’s it; nothing else. Yet that’s precisely what they didn’t get.

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Even Gene Roddenbery was displeased with the way Trek developed after the first year of TNG. Rumor had it he was also not fully satisfied with the films (which he wanted to circumvent around the adventures of the Enterprise, and not Kirk and Spock).

In truth, Roddenberry’s true resurrection of his original concept worshiped by millions never came to be (and certainly now, with DeForest Kelley and James Doohan gone, it never will).

Instead, Trek-lovers were treated to unfamiliar Trek sequels, produced from what looked to be a parallel universe (which should have just been saved for Sliders; remember that one?!).

Neither Nine, nor Voyager, nor Enterprise in particular lived up to the name of their legendary older brother. The Next Generation, ignited by Roddenberry was a worthy attempt (certainly in it’s very Star-Trek-Original-Series-esque first season), but after Gene passed away (in 1991), in the long run, TNG just didn’t cut the mustard.In all fairness, Deep Space Nine was a very nice science fiction program (especially upon viewing its last few seasons).

But it wasn’t Star Trek…at least not any Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry had in mind. If Roddenberry-successor and subsequent Trek franchise king and executive producer Rick Berman wanted to create a new science fiction military-bent series about star travels, then he should have done that. But labeling Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise as party to Star Trek was, well, as Bill Shatner once stated early on the Trek revamp era, “a misnomer.”

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Even with Kirk split it two (Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard and Jonathan Frakes’ TNG take on being Number One), and a poor-man’s Spock (Brent Spiner’s Data), and a prettier-than DeForest-Kelley doctor (Gates McFadden’s Beverly Crusher), true Trek fans still merely pined for the charm of the original show, which never came into fruition.

But ALL that said – a gift like Stargate SG-I, well…that’s a different (science fiction) story altogether. This wonderful and wonder-filled show not only outshines the TV Trek sequels (including J.J. Abrams revamp of the feature films), along with other sci-fi military classics like Babylon 5 (sorry, Fivers!), but even the Stargate feature film upon which it is based (sorry, Kurt Russell-ers!).

And certainly, there have been other solid sci-fi/academy-like contenders, including: Gene Roddenberry’s very own Andromeda syndicated series (produced posthumously by his wife Majel Nurse Chapel Barrett-Roddenberry) from the early 2000s (though some of the alien make-up was hideous and insulting, and some of the characters, just plain silly); Farscape, which aired on Syfy, was elegant and elaborate and reached a praised hierarchy in certain fandom quarters; the aforementioned Sliders nailed it a few times with imaginative stories (but frequent character-replacements killed any sense of lengthy on-screen camaraderie; it would have been so much cooler of they used a ship, instead of employing the Time-Tunnel funnel effect); and certainly many new sci-fi series takes from today, in general, are astounding.

But none of them, and I mean none of them, ever came close to Star Trek: The Original Series, except….Stargate SG-1 which (even though this show, too, never used a ship; but at least their core portal was stationary, with solid outlets spanned across variant worlds).

Suffice it to say, SG-1 doesn’t disappoint on any level.2934915-stargate_sg_1_special__2007___regular_variant___ori_dcp_

The show employed spectacle, fancy, aptitude, humor and adventure, and wrapped it within a neat package that continues soar (in syndication and via DVD) with entertainment and sophistication, displaying a media mosaic of imaginative, fictional disclosure.

What else could any sci-fi TV fan want?

Or better yet – it’s what any true sci-fi trek to the stars (military-based or otherwise) should be!

 

Herbie J Pilato: “Stargate SG-I”: The Unforgotten “Star” in the “Wars” Game Part 1

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by Herbie J Pilato

Since the mid-1990s, the sci-fi/fantasy TV fan set, of which I am proud member, has been showered by a vast degree of eclectic programming.  Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, The X-Files, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer; an update on the classic 1970s TV favorite Battlestar: Galactica, Supernatural, Smallville, Arrow, and so many more.

Star Trek fans, in particular, were – overall – pleased with the various small screen sequels to the original series, beyond Star Trek: The Next Generation, including: Deep Space Nine and, to a lesser extent, Voyager and Enterprise.

