Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on April 11, 2011

I started watching Stargate SG-1 largely out of boredom, but also because making the Vancouver actors chart reminded me that I kinda wanted to see Jewel Staite in more stuff. Just watching Stargate Atlantis without seeing the series it spun off from is totally not my style, so I’m going to see how long I can stand the original. Rather than post every few episodes like I did with Supernatural, I’m going to do once a season posts for as long as I hold out. And they may be ludicrously long. This one certainly is.

General thoughts:

  • I probably should have watched the movie first (I was offended by a trailer that talked about traveling into the future by some number of light years so I never saw it), but I was bored, and Netflix doesn’t stream the movie. So I jumped right in, but it wasn’t much of a problem, and if I’d seen the movie, I suspect the copious exposition would have been annoying.
  • Unlinke Supernatural, this is a show that I will absolutely tear through as long as it doesn’t get extremely crappy. Fantasy/horror doesn’t get the nerd parts of my brain cranking quite like SciFi does. Even kinda bad SciFi gets me thinking about how the technologies would change the world, or how I’d apply them for personal gain, or how the characters are doing it wrong, or whatever.
  • Oddly, Netflix numbers the episodes differently than the order they originally aired, which has been slightly confusing when looking actors up on imdb.
  • The special effects are bad – not at all surprising from a low budget show from close to 15 years ago. I can deal with all of it except for the snake-like armor costumes the antagonists have. They look like foam rubber (and would pretty much have to be because that much metal would be quite heavy).
  • You know how penny farthings are kinda hilarious because they look archaic and silly? Giant CRT monitors work that way for me now, and they’re everywhere in SG-1. Either they have a product placement deal with NEC (they fit the NEC MultiSync branding on the monitor just about every time they show a computer) or they could only afford one monitor and use it in every computer scene.
  • Their analogies to make sure the audience understands the technobabble are painfully dumbed down. Guy 1: “they have a marsupial-like pouch.” Guy 2: “like a kangaroo?”
  • They have two genius scientists, one astrophysicist and one some kind of linguist/anthropologist/egyptologist who are completely clueless about other fields of study (mostly because they need a character to ask a question so that another character can explain it to the audience). The anthropologist is unfamiliar with the idea that the universe is expanding and doesn’t know what “EM fields” are. The astrophysicist thinks can’t be another solution to what looks like 7 letter string from a roughly 30 character alphabet because they tried “hundreds of combinations” without any success, despite the fact that 30^7 is about 20 billion (but she’s a woman, so her ineptitude at math is to be expected).
  • SciFi staples:

    • Aliens are extremely physically similar to people
    • Aliens almost all speak English (but use serious sounding words and rarely use contractions)
    • One climate per planet (I guess we only see the areas where the gates are, but we basically never see the weather change anywhere)
    • Alien names have apostrophes
    • Ancient alien visitors to Earth
    • Earth and/or humanity turns out to have special significance
    • Aliens/robots + pop culture = easy comedy (alien guy: “what is an Oprah?”)
    • Magical things happen and the science explanation is “nanotechnology”
    • Aliens press a button and a hard flat surface extends from a wall to sleep on
    • SciFi heroes stranded in the wilderness whip up impressive weaponry out of sticks and rocks (making decent bow and arrows is not something any hack can do just grabbing sticks from the woods)
    • Backwards hippie people who turn out to have super advanced technology, robots indistinguishable from humans.
  • I was only familiar with a 40-something Amanda Tapping from the first episode of Sanctuary, but at ~31 here, she’s easy on the eyes.
  • The General exercises no authority whatsoever. Total pushover. At least a dozen times they’ve done the thing where the General goes “I agree with you,” someone else angrily says something like “no wait, just hear me out… what?” The only time he doesn’t let SG-1 do exactly what they want is when his superiors order him otherwise (and then he looks the other way while they disobey orders)


Episode 1:

  • Fourth wall joke #1: they used the term “Macgyver” and everything paused to for Richard Dean Anderson to do everything short of wink directly at the camera. Damn that Macgyver and his talking car.
  • Jackson is super Canadian, and they keep giving him dialog with words like about. He’s said “my wife is oat there” like five times.
  • The villain’s master plan involves creating an interstellar harem. So that’s kind of awesome. And I forgot this show started on Showtime, making the interstellar harem that much more awesome (apparently blonde girl is a prude, but hooray for mystery ethnicity girl!), although I may have to re-evaluate my plan to watch this at work.
  • The racial divides between Earth and the other worlds are very clear. I assume it’s either to make it easy to tell who’s on what side: black people are from the snake armor place, middle eastern looking people are from the place they went in the movie, and white people are from Earth. After an hour, they introduce alien white people and give a line to a black guy from Earth.

