Random Rant: Confessions Of A Stargate Apostate

Published on September 26th, 2013 in: Movies, Random Rant, Science Fiction, TV |

By Lisa Anderson

Daniel Jackson

Every self-described genre fans harbors some unpopular fannish opinions. Me? I love the 1994 movie Stargate, starring James Spader and Kurt Russell. That’s not the unpopular part, of course —I’m not alone in that at all. What sets me apart from other sci-fi fans and fans of the movie is that I’ve never watched Stargate SG-1, or any of the other shows and direct-to-DVD-movies that spun off it. For a long time, I resolved that I never would. Even now, with my objections gone, I have no immediate plans to see them.

Let me back up a bit. I went into Stargate without knowing a whole lot about it or having really anticipated it, and was totally blown away by it. This type of cinematic serendipity is one of my favorite movie going experiences. I also number Stargate along with The Matrix, Jaws, and only one or two other movies that feel to me like they are, for lack of a better phrase, of a whole piece. These movies are not perfect, but they are perfectly balanced—if there is anything that could be added, removed, or changed that would actually improve them, I can’t think of what it is.

Also Daniel Jackson

If the movie’s uplifting plot and fascinating take on alien astronauts weren’t enough for me, there was, of course, the character of Daniel Jackson. Both James Spader and the unorthodox archaeologist he played won my heart. With his longish blonde hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and awkward (but not to the point of being a caricature) manner, Daniel was the Platonic ideal of the sexy nerd. That has been a powerful trope for me ever since. Stargate was also the beginning of my Spader fandom, which has led me to watch projects as diverse as Sex Lies and Videotape, Wolf, and Boston Legal. All of them have been good but few of them have featured Spader playing anyone as wholesome as Daniel.

All things considered, you’d think I’d have been excited when I heard about Stargate SG-1. After all, it was the same premise, and Daniel Jackson would still be in it, even if he was being played by actor Michael Shanks now. And besides, none other than MacGyver was taking over the role of Col. O’Neil! But no—Stargate just wasn’t going to be the same for me without Spader.

Over the years, when I would explain my reason to fans of the show, they would generally look at me as if I had a chicken on my head. They would point out that Michael Shanks had spent way more time playing Daniel Jackson than James Spader had, and that he owned the role now in the eyes of fandom. While I had to acknowledge that, I still wasn’t persuaded to watch.

Also, strangely enough, Daniel Jackson

I had nothing against Shanks as an actor or a person, but I kept hearing this about the script that I didn’t like. (And, okay, fine, I caught part of one episode of season 1 back in college.) Daniel’s wife, Sha’uri, was kidnapped by the franchise’s antagonists in the pilot episode breaking up (for good, it turns out) an interracial and cross-cultural relationship that I’d enjoyed. On the one hand, it sounded like the show made Daniel its punching bag. At the same time, it sounded as if, in giving his character development, they made him into another Alpha hero, instead of the endearing Beta I loved and remembered.

I’m not quite sure when my position on Stargate SG-1 softened. It was probably the last time I re-watched the original film. I’ve seen it countless times, but I hadn’t seen it for a while, and that last viewing was a while ago. The movie still felt seamless, but now, with a more refined movie palate, I could see the ways in which it was both more predictable and less concept-oriented than I remembered.

Definitely NOT Daniel Jackson

It was then that I recognized that my resistance to watching SG-1 was not just about who was playing Daniel, or even how he was written or what direction the story took. It was a resistance to disrupting the original film’s tidy, happy ending, with the people of Abydos freed and everyone who wanted to go back to Earth headed there. It’s true, there are aesthetic concerns, too—a long-running series is bound to have the sort of missteps that can be avoided in a feature-length film. But suddenly, none of these seemed like good enough reasons to rule out enjoying further stories in this universe, especially considering that the series was already done and was well-loved by fans.

In other words, I can no longer say for sure that I would never watch Stargate SG-1. I’m still much more likely to watch James Spader’s new show, The Blacklist, first, or retweet set pics from his turn as the villain in the Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron. It’s also likely that he will always define the role of Daniel Jackson for me. At least now, though, I’m open to the possibility.

For better or worse, we’re living in an age of spinoffs and reboots. With SG-1 six years in the past, Stargate‘s time may come again. Some stories and characters, especially when you associate them with your youth or early adulthood, are better left alone. Others are worth expanding upon and growing. It’s a choice every fan has to make for him or herself, and that choice does not make them less of a fan.

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