Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Maureen Ryan (The Chicago Tribune): On Stargate Universe

"So far the gloomy, underwhelming Universe seems to have ditched many of the elements that the previous Stargate shows had, notably camaraderie and a sense of adventure, without adding much in the way of narrative suspense or complexity."
-Maureen Ryan, The Chicago Tribune-

Here we all are. Writers and critics.

There was Pauline Kael writing a scathing critique of Blade Runner (1982) way back in 1982 and getting it all wrong. As Ridley Scott once said, and I'm paraphrasing, if it wasn't for the film industry she wouldn't have a job. The same holds true for television. And this writer would much prefer to focus on science fiction topics of interest that I enjoy over those disliked.

And just as Blade Runner had its Kael, here Stargate Universe had its own detractor in Maureen Ryan of The Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Tribune's Roger Ebert was a self-professed fan of science fiction. He had a keen eye for quality sci-fi like Dark City (1998). I'm not so sure Ebert would have agreed with Ryan's assessment of Stargate Universe (SGU) either.

And Ebert was still around when Stargate Universe arrived.

Personally, upon rediscovering the qualities that infuse SGU I believe Ryan couldn't have got it more wrong.

Brad Wright had a notable back and forth with Ryan on her opinion of the series before it really had a chance to take off. Most fans did. We all did. Wright and company were taking it from all sides. This writer missed the boat.

SGU is a dark show but it isn't all doom and gloom. It is also beautiful. It is exquisitely lit and each shot after breathtaking shot of cinematography is often stunning. Lighting and atmosphere also created a unique character in the seed ship herself, Destiny. She is special all on her own.

Were the cartoonish action adventure elements of the original franchise entries, SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, dropped in favor of a more serious, life and death tone? Was SGU as accessible to the mainstream? Yes and No to those questions. And SGU, and fans of the franchise, are all the better for it with a chance to appreciate two seasons of something entirely unique to the mythology. It was a series that required a bit of patience.

Ryan submitted there was little suspense or complexity. It's amazing how viewing experiences can be so markedly different. One could argue SGU has more suspense and complexity in its pinky finger than the previous two franchises combined. I can't help but wonder if she had a change of heart as the series moved along and progressed. SGU, indeed, took some time to acquire its flavor. It did for this writer and to the detriment of fans' support for the show, but the rhythms and beats of the series are something fresh and fantastic.

Sorry Maureen but space exploration had rarely been more fascinating and complicated as it was here for SGU. Each installment left this SGU fan with an overwhelming excitement for each new chapter.

But, again, we're writers. We have opinions. Sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes we're neither. It's all relative in the end. But the conversation is surely worth having?


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