Episode 2:

  • I’ve technically had parts of this show spoiled for me, knowing already that Amanda Tapping and the shaved head black guy are in a ton of episodes, so when they seem to threaten to dissect him, I know that won’t be happening.

Episode 3:

  • I guess this is where we figure out the sort of storytelling engine of the series, which from this episode looks exactly like the original Star Trek: travel to an Earth-like world, the people there are uncannily similar to something from Earth’s history because that planet was seeded with people from ancient Earth but failed to develop in any way since then, and it allows us to learn something about the characters and ourselves in contrast. In addition to having a Star Trek-like plot, they basically have a conversation about the prime directive towards the end.
  • This culture is Mongolian and they demand that Amanda Tapping only be seen in public with traditional woman’s clothing. Which I was assuming would be an excuse for her to put on a sexy outfit, but instead it’s goofy looking (possibly culturally accurate) and played for comedy. I was going to complain about a wasted opportunity for cheesecake, but they do get a scene in later on where she leans over and we get a really gratuitous cleavage shot. As long as I’m being superficial, there are quite a few possibly good looking Asian girls in this episode who tragically have their faces covered as a part of their stupid customs.
  • Again, the show seems kinda insensitive to issues of race. That Asian guy who looks evil, living in a world of seemingly all Asian people, comments on how hot Amanda Tapping is for her fair skin and blue eyes. Reminds me of this article on Storm from the X-Men, and how despite being one of the most high-profile African women in comics, all the features people point to as indicative of her beauty are all of her features that make look not black (blue eyes, straight hair, etc).
  • She’s kidnapped and sold into slavery to an evil Mongol who thinks she’s super hot, and forced to endure the horrors of cutting vegetables! I get that a brutal rape would not really fit with the tone of the show, but this is a scenario where the lack of rape is pretty unrealistic. I obviously don’t endorse it in any way, but what is the point of buying a woman slave based on her hotness if you’re not going to have sex with her? Eventually they do basically say it would happen eventually, but it’s super convenient that he waits what seems like a day or two to force her to do women’s work, giving SG-1 time to find and secure her escape.

Episode 4:

  • Next, we go to a planet that seems to be part perpetually dark and part perpetually light. I would think that would result in a planet that is inhospitable except on the lighted areas just near the border of darkness, but they have people (and trees, somehow) in the dark.
  • The people in the dark are like cavemen, and the SG-1 people were just gonna stand there and watch a woman get raped because that’s probably how cavemen roll, letting the strongest male get the most desirable female. Or possibly Richard Dean Anderson just loves watching women get raped.
  • They come back from the planet talking up the cultural value of studying the place or something, but they’ve acquired a condition that either leaves them crazy with rage or crazy with lust which does give us an excuse for Amanda Tapping in a tank top. It also gives us an excuse to introduce Teryl Rothery, weirdly-named Vancouver staple and strangely cute for an older chick actress, as the doctor.

Episode 5:

  • The leader of SG-3 decides to go with it when the natives of a planet think he’s a god. Which is about time, because SG-1 has had that happen at like every place they’ve gone to.
  • Almost every episode so far has them doing recon on someone doing something horrible, Amanda Tapping saying “we can’t just sit by and watch!” and Richard Dean Anderson shooting her down explaining why they can’t intervene (then circumstances conspire to force them to intervene). I get that she’s supposed to be the combination soldier/bleeding heart, which totally results in a desire to kick ass to aid the helpless, but it’s getting monotonous. This time, she just goes, and the guys who stay and watch apparently forget about the several previous times they stopped her, saying “it’s not like we could have stopped her.”

