I’ve recently started watching Stargate SG1, and I’m getting annoyed. It seems like the writers have skipped the best part.
At the start of the series, exploring other planets isn’t yet a thing. Having found portals to other worlds, the US military faced an alien species that could conquer the world, and so retreated to safety. Kurt Russell has magically turned into MacGyver. Nothing much has happened since.
The first episode is spent re-establishing the need to use the stargates. The second shows the first time something bad comes back through. The military are just starting to turn stargate exploration into a thing, and then suddenly, from episode three onwards, everything’s in place. There are stargate teams 1 through 364. Some of them have been on other planets for months. The characters crack jokes about the time they visited the planet of hats. The Star Trek style planet of the week antics have begun.
You know what I want to see? I want to see the bit that’s missing after episode 2. I want to see the challenges of those first tentative steps, as the Stargate teams try to work out whether exploration is even a good idea. They should face the challenges of doing dangerous work as a new governmental organisation – under-supplied, with endless disputes about their purpose and hierarchy, no-one even knowing yet how best to train the teams for this completely unprecedented job that they’re doing. We should see them adjusting to the lifestyle, to the secrets, to the dangers and uncertainties. The conflicting interests of the military and the scientists should be a huge thing, their support from government erratic, even as they risk their lives every day exploring the universe. Maybe there’d be disputes over whether this should even be a government venture, as private companies try to stick their oar in.
But no. By episode three everyone’s acting like seasoned pros, the scientist is shooting his gun straight, and the base commander has a direct line to the president. Half the challenges of their situation are gone.
I’m not saying that I want to watch Stargate: Months of Bureaucracy, but I wish they’d taken the opportunity to explore those complications, even as they took their weekly trip to the planet of hats.
The shows we imagine are often better than the reality. Remember when Star Trek: The Next Generation ran a plotline about terrorists/freedom fighters living in a disputed border region? Those guys would have made a fascinating show, full of moral complexities, shifting loyalties, and characters struggling to enact their ideals. Instead we got Voyager, and disappointment.
Maybe I’ll just have to write those stories for myself. Or imagine them as I fall asleep at night, like I did when I was a kid. But maybe one day, if I try really hard, you’ll all get to watch MacGyver: Space Terrorist.
Anybody else have ideas for the best things we should have seen in sci-fi shows but didn’t? Tell me your awesome ideas in the comments.