Friday, December 21, 2007

Showdown At Area 51

So the question is, what do you get when you cross Party Of Five's Jeremy London [now known as Jason London] with Farscape's Gigi Edgley? The answer: Bad Science Fiction in the form of your latest Sci Fi Channel movie. Maybe even NO Science in your Fiction movie.

As I stumbled through the house taking care of dishes and other assorted odds and ends I essentially watched Sci Fi Channel's latest doozy of a film, Showdown At Area 51. You're probably saying to yourself, 'damn I missed that one' or 'shoot! I meant to watch that!' or 'huh?'. I'm hear to tell ya, -ya didn't miss much!

I mean, don't get me wrong Gigi is near damn the cutest, hottest, little sex kitten you'll ever see, but she's wasted here. London is always cool enough to watch, but again, there isn't a believable word of dialogue in the 2 hour script.

From the always, spare no expense special effects of Sci Fi Channel's movies and the initial crash landing of the spaceship [at least I think that's what that grey block of CGI was that smoked up the screen in the forest- is that Vancouver again?] to the silly plotlines, Showdown At Area 51 is just plain laughable.

Two aliens go head to head over the Omega Seed [don't ask- it merely drives the plot to this unbearable freakfest] and one scene pays goofy homage to the old Spaghetti Westerns or maybe The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. There's one big clunky, chunky alien that is clearly invincible. It's impervious to a hail of gunfire and rocket launchers. It does yield some nifty effects at times, but it's clear the folks with the guns need a better plan and it never comes. The other alien sports some goofy tattoos that basically let us know- yup! he's an alien. But like just about any Sci Fi Channel film, we never care about the characters and gleefully look forward to their inevitable deaths amidst dodgy special effects and terrible scripting. Then it's on to next week's film...

Clearly Showdown At Area 51 is great, like Alien Lockdown and other assorted Sci Fi cheese is great from our favorite channel. It's great when you are completely wiped out and you have no strength left to get up and leave the room. Perhaps you are so weak you can't even lift your fingers to change the channel. Or it's a train wreck and you can't take your eyes off 'em.

Having said all that, I love the channel for giving us some of the best in Sci Fi. Stargate Atlantis, Doctor Who and SG-1 are simply amazing and Atlantis just keeps getting bigger, badder and better.
Hey look there in the water, it's Don S. Davis and Paul McGillion from SG-1 and Atlantis and they're in the latest movie, Beyond Loch Ness [Jan 5, 2008].
Folks, remember that old loch ness photo, yeah don't hold your breath and don't expect much with the movie either, but I'll be watching. I've always wanted to see the Loch Ness in bad CGI. I'll even try and get a photo of it!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

She Sells Sanctuary

... and I'm not talking about the hit single by The Cult [I always liked Edie].

This is the latest smokin' hot side project by Stargate SG-1 alumnus and busy bee actress for its latest incarnation, Stargate Atlantis, Amanda Tapping. She's back trying her hand at the latest ground-breaking endeavor- on-line television. Yes, TV made just for the internet. And Yes, she looks fabulous yet again!
WOW! Amanda Tapping in full on brunette. She's sellin' it and bringin' it for the internet-based only series dubbed Sanctuary!



This tasty little sci-fi refuge is an internet only series of 8 high definition webisodes that I've taken the pleasure to download.
http://www.sanctuaryforall.com/home.php

If you're a fan of the always sexy, always strong Amanda Tapping and you like a healthier dose of monster interplay [not found in her stint as Major Samantha Carter in Stargate SG-1] bursting from your screen then Sanctuary may just be what the doctor ordered. For a small price [roughly 17 dollars] you can download this splendid series drenched in breathtaking backgrounds almost entirely created via green screen on computer. It creeps in with a deliciously terrific little Mid-Eastern theme score by Ian Browne. The show is brought to life by solid direction and a fine cast. Tapping plays the eternally youthful Dr. Helen Magnus, an immortal monster hunter if you will.