Episode 6:

  • The combination of a low budget and a series that requires new sets be built for alien worlds with totally different styles of architecture and whatnot seems like a bad idea. This episode is on a Greek sort of style world, and the costumes and buildings look really cheap.
  • I still haven’t learned the characters names, but Richard Dean Anderson quickly bangs some girl. I was actually expecting a gratuitous sex scene, cause “some girl” was played by this actress who was in Showgirls, among other things, and she has an impressive rack. She may as well have been topless, though, because she was quite jiggly in this outfit. It turns out these people age super fast, so the girl he banged was only 30 days old. Pedophile.
  • Anyway, they use the same trope as Firefly did in the Saffron episode, where O’Neill (I might remember his name!) accidentally married her by eating food she gave her. Despite not being a space whore, she gives him an STD of sorts which is causing him to age rapidly. They do the standard aging makeup, but what makes it awesome is Richard Dean Anderson’s voice. He starts normal, then goes to slightly gravelly, and then goes to crazy ol’ coot prospector.

Episode 7:

  • I take it they do sulfur mining in Vancouver, cause they’re on a planet full of giant mounds of yellow sand. It also has these blue crystals on it, which they bring back for research (not yet knowing it zapped O’Neill and made a duplicate of him), and they brought back the most phallic crystal imaginable, a large crystal rod on a nutsack-shaped bed of smaller crystals.
  • This is a really sappy and boring episode, as the duplicate O’Neill apparently remembers a lot of O’Neill’s past and goes to his ex-wife’s house and it’s all about his past with his dead son (backstory I may have known if I’d seen the movie). Really just an awful episode, and if there are more like this, I won’t be around for much longer.

Episode 8:

  • Anthropologist/linguist guy actually just said this while looking at the giant CRT with a picture of Thor (mythology, not comics): “He used a weapon called ‘Thor’s Hammer.'” Mjolnir is too fancy a term for someone who probably ought to know more about Thor than I do? And someone who professionally digs foreign languages at that? But this means they’re totally going to a viking planet
  • On the planet, we get a hologram of Thor (who does call his hammer Mjolnir) and a low budget monster thing voiced by James Earl Jones for some reason.

Episode 9:

  • The next episode involves some flashback stuff that actually could have been cool, but they made it too brief and focused on the present. An episode about the WWII adventures of going through a gate in one of those old fashioned diving suits? They’d probably screw that up too, but the idea is fun (plus they’d have the chance to use old timey expressions of amazement like “golly!” and “jeepers!” which is easy comedy) . Instead they just return to the present where John Allen Hill (who I just learned died, how sad) has been stranded for 50 years (despite there being no apparent source of food).
  • Geebs was just complaining about SciFi where they invent new elements, which they do here. Up to #146!
  • Every time they mention needing power, we hear thunder in the background. Gee, I wonder where this is going? I hope 1.21 gigawatts will be enough to get them home.

Episode 10:

  • We return to Teal’c’s homeworld, and meet his friend who looks a lot like Salman Rushdie and his wife, Alison from Eureka. This time, there are people of varying races on this planet, but obviously his wife has to be black (or some other minority) because racist SciFi fans would balk at a black banging a white girl.

Episode 11:

  • We start off with SG-1 returning from a mission gone horribly wrong; “Jackson is dead!” which he isn’t, thanks to what I always knew as the “character shield,” but TVTropes calls “Plot Armor”. I assumed we were getting a “36 hours earlier” thing, but no.
  • A fish alien thing has implanted false memories of Jackson’s death into the team so he could hold Jackson captive without them trying to rescue him.
  • Meanwhile, the rest of the team has a wake. Only the third time we’ve had scenes on earth outside the base. I was kinda hoping for character-inappropriate slutty outfits for Amanda Tapping, but no such luck, she’s in the kinda tomboy clothes you’d expect. Even though in the shitty episode a few back, duplicate O’Neill reminisced about playing baseball with his son, Richard Dean Anderson being Richard Dean Anderson, he’s playing some kind of grief street hockey that culminates in smashing a car window with his stick. It’s a weird scene.

