A Sci-Fi “Star” Franchise Exploration into “Trek,” “Wars,” “Stargate,” and More — Part 1
The Multi-Media-Verse Battle of the Centuries
The science-fiction/fantasy all-media fan base has never been so satisfied or saturated. Countless television shows and feature films shower the airwaves and streams and movie theatres, inclusive of DC Comics and Marvel-ignited product, and beyond.
Star Trek and Star Wars fans, in particular, are pleased with sequel after reboot or re-do of their beloved favorite franchises, despite a disparity in how various renditions of those individual Star worlds have been conceived, perceived or received.
With the invasion of creatives like J.J. Abrams into both the Trek and Wars worlds, to mixed reviews by both fans and fellow-creatives, with new series editions of Trek, namely, Discovery and Picard, poorly or richly embraced (depending on who you talk to), this is as good a time as any to assess the sci-fi TV situation, beyond and including all shows Trek and beyond, but with specific regard to weekly Wagon Train to the Stars, which how is Trek creator Gene Roddenberry initially described the original Star Trek series, when it debuted on NBC in 1966 (and in reference to a classic TV western which aired on ABC from 1957 to 1965).
While there were some legal issues in the 1970s with the original Battlestar: Galactica TV series (created by Glen Larson, and which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1979) due to its alleged resemblance to the first big-screen edition of Star Wars (created by George Lucas, and which premiered in 1977), in that same era, sci-fi fans could not have been more pleased when Star Trek: The Motion Picture reignited Roddenberry’s beloved child which has proven to have no end.
What many do not remember, however, is that Roddenberry had originally slated Trek to return to the small screen with a concept he titled, Star Trek: Phase II, but taking in account(ing) Warner Bros. receipts for Wars, Paramount, proprietor of Trek, switched gears and decided to bring Trek back in the big-screen guise of a Motion Picture.
That said — the space cadet/academy/military of the sci-fi division of entertainment is a delicate and challenging nut to crack — but let’s try, shall we?
Certainly, many fans fell hard when a new edition of Battlestar: Galactica(created by Larson and Trek vet Ronald D. Moore) debuted in 2004, even though many other fans felt assaulted by the dark, droney fresh take on the original Battlestar.
But let’s journey beyond the stars, betwixt dimensions with warp speed and land upon a gem in the space rock field continuum that is many times overlooked in the realm of sci-fi Star comparisons:
Stargate SG-1 which, like TV’s M*A*S*H (how’s THAT for a comparison?!), was based on the 1994 feature film, with a different cast lead by Kurt Russel, and simply titled Stargate.
The SG-1 TV characters were embodied by Richard Dean Anderson (as the flip, yet stoic and loyal Col. Jonathan Jack O’Neill), Michael Shanks (the inquisitive and brilliant Daniel Jackson), Amanda Tapping (the no-nonsense Dr. Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (as the evasive but charming Teal’c), each of which were believable in unbelievable situations for seven years on the show (originally on Showtime, then in syndication, then on Syfy; then the Sci-Fi Channel).
We cared about them, because they cared about each other. We liked them because they were likable. We laughed with them. We ached for them. We applauded and cheered them on. We wondered with anticipation to where their galactic-gateway-to-the-stars were to take them, week after week — and what they were to do once they arrived there (wherever there was). Into which world would they tumble? Which civilization would they uncover? Align with? Fear?
Like the show itself, the SG-1 team remained unpredictable, but not exhaustive or obnoxious. They were appealing, because their exploits were adventures of the heart, played out for the entire universe to see, embrace and enjoy.
In short, Stargate SG-1 captured magnificently what other shows in the planet-to-planet genre have ultimately failed to do, even — and particularly — the many small (and big screen for that matter) incarnations of Star Trek, the initial screen template for which debuted way, way back in 1966.
SG-1 became everything Trek’s Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise attempted to be, should have become, and simply never became. And it doesn’t look like either Discovery or Picard are going to improve that ratio. It seems like all of the post-Original Trek editions were created, partially, to right what many considered a central dysfunction of the original series: to expand upon character-driven stories, of which only a handful was featured.
In the case of the continued Trek franchise, too many rights made a wrong. The new Treks overcompensated with too much character development, and neglected the marvel of Roddenberry’s ethereal, original vision — to explore strange new worlds — to “trek” to the stars…undiscovered countries, and to exude charm and exhilarate the audience in the process.
For many, the new Treks transmuted L.A. Law In Space and Deep Space Blues. The characters talked and talked and talked and talked, but no one went anywhere with any legitimate sense of fancy, or imagination. Most of the Next Generation, Deep Space, and Voyager segments became, in effect, what used to be called “bottle shows,” with all the so-called adventure taking place on board the Enterprise, the space station, or any other number of starships.
In essence — where all the action wasn’t.
Can it be that the 1999 hit feature film Galaxy Quest, a Trek satire if there ever was one, is actually a better science fiction entry than any of the Star Trek big or small screen sequels put together? Quest certainly equaled in entertainment value any episode of the original Trek TV show.
Find out the answer by clicking on the link below for Part 2 of A Sci-Fi “Star” Franchise Exploration into “Trek,” “Wars,” “Stargate,” and More: The Multi-Media-Verse Battle of the Centuries.
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