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At the helm is Stargate SG-1's Damian Kindler. His involvement as executive producer assured you a whole assortment of guest appearances including Stargate Atlantis' own David Hewlett, Paul McGillion, Christopher Heyerdahl and Kavan Smith. Michael Adamthwaite [Herak] of SG-1 acclaim also figures into the proceedings. Additional surprises include a role for SG-1 Director Peter Deluise and Leah Cairns of Battlestar Galactica. It succeeds with great writing and a surefire cast of talents from the streets of Vancouver. If that wasn't good enough longtime journeyman SG-1 Director Martin Wood lends his extraordinary skill behind the camera and pen co-writing alongside Kindler.

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What you can expect is a show that's completely refreshing. It's entirely unique. The supernatural elements are reminiscent of X-Files meets Jack The Ripper, but it's wildly special in its execution and its visual style. There's humor, drama, action, monsters and rain, lots of CGI rain. It's always raining. Tapping is a delight and will blow you away! Her English accent and acting chops truly shine [yet again]. She's unrecognizable from her most famous character of over a decade. She's also equally sexy as drenched in black Magnus. Hot black leather and tights and blond partner Ashley also in accompanying sex kitten leather hot pants never hurts. She works with a team that even includes a man-servant/ back up buddy who just happens to be Bigfoot [anyone remember Bigfoot And Wild Boy?] and a CGI amphibian-like creation. This is a top flight, if small scale, operation and its easy to see the huge potential conceptually regarding exactly where Sanctuary could go. This is impressive stuff on what is clearly an extremely tight, little budget no doubt. With a bit more financial backing the folks over at Sanctuary really could have something here. I have to believe Sanctuary is sure to reach television. It's a great concept. If it doesn't I hope the creators take the time to get back to the webisodes. The eight created thus far leave you on the ultimate cliffhanger of cliffhanger even after seeing Bigfoot, Ashley and Magnus open up a might can of whoop ass! I cannot bear to see Bigfoot and Magnus left this way. I won't spoil it you'll need to see for yourself.

[The following clip does not contain spoilers!]

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So look out creatures of the night! The question is, will the one selling Sanctuary be your executioner or savior?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Starlog Back Issues BURNED

About a year ago I jot down all of the Starlog back issues that I wanted to buy that had stories pertaining to some of my favorite science fiction shows. I ended up purchasing quite a few including some of my favorite series like SG-1, Atlantis and Farscape to name a few. I recently wrote about my disappointment with Starlog in never featuring a Stargate Cover Story. See previous post. Anyway, I was actually kind of shocked to read about the company's misfortune regarding their entire inventory of back issues.

This from their website in edited form:

"On Dec. 5th, a warehouse fire in Oregon, IL destroyed the Starlog Group's extensive back issue holdings. STARLOG and FANGORIA Magazines' entire line of back issues, as well as"Best Of" collections, discontinued publications, STAR TREK and other movie tie-ins were burned or water damaged by the blaze. It's believed the massive fire was started when a forklift driver in the warehouse punctured a gas line, which was close to a space heater. Over 100 fire fighters from 20 different companies were needed to bring the conflagration under control. Apparently, the warehouse's sprinkler system was not functioning, which is being investigated by the fire marshals. Total damages are currently estimated at 8 million dollars. Starlog will not be able to supply the majority of these back issues as listed in the magazine and Starlog.com store. A few recent issues may be on hand, but it will take some time to be clear what may remain.

Many of these magazines, pieces of the company's thirty year history,will now only exist in the hand of collectors."

How do I like my collection now? WOW! I was completely stunned and I'm glad no one was hurt, but I can't imagine losing that kind of inventory. A sad day at Starlog indeed. To think I could have missed obtaining this great collection from one of my favorite publishers. It'll be interesting to see how this affects the value of our Starlog collections.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Stepping Through The Stargate

Folks. When I'm not busy running around like a chicken with my head cut off over family or work I like to read a good textbook full of geekspeak. This is essentially a book review. Some of you may have checked out Finding Serenity by Jane Espenson, a beautiful book based upon the Firefly verse [that review for another day] published by Benbella. This one, also by Benbella, is Stepping Through The Stargate: Science, Archaeology and the Military in Stargate SG-1, a collection of essays edited by P.N. Elrod and Roxanne Conrad. It's not entirely cohesive from start to finish, but it's a load of fun on the whole.