Episode 12:

  • A military fiction staple: politicians are assholes. The Secretary of [something] (Defense would be their bosses in the Air Force, but it could be State, since they’re dealing with foreigners, more or less) is pissed cause the Stargate program isn’t coming up with the advanced technology they were hoping for. Which the SG-1 folks treat like he’s being this huge dick (and he’s played by an actor and in a way that makes him seem like a dick), but really he has a damn good point. They’ve made next to know effort to take Teal’c’s staff apart and figure out how it works, and that’s the only technology of any kind they’ve brought back. So they head to a planet where what’s described as a giant invisible hummingbird with teeth lives. I was expecting it to look totally ridiculous, but they actually did a decent job on it.
  • They encounter the evil guy that abducted Jackson’s wife and that Skaara guy in the pilot and stupidly try to attack him, resulting in both O’Neill and Amanda Tapping (the last of the main characters whose name I can’t remember) taking shots from his staff. When Teal’c uses it, it obliterates whatever it hits, but Plot Armor comes to the rescue again and they’re just knocked unconscious.
  • They wake up in a village full of goofy looking aliens with what looks like moss growing out of their heads, including Armin Shimmerman. Moss heads rescued SG-1, healed them, gave them food, and very politely asked them to leave, but they’re being totally ungrateful and being all “we don’t want to leave, jerkwads,” (they don’t actually call them jerkwads, but they might as well).

Episode 13:

  • Hathor wakes up from thousands of years of hibernation inside a Mexican temple for some reason. And she’s not all that good looking, or that Egyptian-looking. But she has Poison Ivy powers, blowing pink smoke almost identical to what Uma Thurman used in Batman and Robin and getting the men to do their bidding.
  • Amanda Tapping and Teryl Rothery are suspicious of the dudes, so they take to the internet and we get to see cutting edge technology from 1997 (note both the NEC logo again and the fact that Bridge University’s website is hosted locally on a PC in the base.
  • They try a direct assault on Hathor but the men, under Hathor’s control, stop them and toss them in prison. Under the theory that Hathor’s making them randy, the ladies formulate a plan to escape that involves seduction. Sadly, it does not turn into anything hot.
  • Several prime opportunities for nudity in this episode are wasted. Seems like they were ok with it in the pilot but have clearly gone for a more family-friendly approach. Maybe they realized their potential for syndication after the original airings on Showtime?
  • Hathor cuts a hole in O’Neill to put a parasite thingy in him like Teal’c has (I thought they were calling them “ghouls” at first, but it sounds more like “gouaould”), and somehow this involves a hot tub full of them (which in water look like shrimp). Somehow the hole in his stomach removes his immune system entirely. I’m not sure what part of the immune system is located in the gut area (my understanding is that the bone marrow and lymph nodes are the key parts, both of which are distributed throughout the body, but IANABiologist/doctor). Anyway, he gets placed in a magic box that heals all his wounds, and then the magic box is destroyed so next time somebody gets hurt they’ll die for real (unless they’re a main character, in which case another magic box or comparable solution will appear)
  • Hathor ends up escaping out the gate, which I’m guessing will magically cure everyone of their Poison Ivy lust, but it’d be much cooler if Jackson abandoned the search for his wife cause he was way more into Hathor.

Episode 14:

  • We go to a planet where Teal’c once killed some dude, and his son is now grown up, recognizes him, and is pissed. Which brings us to a backwards culture courtroom drama.
  • Teal’c’s feels guilty over the stuff he did as an evil guy soldier, and sees this case as representing all his misdeeds and thinks he deserves to die. A better show would let us learn this through his actions and let the actor show the emotions, but SG-1 has Teal’c very explicitly say it. I am literally angry with rage at this poor writing!
  • Anyway, the guy is determined to have his vengeance, then Teal’c does something heroic, and the guy decides Teal’c should live. This is one of the most predictable resolutions to a television episode I have ever seen.

