I came across an interesting story the other day on Blastr, the blogtastic shell of what was once SciFi Wire, featuring some concept art from “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.”
The artwork itself was fascinating (especially the Hoth battle against the Cython) but what got me thinking more wasn’t the article itself but instead the comments posted against it. The first glimpse – with heavy emphasis on the word “glimpse” – of the “Battlestar Galactica” prequel series has instantly sparked debate and speculation on the creative directions that the series will take.
Caught in the crossfire of the discussions are “Caprica” and “Stargate: Universe,” both of which were recently (and unjustly) canceled by Syfy.
One user, going by the name of Kermonk, expressed his feelings on “Blood & Chrome,” using “Caprica” and SGU as a cautionary tale.
“Remember the eight deadly words: ‘I don't care what happens to these people’ - if this is more dark brooding teen soap nonsense like ‘Caprica’ and SGU, this show will quickly suffer the same fate.”
In their demise, both “Caprica” and “Stargate: Universe” are serving as an example on what will happen if you displease Syfy in the ratings department. As an entertainment station, Syfy sure seems to struggle when it comes to imagining greater.
Now don’t get me wrong, television is a above all else a business. Syfy has recently announced a stack of new projects that will surely taken the genre to new places. You have to appreciate the intricacies of doing that and the need for all players to perform. But a team is only as good as its coach, and this season Syfy simply hasn’t brought its A-game.
For a start, putting “Stargate: Universe” up against shows like “Glee” (on Fox) and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (on CBS) turned out to be a disaster. This poorly conceived decision inevitably led the series to excel on the post-night viewings (thanks to the DVR and video on demand) but plummet on live ratings. Instead of mixing things up a little or exploring other options, the show was cut.
In a genre like science-fiction where viewers are pretty tech-savvy, the idea that Syfy doesn’t put more stock in alternate ways to experience a series is a curious notion … especially since “Stargate: Universe” has proven itself in that area.
The audience size watching SGU within a week of its air was up 78 percent over the live viewers, serving as proof that the show had an audience. Why more scheduling options weren’t attempted is a question that will surely be asked for many months to come.
“Stargate: Universe” had plenty of potential and, like “Battlestar Galactica,” took the genre to a darker and broodier place that is only beginning to be explored fully. Its second season was a noticeable improvement from the first year, introducing more incident and excitement to the already busy mix.
At its core, though, the series remained a character drama in much the same vein as “Lost.” Yes, aliens, planets and Destiny’s mission were all prominent parts of the show, but it was the characters that you tuned in to see on a weekly basis. The fantastic situation they found themselves in was merely a backdrop and a way to push them to their limits.
Take for instance “Malice,” an episode that took a simple approach to telling a gripping story. The episode featured Robert Knepper, known for his bad-ass roles in “Prison Break” and “Heroes,” doing what he does best by being a character we love to hate.
Hunted by Rush (Robert Carlyle), Simeon plays a game of cat-and-mouse on a barren rock of a planet while Eli (David Blue) struggles to cope with his own grief. The episode stripped all three characters down to their most vulnerable and revealed them for who they are.
As a wonderful setting for the encounter, the New Mexico desert emphasized the emptiness and emotional desolation felt by the characters after losing their loved ones, and the and natural hostility of the terrain served as a warning of just how deadly Simeon is. Robert C. Cooper, who both wrote and directed the episode, clearly outdone himself from start to finish with the episode.
So with such creativity clearly being demonstrated, the cancelation comes as a hard-hitting blow for not just the Stargate franchise, but the science-fiction genre as a whole.
In the same discussion thread, another user hit back, suggesting that one of the reasons “Stargate: Universe” is so enjoyable is that it tackles stories that other shows do not.
“So you are more like a ‘Warehouse 13’ and ‘Eureka’ type of guy? Everything has to be fun fun fun, simple and retarded?”
Personally speaking, I’ve never watched “Warehouse 13” or “Eureka” beyond a handful of episodes. Neither show was terribly bad, but at the same time, neither carried the same feeling of threat or building excitement. Nor did either show give me a reason to care about the characters.
In abundant supply, both shows relied on the light-hearted humor factor, one of the many reasons “Stargate SG-1” was adored for so many years (flashbacks to playing golf in the gateroom anyone?).
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in today’s climate; if you want to see bad things happen, switch on the news. “Warehouse 13” and “Eureka” are perfect examples of science-fiction escapism at work. Other genres are utilizing the same method, with shows like “Bones,” a crime series dealing with all manners of violence and gore, remaining fresh and upbeat with some light-hearted banter and character dynamics.
That show is primarily a standalone show, with the principal characters dealing with a different case each week. The relationships between the characters all remain serialized, with the events of one week affecting their lives the following week.
It is a sad fact that networks like standalone shows, where viewers can click in and out without loosing track of the story. The logic is sound: make a show as easy as possible to tune in to. There is no point in making a show difficult to follow and risk a cancelation before it is even out of the stable.
This is something one Blastr poster was considering with “Blood & Chrome,” expressing their worry that the show might be serialized. Their fear doesn’t come from a worry over the quality of the show, but instead the longevity.
“Do not make this a serial series. Make each episode a standalone show. It'll have a better chance of being successful.”
Meanwhile, another poster took a more cynical approach.
“I can't wait for this show to get canceled after six episodes. Come on, Syfy, don't disappoint me!”
Statements like these show exactly how much Syfy is damaging is reputation by the decisions being made with shows like “Caprica” and “Stargate: Universe” which try to be different.
Personally, I can’t wait for “Blood & Chrome.” What can be better than a continuation of the Battlestar Galactica saga? But the fact that the series will be replacing both “Caprica” and “Stargate: Universe” only leaves questions on whether or not the series will be worth investing in.
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