Back when I first launched this blog I mentioned comparing Star Trek to Stargate and I'm going to take the opportunity to highlight one of the articles in this book that hilariously compares the two. The piece, Stargate Trek, is by by none other than sci-fi writer David Gerrold the man behind Star Trek's 1967 episode The Trouble With Tribbles. His observations are spot on and he should know. Gerrold puts it like this, "when you talk about science fiction on television, there's Star Trek- and then there's everything else. And that's unfortunate because a lot of the 'everything else' is pretty damn good- oftentimes even better than Star Trek. Case in point: Stargate SG-1". I'm not arguing because Gerrold should know. To be clear, I'm a bigger fan of Stargate SG-1, but I love the Star Trek universe almost as much. It's just a far less rabid, obsessive kind of addiction. Gerrold goes on to look at how closely tied the two programs are as sci-fi formulas go, in many ways identical, but points out distinct differences that make the shows unique pointing to SG-1's success in breaking away from the pack of the 'everything else' in establishing its own mythos and cannon.

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Similiarities

  • both have a homebase [SGC/ the Enterprise]
  • both have independent, sometimes anti-establishment styled heroes [O'Neill/ Kirk]
  • stoic unemotional aliens [Teal'c/ Spock]
  • beautiful female members with great cheekbones, chests and brains [Carter/ Uhura]
  • authority can be disregarded
  • team is family, everybody else isn't [other SGC teams/ most 'red shirts']
  • aliens speak English [or stilted English]

Differences

  • Star Trek takes itself too seriously [even the jokes are important]/ Stargate SG-1 is self-mocking [these people are real and likeable]
  • Star Trek has to only solve a problem once/ Stargate SG-1 never seems to quite solve the problem [ie Replicators]
  • Star Trek technology is fabulously inexplicable/ Stargate SG-1's is rooted in attempted explanations

Now I'm offering you the condensed digest version. You really need to read the article for all the dirty details and it's a bang up piece. There's plenty I've left out. But the crux of it being if Star Trek wrote the formula so many programs aspire to be, Stargate SG-1 has transcended that formula to create its own identity. Stargate SG-1 may be the first to child to step out from its parents' shadows. Where there was one franchise now there are two.


The articles in Stepping Through The Stargate [the best ones are in BOLD]:

  1. Highly Top Secret [on the alien technology and weaponry of Stargate SG-1]
  2. Stargate Trek [Star Trek vs Stargate]
  3. Through The Apple [fun with physics and wormholes]
  4. Yasureyabetcha: S-F Speak That Doesn't Make You Wince [the humor of one Jack O'Neill aka RDA]
  5. Exploring The Archaeology Of Stargate SG-1: From Childhood Westerns To Interstellar Imagination [Stargate as the vehicle for classic entertainment and education]
  6. Artificial Intelligence And Genuine Stupidity [clever stuff]
  7. Help! The Aliens Have Landed And Taken Over My Brain [an analysis of the Goa'uld]
  8. Time Travel For Beginners [serious Astrophysics geekspeak]
  9. We Need You Back [the concept of bringing back characters to drive a series in this case Jack O'Neill]
  10. Spin The Gate [Sex in and through the orifice that is the Stargate]
  11. Where Am I? [a philosophical analysis via episodes Tin Man and Double Jeopardy]
  12. I Think He's Called Homer [referencing Beneath The Surface - analyzes homage within the SG-1 verse]
  13. Stargate: The Final Frontier? [more astrophysics as well as inconsistencies within the SG-1 verse]
  14. When In Rome, Don't Wear That [fashion faux pas within the SG-1 verse by character and race]
  15. I'm Not An Archetype But I Play One On TV [heady archetype analysis on the four main characters
  16. Fear And Loathing On Cimmeria [an analysis of Thor's Hammer via Norse mythology]
  17. A Season Of Stargate [a production diary by Visual Effects Producer extraordinaire James Tichenor]
  18. The Villians I Love To Hate [a humorous play by play on the plethora of baddies from SG-1]
  19. Creativity, Continuity And The Modern Licensed Comic Book [fascinating analysis on SG-1 comics]
  20. Jack's Brain: What Were The Asgard Thinking [... so why exactly did The Asgard choose O'Neill anyway?]
  21. Vacuum Tubes And Intergalactic Portals [insights from a retired, female, Air Force Colonel]
  22. Ruminations From A Rat Bastard [Tom McBeath, aka Colonel Maybourne himself, reflects on SG-1]
The book entertainingly breaks down a phenomenal series with a massive mythology. It mostly succeeds taken as a whole and it's a fun ride. This is clearly for the Gatecon set.

