Although I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it, I’m actually a big fan of the Stargate franchise. It was kind of a slow burn. I picked up Stargate SG-1 around season 3 or so, kind of gradually got into it, then at some point found that I actually looked forward to it every week. It’s not a profound show like Battlestar Galactica, and it’s not “appointment TV” like Lost, but I always considered it — and its spin-off show Stargate: Atlantis — to be fun, well-written sci-fi shows that I catch up with on the weekend, usually while my wife is taking a mid-afternoon nap. (In fact, we have a going joke that Stargate actually helps her to nap.)
You really wouldn’t think writers could get much play out of a big stationary ring that sends people to other planets, but SG-1 was on for TEN YEARS before it was cancelled last year. And Atlantis has been on for five seasons. So it’s obviously done something right.
What makes the premise works, I think, is a combination of consistent, likeable characters, solid writing, and storylines that are intertwined with Earth mythology. If you’re as old as I am, you remember the whole “Chariots of the Gods” craze in the 70s — the idea that all human gods were just extraterrestrial aliens who visited Earth a long time ago, that aliens built the pyramids, Stonehenge, and Easter Island, and that human intelligence itself was the result of breeding with these aliens at some point in the evolutionary pathway. Thirty years ago, this hypothesis inspired a little show called Battlestar Galactica, as well as one of my favorite cheesy sci-fi movies, Hangar-18. Certain X-Files episodes toyed with this idea. And as recently as this year, it heavily informed the new Indiana Jones movie. But one could argue that the Stargate franchise has done more than any other movie or TV show to fully realize Erich von Daniken’s wacky hypothesis on the big and small screen. And on some level, I have to think that’s part of its appeal.
Anyway, the ride comes to end this January, once the Sci Fi Channel finishes off the fifth season (and 100 episodes) of Stargate: Atlantis. Sort of. Apparently, as with SG-1, the plan is to keep the franchise alive with occasional straight-to-DVD movies. In fact, the series finale will be a shameless cliffhanger designed to hook people into buying the first of said DVDs.
Which is so manipulative that part of me wants to be mad about it. But honestly, more power to them for not abandoning the story entirely. And I’ll live. Because while I love Stargate, as I mentioned before, it’s not “must see” for me every week. It’s the friend you’re always happy to run into at a bar, who you always have a good time with, but who for some reason you never get around to calling to go see a movie. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who thinks so, or they probably wouldn’t be canceling it, right? I’ll be curious to see, during the fall hiatus, before Atlantis comes back to finish up its final season, what kind of “protest” if any the fans will stage.
I wonder if they’ll flood Sci Fi Channel’s mailboxes with thousand of Aerobies?