Episode 15:

  • SG-1 heads to a planet to look at a black hole during an eclipse. O’Neill had a telescope in the pilot, but since then they portrayed him as ignorant and even hostile towards science, but finally they finally decide to say he’s an astronomy buff and knows some shit.
  • Going to other planets with humans but where people from Earth haven’t been in thousands of years brings up all kinds of possibilities for strange diseases, and frankly it seems completely likely that traveling to other planets where humans were deposited thousands of years ago would bring back a strain of smallpox or TB or the flu or some other common illness that would cause a major pandemic on Earth (and the SG teams would go around causing pandemics everywhere they went). So they should probably wear hazmat suits wherever they go, but Amanda Tapping looks better in military outfits and I think they chose wisely.
  • I bring this up because the planet they were on to look at the eclipse suffered some kind of epidemic. SG-1’s return puts the base on high alert for biohazards. By which I mean they slap biohazard logos on the glass doors in the medical area, which they leave wide open, and the SG team potentially exposed to the contagion and doctors previously not exposed to anything all stand around in a room where no one is wearing hazmat suits or even surgical masks.
  • When the eclipse does happen, they naturally leave the astrophysicist on earth to research the disease, and they send the amateur astronomer and to observe the eclipse.
  • There’s also plot here about the little girl who’s the sole survivor, a plot to destroy the Earth stargate, and some emotional whatever, but I spent the whole episode thinking about their backwards approaches to science stuff. Carter gets so attached to the little girl that, when the little girl might die alone, Carter is willing to sacrifice herself to be with her. So when they both end up surviving, this mother-daughter bond that lead to so much hugging and crying would lead to Carter adopting her. But since adding a little kid to the cast would be boring, she gets shipped off to a foster family and probably never seen on the show again.

Episode 16:

  • SG-1 rescues advanced aliens from a dying planet, but they’re trapped on Earth without access to a spaceship. One is a dick to everyone, the other is hot for Carter. They do a callback to the moss headed Quark people allowing them to leave.
  • Pretty lame episode, except for the part where the guy is hot for Carter and he gives her a fancy advanced technology widget and says “press the red triangle and close your eyes” to feel the emotions he felt for her. But I was half expecting it to be the roofies of the future or something, and maybe it was, because she didn’t seem all that interested in him before, but after using the device she makes out with him.

Episode 17:

  • An alien energy beam thingy knocks the team out, and Carter wakes up asking “how did we get into these outfits?” Though I have given up on hopes for gratuitous nudity, I’m still holding out for exploitative outfits, so I consider these black onesies another wasted opportunity.
  • The SG-1 crew think they’ve had their consciousnesses transferred into synthetic bodies (that look just like themselves), and they’re kinda jazzed because they’re basically immortal. Then they learn that the station where the guy that did this to them is the only thing that will power the synthetic bodies, so they can’t leave, and they demand to be put back in their original bodies. Only it turns out they are duplicates and the original SG-1 guys head home. The episode ends with a hopeful, happy music, but I thought it had a horrific ending. Three people who thought they were real just found out their copies and that they are going to spend eternity trapped inside a station constantly fixing a power source whose only purpose is to keep them alive.
  • Another issue with this episode: robot duplicates. I feel pretty confident that I will see them again, and that they will be used for narrative cheats in the same way time travel and clones let you do whatever and then undo it. My god, O’Neill fell out of an airlock into empty space. He’s dead! Wait, no, it was his robot duplicate! He’s ok!

Episode 18:

  • Another episode practically begging for a “36 hours earlier…” but it seems the SG-1 style is to just pick the action up after things have gone to shit. In this case, only half the team ended up on Earth when they gated back from a mission, with Carter and O’Neill stuck on an ice planet with no one in Earth knowing where they are. The dialing thingamajig is frozen in a block of ice, so they’re stuck trying to chip it out and hope it still works. Since it’s chipped out only 20 minutes into the episode, it doesn’t work.
  • When O’Neill only had a broken leg, I was kinda expecting it to be an episode where being trapped together caused them to become much closer (possibly banging), but he has a broken rib too, so it becomes one of those “stay with me! Tell me a story that I’m using as an excuse to keep you talking, but the writer of this episode is using as an excuse to reveal your backstory” episodes.
  • Oh damn, the ice planet turns out to be Antarctica. They were on Earth all along.

