The Sci-Fi Shows We Don’t See

Posted: January 12, 2015 in watching
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s MacGyver in space! Watch him make a bomb out of a battery and some space whale mucus.

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.

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Comments
  1. Lynda says:

    You’ve touched on my big bug bear already. The fact that all the loyalties got ironed out in about half an hour on Voyager was utterly pants. B’lanna in particular putting on a uniform and forgetting about it was seriously disappointing.

    Oh yeah, and *redacted* is half cylon. Could have explained everything. Could have been a great few episodes exploring how that happened. There was even a fecking obviousl candidate to hang it off. But no. they were a fecking *redacted*.

    • Good as it was in places, BSG took this to such a different level that I almost don’t think of it as the same problem. They promised me a gritty military/political story with a cool religious background, and eventually ambled off into a fantasy quest finale. I weep for what might have been.

      But I am weeping oil, for I have proven my (dis)loyalties in many rounds of the board game.

  2. Star Trek Section 31. It was briefly touched on in ST:TNG and ST:DS9 but not really actualized until JJ Abrams ran with it. After first discovering that the canon had this dark clandestine side I spent what, 12 years waiting for more? As much as I loved the wholesome vision of Roddenberry, I secretly wanted to know of ensigns and officers that ‘manned that wall’ to preserve the advances that humanity made.

    • Awesome. Like you, I like that Roddenberry got to present us with the potential of something optimistic and wholesome, but the thought of something dark keeping it safe is also entertaining. A bit like Iain M Banks’s Contact section, I suppose.

      Huh, I wonder if that’s where Banks was coming from.

  3. Gareth says:

    i always wondered whether the U.S. president in “Independence Day” got re-elected next time round:

    “I beat the aliens!”
    “But Mr President, you nuked Houston and it didn’t work…”
    “But I beat the goddam aliens!”
    “And you gave away national security secrets when you let all those civilians into Area 51…”

    I always thought the supporting characters in films and TV series were far more interesting than the headline act – sure anyone can blow up a Death Star when they’ve got the force handy, but Wedge was there in the thick of it without Alec Guinness helping out!

    Increasingly there seems to be a trend towards appreciating this – Terry Pratchett might have been one of the first to do so in “Guards Guards”, but more recently Marvel have led the way, with Agent Coulson getting the limelight that he always so richly deserved (I mean, being an armoured millionaire playboy, a Norse god, a near legendary super soldier or a one eyed mean-ass motherf***** who don’t take no **** from no-one is all well and good, but where would they be without the man in a suit, submitting business cases, keeping receipts, making sure everyone in the secret base gets paid, and quietly tidying up after them?). And who was the real hero of “Captain America: Winter Soldier” – the various assorted super heroes, or the anonymous SHIELD technician who refused to do what the bad guys told him, even ‘though there was a gun to his head?

    So yes, more films, books, TV series and general acclaim for the Hero Support, please. There’s got to be potential for a Doctor Who script about the poor sods in UNIT who seem to spend their time guarding gates only to be either blown up by the next passing Dalek, Cyberman, Yeti or Loch Ness Monster, or be patronised to death/yelled at for their career choice by the Doctor.

    • glenatron says:

      Oh yes! Like that episode of Babylon 5 which is all about the two cleaners!

    • Three cheers for the support staff! I’ve seen various comedic riffs on this, and Scalzi’s Redshirts took it in a surprising direction, but a serious take on it would be great. And I’d far rather have watched something about the poor UNIT grunts than any amount of Torchwood.

      • glenatron says:

        Have you read any of the Laundry Files books? I think they’re about an underfunded team of civil servants dealing with Lovecraftian monstrosities while also trying to make sure everyone is contributing fairly to the milk kitty and that they don’t run out of toner for the photocopier. It’s a pretty good premise but I haven’t yet got around to reading any of them.

    • Which also reminds me, I’m very disappointed not to have seen any sign of Agent Carter showing over here yet. Was really looking forward to some Cold War SHIELD action. Bad form whoever failed to import that to our screens.

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