Since the end of Stargate Atlantis, scifi has lost me. Or have I lost scifi? And was that intro pseudo-philosophical and unneccessary? However, lately I feel not only scifi has let me down, but television as a whole.
Stargate Atlantis, ironically the last scifi series to really pull me in, started this mess during season 4. ‘Michael’, a most brillant adversary, began whipping out one liners and revenge plans that would make every golden age comic villain blush; carefully deconstructing the incredible character he was from late season 2 on. The villain against will or own fault, the lingering evil out there, the one to scream “what the hell, hero?” whenever the fantastic four needed to hear it, Michael had it all. Well, and then he changed his name to Rumpelstiltskin and went after Teyla’s firstborn child… fathered by a guy who came out of nowhere and never played any significant role, no less.
At that point, I had forgiven the Replicators, but Michael’s fall from grace wasn’t so easy to stomach. I gave it a chance anyway, and what did I get? Half the cast of SG-1, more than obviously sitting out their contracts, and the most ridicolous “new enemy” mid season cliffhanger ever: Pegasus Asgard that vanished after two episodes and were never mentioned again, nor had any consequences for the big finale. Before enduring this, I was also insulted with a laughable CSI Atlantis abomination that swam on the trendy wave like Atlantis self should swim in the ocean shortly after.
Reason: Stargate Universe, the next big deal. Well, not really. Actually, the story wasn’t all that new. Once upon a time, a certain Captain Janeway had been lost thousands of lightyears from home and known space. And battled a conflicted crew, forced together by circumstance, and later a technologically superior enemy with a hive mind. While Voyager wasn’t a revelation in itself, it had this very story first. And in Voyager, I didn’t instantly high five any of the characters, but warmed up with the few better ones during the first season; namely B’Ellana Torres and the Doctor, later also the much missed Lon Suder and due to him, even Tuvok. In SGU, it took me several episodes to keep these guys apart and when I finally had most of the names down, I only wanted to punch each of them in the face. Two dimensional (at best), stereotypical people I gave a shit about – if I didn’t hate them. The writing, the story, the (mostly absent, if present disappointing) enemies, the so-called character drama – it all sucked.
I sat through both seasons. I tried to like it. I tried to hope it would pick up at a point. And gave up, stayed tuned, for the only reason you could possibly have: laugh about it and wager when it would be cancelled.
Stuck without scifi alltogether, I decided to start watching a series from better times; when space opera wasn’t an endangered species. I considered Battlestar Galactica and ran into the big problem: Which one? Whenever I thought I had it figured out, someone would come along and yell “OMG that’s the wrong one! It’s so cheesy/blasphemic, you gotta watch the other one!” And somehow, I believed both sides. That it was both cheesy and blasphemic. And having read so often that Stargate Universe was a half-assed attempt to be like BGS, I also didn’t really want to see it full blown. So I ended up watching neither old nor new, and sat down with another rerun of Babylon 5 instead.
At the moment, I try hard to like Farscape and it somehow doesn’t work. Except for Aeyrn Sun, none of the characters really interests me. I also have a hard time dealing with the puppets, as much as I appreciate the attempt to bring in more diverse aliens. And a sentient ship is one thing, but a pregnant sentient ship? And the big bad Scorpius, looking like made of Borg spare parts? It all feels like a flashback to Andromeda, down to the oh so alien cleric. I did like Andromeda, yes. But I never really got into it that much. It was nice to watch, not more, not less, and it became utterly boring and pathetic in the 5th and final season.
The other front, crime shows, seems to stand strong. Criminal Minds got a 7th season. But at what cost? First, they disposed of JJ, then the useless and unfitting agent-in-training Seaver didn’t even begin to fill that gap and before it really sank in, Prentiss was gone, too. And on the other end, the more interesting character background about Reid’s schizophrenia simply vanished mid season, never to be mentioned again, and JJ came back. Chaos much? Oh very much so, as the cliffhanger is the open question if anyone will take the offer to leave the team.
The series had survived two surprising changes in the team; when Gideon as the main draw left and Rossi came in, and the brunette switch when Prentiss took over for Greenaway. It had the team balanced – why change a working system now? Budget cuts? The spin off? Drunk writers? In short, CM was simply not the same anymore in season 6, and robbed of all scifi joys, I needed something new to really catch my interest.
I went into a rerun of The 4400, while trying to decide if I should give Fringe or Dexter a shot, but neither seemed appealing when I was through. I toyed with the idea of watching Enterprise again, but I didn’t feel up to another rerun. So I read through my to-do list – and finally watched Rome, the most different-from-anything-else-on-the-list thing. Within 4 days, both seasons, hungry for more, knowing there wouldn’t be any more seasons. Devestated, I withdrew to the realm of history documentaries in my grief.
A week later, my brother lived up to his nickname and turned out to be salvation: He showed me the pilot of Game of Thrones. Having found blind faith in HBO productions with Rome, I knew this would become a wonderful companion. But it became so much more. The breeze to ignite a flame I hadn’t felt burning for years. Longing for more, I had watched several clips on the HBO YouTube channel about the houses and characters in Game of Thrones – and came to click on a ‘related’ link, leading to a trailer for Spartacus.
Spartacus had aired a few months earlier and recieved horrible feedback along with mentions of being cut to pieces beyond recognition on TV, so I had never bothered. But two trailers – one for Blood and Sand, the other for Gods of the Arena – were enough to make me head straight to Amazon and get US imports. What show the critics had seen, I don’t know nor care about. Yes, there is a lot sex and violence going on, but connected so perfectly, so beautifully, I cannot see the “guilty pleasure” nature.
As an ace, I naturally don’t care much for a deluge of sex scenes – if they are pointless. In Spartacus, they rarely are. They are major plot devices and tools for character development. Unlike the horrible SGU, Spartacus has no stereotype, flat characters you give a shit about. It has characters that scream to be discovered in all details; their relations, their motivations, their thinking and their goals.
I’m certainly not opposed to massive foul language and graphic violence either. To be frank, some of the violence qualifies as pointless for the story. But then, what do you expect in a series about gladiators in Rome, where violence was the most valued form of entertainment? And having that in mind, I can definately appreciate the effort to make a character recognizable, add some personality and keep it up for several episodes, for the sole purpose of a spectacular kill – one that hits home in every possible way, no less, and makes even a gorehound swallow for a moment.
For years, no series has had me from hello like that. If ever. Even my all time faves – Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 – needed more than an episode (and DS9 almost 3 seasons!) to pull me in. And with a new love like that, it’s just half that bad that my favourites on Britain’s Got Talent, Edward Reid and the Circus of Horrors, were eliminated in the semi-finals. Just like last year; just like every year.