Episode 19:

  • On an irradiated planet, Jackson grabs a thing that he doesn’t know what it does, it causes a little portal type thing to turn on, so he obviously sticks his hand in it. These people are totally careless with alien technology that they don’t understand at all. Plot Armor is the only reason they haven’t picked up and fiddled with an alien grenade and blown themselves up.
  • He ends up in alt-universe where that old lady figured out the gate and is the Anthropologist type person, O’Neill is the general (and banging Carter), baldy is the colonel, and Carter is a civilian scientist (with longer hair, which makes her kinda look like Shelly Long). Also, the Goa’uld (I looked up the spelling) are destroying Earth. The people on this Earth are retarded though. When Jackson shows up through the gate, they are super suspicious of this guy who never was on the team but has their access codes and stuff. The first thing they should do is search his belongings, find his video camera, and see the footage he took with alt-versions of Carter and O’Neill and stuff, but they don’t.
  • The first amusing monitor shot of the episode comes with crappy 90s PC speakers too. The second reeks of budget limitations, since the shot before is people looking up like there’s a big screen mounted on the wall, Star Trek-style, but they then cut to an underwhelming screen that they couldn’t see from that far away.
  • He returns from the alt-universe armed with the gate code to the Goa’uld homeworld and knowledge that they’re likely to be attacked. Getting to see impending doom through time travel or alternative universe is a device I’ve seen used before, but it always works for me. For the first time, I’m genuinely interested in this show.

Episode 20:

  • Building on the momentum of the last episode, they ramp up the excitement with budget meetings to justify the expense of the Stargate program! And even better, it’s a clip show!
  • The Senator is played by this guy, who I know is in Robocop and stuff, but I always think of him as Captain Jellico from one of the first Cardassian episodes of The Next Generation. The political asshole intelligence guy is back, and I thought he was just a regular That Guy last time, but he’s actually a Vancouver That Guy.
  • I get why they used to do clip shows (they’re cheap and let casual viewers catch up on what they missed), but I also completely get why they stopped. In the age of the DVR and the series on DVD (or Netflix, in this case), these are a total waste of time. These are clips of things I’ve all seen in the past week. But I’m afraid to skip ahead, in case there’s relevant plot in the non-clip portion of the episode.

Episode 21

  • In fact, there was some plot last time, and we’re left with the government shutting down the Stargate program. Which I’m sure will happen, and the subsequent ~10 seasons and 2 spinoffs will be about people reminiscing about how cool going through stargates used to be.
  • Awesome going, opening credits: “And [some guy] as Skaara.” I suspect they may run across Skaara in this episode..
  • Against orders, SG-1 goes to the coordinates Jackson got from the alt-universe, which seems like the worst idea ever. The message he got it from clearly said there was horrible shit there, it seems like you’d want to send a whole army through, not four people. But conveniently, this giant army that’s invading planets all over the galaxy never thought to station guards at the two-way door to hundreds (thousands?) of planets. The radio signals and iris are a good solution to securing the gate, but I find it hard to believe Earth would be the only place to figure it out.
  • Fourth wall joke #2: Teal’c explains a Goa’uld communications device, O’Neill asks if it gets Showtime. Hilarious.
  • So the gate is actually on a ship, which they can’t gate back from. It seems to be an attack ship, and Jackson is certain it’s headed to attack earth because of what happens in the alt-verse. Which seems like bullshit. He’s clearly right that they intend to attack earth, but why would they depart for the attack on Earth moments after SG-1 secretly arrived on the ship? But it turns out that yes, that big of a coincidence did happen.
  • Anyway, they’re planting C4 all over the ship while O’Neill and Teal’c try pull that bullshit they pull in everything ever when someone’s mind is controlled. “Hey, it’s me. Come on, fight it!” Typically, this works just in time. The rest of the time it doesn’t and they’re forced to kill their friend. It’s the latter here.
  • With less than 10 minutes to go, I suspect a season ending cliffhanger, and that’s what we get. The Goa’uld ship approaches Earth with SG-1 on board. I thought it’d be an easy solution. They couldn’t go home while in motion cause they didn’t know the origin character while moving, but they know the Earth character. The ship’s full of C4, so they just set the timer for short, gate out, problem solved. But at the very end they pan out to show at least one other ship. Despite the momentum killing clip show, I remain interested to see where this goes.

While I would consider most individual episodes pretty bad, the larger plot of the series picked up towards the end there. That, combined with my ability to endure terrible science fiction, probably means I’m in this for the long haul.

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