The book is well worth seeking out and Amazon may be your best shot. Good luck cowboys!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Battlestar Galactica the Original

Ah yes, the classic, original Battlestar Galactica. Okay, so it doesn't hold a candle to the new series in many respects. The thing about the original was its charm and sincerity. It was made at a time when pretty much everything on TV was wholesome. So sure it doesn't have near the teeth of the reimagined series running on Sci Fi Channel, but it had adventure. It had vipers! Okay so what if it was the same shot played over and over. I never knew it. It had Starbuck and Apollo. Watching that show through my wide-eyed innocence was like watching Santa bound down the chimney. It was awe I tell you! And man it had that damned daggit too [wee cute monkey in a robo-dog suit]. I just loved that dog ....errr robot. Whatever. It was the coolest dang dog daggit I'd ever seen.

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Here's a look back at one of the most memorable sequences from my childhood waaay back in the original from 1978.

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The sequel [so to speak] to the original series, Galactica 1980, is coming out [finally] on DVD the day after Christmas. To be honest, I've never seen it, but I intend to despite everything I have heard to the contrary of it even being close to good. Kent McCord [of vintage era "1 Adam-12, 1 Adam-12" fame and later a role in the remarkable Farscape] stars.

Oh and those nasty, shiny, metal cylons are a whole lot shinier and easier on the eyes now. Yes, they've come up with something a whole lot sleeker and softer and they come with skin and legs, yes long legs, in the form of number 6. These cylons look strikingly like Playboy bunnies. Somehow I couldn't see my mom letting me watch number 6 [played by Tricia Helfer] as a kid.

No definitely not! That is just way too hot for TV and way too hot for my corruptible and fragile mind. Cable didn't exist! And this cylon would have no shot at primetime in the 1970s. Ouch! [gulp!] Bad guys never looked so good! Please take me! Take me now!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Earth 2



Where to begin? From old-fashioned shutter/ slo-mo effects for dream sequences to bad writing Earth 2 never gets off the ground. Weak on story despite some solid performances from a decent cast including Jessica Steen and Terry O'Quinn. Steen, of course, would first appear on Stargate SG-1 as Dr. Elizabeth Weir in Lost City Part 1 & Part 2 before being replaced by Torri Higginson who would go on to play the regular Dr. Weir in Stargate Atlantis. The much beloved O'Quinn has an incredible track record from his roles in Alias and Harsh Realm to John Locke on Lost. He plays a mysterious figure allied with The Council. Shocker! Admittedly, thanks to O'Quinn, his entrance in the episode Water is where things start to get interesting on the show. Still, he's only one man. Here's a scene with O'Quinn and Steen.

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Meanwhile the make-up lies somewhere between a Jim Henson knock-off and Land Of The Lost. What the hell is this?

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Oh, and we can't forget the worst in child-acting. Two of the show's main characters are child actors. Terra-ble!

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Seriously, animatronic-styled rubber muppets and cheesy music combined with weak acting- not a good combination! By the way, them there fingernails on the little varment are down right nasty if you get one in the neck. Where is Boxey the Daggit [from the original Battlestar Galactica] when you need him! At least it was a real live monkey in a robot dog suit.

Perhaps I just didn't give Earth 2 a fair shake. I actually tried to enjoy this show after watching 10 straight seasons of the genre masterpiece that is Stargate SG-1. It just didn't have a chance to hold a candle. Earth 2 will reaffirm your belief in the best of science fiction. It's readily apparent why Stargate and Star Trek are just so damn good after watching this conceptual mumbo jumbo about Terrians and a transparent attempt at being an environmental letter, sci-fi style. Just stupid. Messages are good but you don't want to get beat over the head with them.

