Hang on, I’ve lost the plot: The Stargate SG-1 Syndrome

In my televisual and filmic viewing, I have high standards. I don’t believe in watching any old thing just because it’s on the telly. I am a discerning and intelligent viewer. As such, there are certain criteria which I use to scientifically determine whether I should give up my precious time and view any visual work of art. After many years, I have managed to hone down my requirements, to crystallise the very essence of what makes a TV programme or a film worth watching. There are, for me, basically two requirements for any creative representation to have credibility and inherent value. Media without these two elements will not hold my attention for very long. Those two essentials are: aliens and explosions.

Yes, George Lucas, pay attention. Watching aliens in a committee meeting discussing the latest trade agreements is not riveting. Make a good story, it does not.

I watch TV with my wife. Some of our televisual preferences actually overlap. And some do not. But we had a go at watching Stargate SG-1, the series spin-off from the film Stargate. I’d seen the original film and thought it was good. It had, as I recall, both aliens and explosions. We weren’t to know at the time but we joined the party a little late. I discovered later that Stargate SG-1 ran for ten seasons. And we joined in the tenth.

Sometimes one of us is less than attentive. Okay, I admit it, that would be me. And sometimes, as a consequence, I lose the plot. I actually enjoy a TV series where there is a thread through the episodes, even if each story itself is reasonably self-contained. But that thread can soon become a tangled cardigan of multi-dimensionality. So it’s a case of: “Oh, look, it’s that guy from a few weeks ago. Who does he work for?” and “It’s her again. I thought she got shot?”

I like Stargate SG-1 but my, oh my, I sometimes need a set of notes so I can remember who’s who. And jumping in on the last season was not a good idea, if only we’d known that’s what we were doing. The whole thing can get a bit confusing. Like this…

Opening credits: Aliens. Explosions. What’s not to like?

The scene: Our four heroes arrive through the stargate on a planet that looks curiously like a national park in the US. The colonel glances furtively around.

The Colonel: Okay, there’s no sign of the Pah-Tark-Oh-Ree!

Big muscley alien sweeps the area with his zap-ray-gun.

BM Alien: Indeed. Master Blee and the Koranons were correct. This planet has not been visited by the Maylo.

Speccy academic squints at hieroglyphs on a wall.

Speccy Academic: This appears to be an ancient inscription. I believe it tells of the device known as the Shadow of the Planets, a powerful weapon capable of defeating the Chee-Kla’h. I just need a few minutes to translate it.

Speccy academic studies the wall and after a while presses various symbols. The wall shudders and an alien device appears. The fourth member of the team, Betty Brains, dismantles the object.

Betty Brains: It looks like a decoder for the neuron interface we found on Char’ek 3. If I can reverse the polarity of the ion flow, I should be able to initiate the warp emitter. If I can narrow the frequency, I can generate a dimension reflux that will cause a cascading thermal inversion and create a temporal displacement. I just need a few minutes to reprogram the main core subroutines and then shift the online transmuter to its secondary phase.

A group of aliens appear from the bushes, firing zappy weapons. Our heroes return fire. There are zapping noises and bullets and, yes, there are explosions. The aliens part to make way for an evil looking guy.

Evil Looking Guy: Earthlings! How dare you challenge the Kapachee Delariat of the Fourth Trionic Devarani. The Cho’tep will hear of this!

At this point I am asking my wife to confirm whether Evil Looking Guy was the same Evil Looking Guy who was killed three episodes ago. She assures me that he is and yes he was killed but he’s better now. And who are the Cho’tep? My wife replies that the Cho’tep are the ancestors of the Daa-rush who lived on the moon of P’tow and were defeated by the Etchalangelons five episodes ago, except that our heroes travelled through time and changed the outcome of the battle.

Confused? Well I am.

So. What am I asking for here? Do I want simpler plots? Not just for Stargate but for all of the programmes I watch. Do I want the kind of writing where it doesn’t matter what order you see the episodes? – I will classify that as The Lone Ranger Syndrome as I recall that, whatever happened, by the end of the episode we were back to the status quo. Perhaps I could call it The Dick Van Dyke Show Syndrome as that had the same rules or… well, you get the idea. This would certainly make things easier for my friends the programme schedulers. I remember being particularly confused once when a channel once broadcast a two-parter of a particular series in the wrong order. That was definitely a case of “Didn’t he already do that?… Why is she going back there when the baddie’s hiding there?” Anyway. I guess not.

I feel I am left with two possible solutions. Firstly, I need a Smart TV. By which I mean a Clever TV. One that can remind me of the plot. A simple spoken command of “Freeze! Who is this? Isn’t this the baddie who got captured last week?” And the TV would tell me what was going on. It would also be useful in identifying actors as I am often thinking “Who is that? Haven’t I seen him before?” Mr CleverPants TV (for that is the name I have designated for this device) would then tell me. This week I watched the mini-series Meteor and I had to log onto imdb.com to find out the hero was the guy who played The Rocketeer. I am a busy man. I don’t have time to be accessing the interweb when I should be watching TV. (As an aside, let me just say that Meteor was an astoundingly bad piece of sci-fi. Actually, regardless of the genre, it was appalling example of a TV programme. But I digress.)

The other possible solution to this would be a bigger brain. That way I could store all of the very important data that I require to watch a series. Of course, this wouldn’t cater for the situation where I hadn’t actually seen previous episodes. Perhaps, during the night, I could have the entire TV series downloaded into my brain but stored in my subconscious so I could draw on the information as required.

Of course, I guess a third solution would be to watch a series right from the beginning – although this isn’t always possible. Luckily, they are repeating all of Stargate so we are filling in the gaps and often have “Oh, so that’s what happened to him!” moments. I am also tempted to take notes. But I would never be able to admit that. So, if I ever do that, I would need to count on your discretion to not mention it in public. Thank you.

And now a fourth solution has appeared in my at-the-moment little brain. I could stop watching TV and do something worthwhile. But that’s not going to happen. Is it?

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