Jack-stargate-sg-1-2028944-600-817Now that J.J. Abrams and company have recently reinvented the Trek universe for the big screen (to mixed reviews by both fans and professionals, the latter of which I also am a proud member), this is as good a time as any to specifically assess what a true science fiction weekly trek to the stars should aspire to be, encompass and embrace on TV – beyond and including Star Trek.

First of all, too, it should be made clear that there were originally massive legal issues with the original Battlestar: Galactica, as it was taken to task for its alleged resemblance to the first big screen edition of Star Wars, which debuted in 1977.   Wars, of course, brought science fiction fun back to the big screen and was ultimately responsible for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which reignited Gene Roddenberry’s beloved franchise.  What many do not remember, however, is that Roddenberry had originally slated Trek to return to the small screen with a concept he titled, Star Trek: Phase II, but taking in account(ing) Warner Bros. receipts for Wars, Paramount switched gears and decided to bring Trek back in the guise of a Motion Picture.

That said – the space cadet/academy/military of the sci-fi division of entertainment is a delicate and challenging nut to crack – but let’s try, shall we?

Certainly, many fanboys and girls fell hard for the new Battlestar: Galatica when it debuted in 2004, even though many other fanboys and girls felt assaulted by the dark, droney take on the original B:G.

But beyond this obvious choice of discussion let’s move betwixt dimensions with warp speed and land upon a gem in the space rock field continuum:

Stargate SG-1 which, like TV’s M*A*S*H (how’s THAT for a comparison?!), was based on a feature film (though with two completely two different casts).

The SG-1 TV characters were embodied by Richard Dean Anderson (as the flip, yet stoic and loyal Col. Jonathan Jack O’Neill), Michael Shanks (the inquisitive and brilliant Daniel Jackson), Amanda Tapping (the no-nonsense Dr. Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (as the evasive but charming Teal’c), each of which were believable in unbelievable situations for seven years on the show (originally on Showtime, then in syndication, then on Syfy; then the Sci-Fi Channel).StargateS9

We cared about them, because they cared about each other.  We liked them, because they were likable.  We laughed with them.  We ached for them.  We applauded and cheered them on. We wondered with anticipation to where their galactic-gateway-to-the-stars were to take them week after week – and what they were to do once they arrived there (wherever there was).  Into which world would they tumble?  Which civilization would they uncover?  Align with?  Fear?

Like the show itself, the SG-1 team remained unpredictable, but not exhaustive or obnoxious.  They were appealing, because their exploits were adventures of the heart, played out for the entire universe to see, embrace and enjoy.

In short, Stargate SG-1 captured magnificently what other shows in the planet-to-planet genre have ultimately failed to do, even – and particularly – the many small (and big screen for that matter) incarnations of Star Trek, the initial screen template for which debuted way, way back in 1966.

SG-1 became everything The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and certainly Enterprise attempted to be, should have become, and simply never became.  These Trek editions were created, partially, to right what many considered a central dysfunction of the original series: to expand upon character driven stories, of which only a handful were featured.

In the case of the continued Trek franchise, too many rights made a wrong. The new Treks overcompensated with too much character development, and neglected the marvel of creator Gene Roddenberry’s ethereal, original vision – to explore strange new worlds – to “trek” to the stars…undiscovered countries, and to exude charm and exhilarate the audience in the process.

250px-Stargate_SG-1_Season_5The new Treks became L.A. Law In Space and Deep Space Blues.  The characters talked and talked and talked and talked, but no one went anywhere with any legitimate sense of fancy, or imagination.  Most of the Next Generation, Deep Space, and Voyager segments became, in effect, what used to be called “bottle shows,” with all the so-called adventure taking place on board the Enterprise, the space station, or any other number of starships.

In essence – where all the action wasn’t.

Can it be that the feature film Galaxy Quest, a Trek satire if there ever was one, is actually a better science fiction entry than any of the Star Trek big or small screen sequels put together?  For, Quest certainly equaled in entertainment value any episode of the original Trek TV show.

What? This ending seems kinda abrupt? That’s cuz it isn’t the ending.

Stick with us, gang. We won’t let you down.

Coming tomorrow: Part 2

We promise.