I have to come clean. After watching the first 8 episodes of the series I just couldn't bear to watch another. Turning on the DVD player each night was becoming a chore. I was pained to actually have to sit through roughly 42 minutes of an Earth 2 Episode, commercial free no less. What I would have given for a bathroom break! Making the command decision to shelve it was like lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders. Actually, it was the weight of Earth 2 and it was a relief. I can't tell you what happens to that poor crew or the Terrians or the creatures that inhabited the planet nor do I care. I never want to go there ever! One thing is certain to me now, there's no place like home.

Earth 2: In a word- TERRA-ble!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SG-1's Walter Harriman

Recurring characters on Stargate SG-1 have always been part of the fun. Who was yours? The classic series has a vast contingent of players that surely made the mythology of the show legendary from Thor [voiced by Michael Shanks] and Narim [Garwin Sanford] to Ishta [Enterprise' Jolene Blalock] and Martouf [J.R. Bourne]. Tom McBeath as Colonel Maybourne was brilliant. Colin Cunningham's straight guy Major Davis was another that I loved to see. I have a hard time putting Teryl Rothery and Don Davis in that category. I loved them both, but they were more like major players for me despite qualifying for 'recurring'. Oh and let's face it, Cliff Simon was spot on, pure dead delicious evil as Baal. He's the ultimate baddie. He's the James Bond of the bad guy set - perfectly cast. There are some I would like to have seen return, but that's for another day. I would have to say that Walter Harriman, played by Gary Jones, was the guy for me who never got his just due. A little more air time here and there with some substance would have been nice. Here's a great example why he's a much beloved character within the Stargate verse. It is arguably one of his finest moments.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Starlog's Greatest Injustice


This is the best Starlog could do for Stargate. These are the two best covers featuring Stargate's Richard Dean Anderson and Stargate Atlantis' Torri Higginson. You could say pathetic!

There is still time left to pick up the latest issue of Starlog [#360] featuring an article on actor David Hewlett's film A Dog's Breakfast and his role on Stargate Atlantis. Look Starlog is still one of the premiere news sources on our favorite science fiction, but I do have one bone to pick with the publication.

The magazine has had some nerve over the past decade. It has spotlighted covers on Star Trek [41 times], Battlestar Galactica [5], Farscape [2], Babylon 5 [2], Andromeda [1], Lost [1], Firefly [2] and even Heroes [1], not to bloody well mention Earth 2 [1] [more on that sore excuse for science fiction later]. I won't even go into the other nonsense that received cover shots over the years, but not a single issue has ever been dedicated to Stargate or Stargate Atlantis. Would not a 10th Year Celebration issue have been appropriate? Would not the launch of a new Stargate series in Atlantis have counted? Something? Oh sure, there have been the ocassional inset pictures, but never has there been a cover story for one of science fiction's greatest storied series. Hell, Stargate has made The Guiness Book Of World Records for longest-running science fiction series, but apparently is undeserving of a Starlog cover photo. What is wrong with this picture? How could a publication with the word 'Star' in its very title not once dedicate a cover to Stargate? A travesty I say. Starburst, Cult Times and TV Zone in the UK have all dedicated covers to the heroes of SG-1. But not once in over 10 years could America's finest science fiction magazine find a single month to highlight Stargate and let it grace its own historical run. Now how on Earth does that happen? Perhaps, Starlog in an alternate universe summoned the will to commit the series to a cover print or some Starlog publisher out there on P3X-118, but certainly not here apparently. Hmmmm....... that's one crime I'll never understand.

If there is one thing to be learned by this, it's you don't need the COVER to be a success.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Unending

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Okay not sure I could close the door on her?

Seriously, ten years later, and Stargate SG-1 finally ended or unended, if you will, bidding farewell.

The final episode, Unending, was a truly special departure as far as television goes indeed.

It's remarkable to me the mythology that has been cultivated so richly like Star Trek. It is spectacularly detailed and original building year after year on the vision of its creators. Where Star Trek has the Klingons and Borg, Stargate the Goa’uld and Replicators.

Such unique, wholly orginal and thoroughly realized worlds are precisely why these franchises succeed. It is why it was so hard to say goodbye to the original SG-1. They are like old friends.

