7/25/09

Reinventing the Wheel


Stargate has been a successful franchise since 1997. On the other hand, Star Trek has been a successful franchise since 1969. Here's what happened to Star Trek: it took an old idea, serial westerns, and put them in a brand new environment: space. But with its lofty ideals, utopianistic predictions and impossible-to-produce technological effects it slowly slid farther and farther away from public acknowledgement. What it took to reinvigorate the franchise came just this year: a completely reinvented, yet true-to-spirit vision of the future. When Stargate SG-1 came out, it took a familiar idea, serial sci-fi, and put it in a brand new environment: present day. And it took about a decade for them to realize: "If we don't do something new, we're going to end up like Star Trek!"

In the last decade we've seen a complete turn-around in the way the public approaches science fiction. The geeks of yesterday have grown up to be the executive producers (executive producing geeks) of today and finally have the resources not only to produce the shows they want to see, but to be able to gauge what a general audience wants out of a science fiction show. This sci-fi revolution began, I think, with the reinvention of Battlestar Galactica. It's no secret that being a fan of the original BSG would have gotten you laughed at in public circles, but when you think of Battlestar Galactica today reactions range from "Oh, that's pretty cool," to "THAT'S FRAKKIN AWESOME!"

This paradigm shift has slowly but surely reached its way into pretty much every popular science fiction property. Sci-fi, while retaining its geek appeal, has become cool on levels of which the past geek culture could only dream. And now Stargate is adding its name to the list. With Stargate: Universe, Syfy is taking its longest-running franchise up to and possibly beyond the level of its most popular, Battlestar Galactica. It has familiar qualities and conventions, but it is completely reinvented and tells a completely new story in a completely new way. And not only that, but it's taking the classic Stargate approach of connecting it to modern culture through characters with whom we can actually relate.

There's absolutely nothing to hate about Stargate: Universe. At least not yet. I am as excited now as I was when I heard they were making the Star Trek movie. This teaser goes a long way toward showing us that we are in for an awesome ride. I just really hope they meet the Furlings.