Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No, I'm Not Going to Watch "Stargate"

Overzealous fans of any sort can tough to deal with, whether it's the sports enthusiasts or hardcore doll collectors. The ones that tend to give me most of a headache, however, are the science-fiction media fans. Now I love science-fiction. I've read Bradbury and Asimov and Ellison and LeGuin from an early age. And I love science-fiction media. However, this does not mean I'm going to automatically watch and become a fan of every single property that's out there.

Which brings me to "Stargate SG-1." Upon hearing that I was a fan of "Farscape," a friend insisted that I check out the "Stargate" television show because Ben Browder and Claudia Black both become regulars in the later seasons. I checked out a few Youtube clips and enjoyed them, but ultimately decided the show was not for me. This didn't go over well. How could I call myself a true science-fiction fan if I was ignoring one of the most popular science-fiction shows of the last decade, that spawned all these spinoffs and was a cornerstone of the Sci-Fi Channel's programming for so long?

It's not easy engaging with media fans who are deeply invested in a show that I'm apathetic about, because they obviously have strong feelings toward the material and I don't. My reasons for not wanting to watch "Stargate" are very simple. It doesn't look appealing to me. The production values look cheap, the show's alien has a big, distracting gold insignia pasted on his forehead to show he's an alien, and the rest of the cast is usually decked out in military fatigues. In fact, the military is so heavily involved in the premise, that Wikipedia actually lists this as "military science fiction." I like some entries to this genre, like "Space Above and Beyond," "Babylon 5," and the "Star Trek" shows, where we see future versions of the armed forces, but honestly the Robert Heinlein stuff never does much for me. And "Stargate" is centered around the contemporary military, which limits what they can really do with the whole concept.

I've also heard plenty of chatter about the show, enough to gather that the cast is pretty good but the episodes are repetitive and easily watched out of sequence. There's lots of action, but not much by way of interesting effects or novel science-fiction concepts. "Stargate" is often complimented as being accessible, meaning that a viewer with no prior knowledge of any characters or storylines could watch any random episode and not be lost. Frankly, this sounds like a nice way of saying that the show was not very ambitious. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I like a good, cheesy action series. I wasted plenty of hours on "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Xena" in my time. They can be great entertainment. But I'm not interested in "Stargate." Sorry. No thank you. No offense. This is just not what I'm looking for right now.

I find myself getting so riled up because this isn't the first time I've run into this situation. Just because I call myself a science fiction fan, there's a presumption that I have to know and love all the big, popular recent shows like "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" and "Stargate" that I never really go into. Maybe it's a fan solidarity thing. Maybe it's the remnants of an older attitude toward science fiction fandom. I remember back in the 80s and 90s there were so few science fiction shows around on broadcast television, I watched a lot of really terrible ones because they were all I had access to. However, times have changed. There are plenty of genre shows all over the TV landscape now, and a lot of the previously cable-only offerings have made their way to DVD and online streaming. I have a lot to catch up on, and I'm well past the point of watching science-fiction shows just because they're science-fiction.

I want to emphasize again, I have no problem with viewers who like "Stargate." I don't think any less of them for championing the show. And I wouldn't mind if they didn't want anything to do with my favorites, like "Doctor Who" or "The X-Files." Not all science-fiction appeals to the same people, and we shouldn't all be lumped together, just because our favorite programs make appearances at the same conventions. There shouldn't still be this obligation to all watch the same couple of programs in order to count as a fan. I haven't seen "Stargate" and I'm not going to. At least, not until I've gotten through "Misfits," "Twin Peaks," "The Outer Limits," "Night Gallery," "Life on Mars," "Torchwood," "Fringe," "Blake's 7," "The Prisoner," "The Walking Dead," "Red Dwarf," "The Dead Zone," "The 4400," "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," and "Star Trek."

Uh, yeah. I've never seen the original "Star Trek" either.

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