Star Trek has existed much longer and Stargate might seem in its infancy by comparison, but like the Enterprise it is the Stargate that delivers the adventure. The imagination, the writing, the acting, the entire collaborative was pure genius thanks to the likes of Peter Deluise, Brad Wright, Jonathan Glassner, Robert Cooper and the cast and crew. It was this combined effort and chemistry that made such a lasting impression on modern science fiction.


Unending culled many elements from the show together [time dilation, the Asgard, the Ori, hyperdrive] and came up with yet another entirely refreshing new story, not to mention reversing time.
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In my opinion, it was one of the most emotionally resonant shows from Stargate's entire catalog [much to debate here] next to the 2 part episode Heroes. Perhaps it was the combination of writing, directing and performance combined with knowing it was the end. It was bittersweet. It was the end of an amazing run. It would seem fitting it was written and directed by one Robert C. Cooper.

Unending's focus: the comraderie of Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black and Beau Bridges [with a bit of old friend Thor voiced by Michael Shanks]. A montage of the cast's interaction plays over "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival [the first pop song used in the series]. It is genuine, heartwarming and entirely appropriate as longstanding friendships sustain hope in sheer isolation. The sequence is sheer poetry and especially for the fans that had been watching for 10 years understanding the cast dynamics. It is not random filler, but friends coping yet again with extraordinary circumstances. The performance between Claudia Black and Michael Shanks is absolutely raw emotion. There isn’t a single note of dialogue that doesn’t ring true - not a false note in Daniel's reaction to Vala in terms of their relationship and it is simply heartrending. Tapping, Browder, Judge and Bridges all serve up star turns in this 42 minutes of stunning television to cap what amounts to an amazing finish. This beautiful swansong brings it all home. There is a nostalgic quality to this pitch perfect finale. As this family sits to dine and laugh, we laugh and dine with them as our own. Interestingly, Robert C. Cooper's hand in this feels just as personal as it is to us. There is an elegiac tone to Unending's proceedings from the fading flames of the Asgard to the sheer helplessness our heroes face while still finding comfort in each other.

Special effects aside and they are always brilliant, as they say, 'it's about the characters stupid.'

I won't give it all away, but if someone reading this hasn't lived through the Stargate SG-1 experience, you need to begin here.
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Funny thing is, whenever the creators had to write their season finale they never knew if it would be their last and some were certainly good. Thank the television gods we got to this one. Unending couldn't be a more fitting end and farwell. It is hard to say goodbye to this one indeed.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Captain's Log Stargate 101607

Blogspace: The final frontier. These are the musings of a self-professed, unabashed Sci-Fi Fanatic boldly going where just about every man and woman has gone before but what the heck. A five year mission? We'll see. Maybe I'll make 5 months.

I thought it appropriate even fitting to kick off my very first post with classic lines from Star Trek's opening theme.


I am a collector of Stargate autograph cards among many other things. It is an insane passion and one that can be altogether expensive. Not only does it have an adverse affect on the bank account but it tends to affect the nerves and mind as well as one jockeys for position to win on ebay just prior to the end of an auction. Then comes those harrowing days praying for the safe arrival of said MINT card. We fear their journey through the massive, untrackable, unmerciful US Postal network. I actually like them generally speaking, but it's scary out there. We all simply sit back and pray the cards find their way.

In the meantime, this is one of my own personal classics, an official Richard Dean Anderson auto. His John Hancock was the first to grace the ongoing Stargate card series by Rittenhouse.

That's right, Richard Dean Anderson [MacGyver- though that show never really did it for me], the epitome of hero on Stargate SG-1. In fact, as much as I love Farscape's fantastic Ben Browder as a semi-Anderson replacement in Season 9 of Stargate SG-1, Anderson is still the MAN in that series in much the same way William Shatner was the MAN for Star Trek. The two men are the faces for their respective franchises [topics for another day perhaps].

Star Trek and Stargate respectively, clearly are the respected powerhouses of science fiction franchises as of this writing. We have not crossed those fragile lines of debate on the subtleties, nuances or even broad statements of fact as to which is clearly the better show. Obviously the success of Stargate Atlantis in the footsteps of SG-1 continues to prosper [sorry Spock] in much the same way Star Trek's many variations of its storied franchise prospered. So which science fiction program is better, Stargate or Star Trek and why? Let the debate begin.

Stay tuned for more from Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. We're just getting started.... indeed.

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