Last year, I attended my first Star Trek convention in Birmingham and I had an amazing time. I met the stars who-until then-I had only seen through the glass barrier that we call television. They were all so friendly and at the end of the convention I knew that I was going back, but I had decided that I needed to see what the more premium tickets were like.
Originally, I was considering the Admiral pass which costs a pricey £3,000 (which according to Google is currently worth $3851.02). After some deliberation , a trip to Los Angeles and another one coming next year I decided on the lower priced Captain’s pass which was only £800 ($1026.80). Only £800 he says- but compared to £3,000 it’s a significant reduction. So, was it worth it? What benefits did I get for the premium price? Well luckily for you I can tell you without it costing you £800.
REACHING OUT INTO THE UNIVERSE AND BACK – STARGATE UNIVERSE, STARGATE ORIGINS AND THE LEGACY
With the cancellation of Stargate Atlantis and the announcement that the new series of Stargate would be going after a younger, sexier demographic; Stargate Universe was already on a back foot before a single scene had been shot. The loyal audience of Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis felt ostracized by the producers of Stargate Universe with the announcement. It didn’t help that they also decided to take the series in a darker direction, capitalizing on the success of the recent Battlestar Galactica remake which was getting high critical acclaim. Because they copied the grittier tone of Battlestar Galactica, the sense of humor was almost entirely stripped away from the series- this left the fans feeling like it wasn’t a Stargate series at all. Add to it that most of the characters in the series were seen as bland or downright unlikable, there was this feeling of disassociation from the brand that turned off many Stargate fans away from the series. The series also took too long to find its direction- many of the early episodes felt like their hook was literally just about what resource they needed to replenish this week.
With the success of Stargate SG1 the producers started to think of ideas on how to expand the Stargate universe. They started coming up with several different ideas on how to continue the franchise. The initial idea was that SG1 would end and the spin off would pick up where it left off. The SGC would have relocated to an ancient base under Antarctica and the series would have taken place in our galaxy still. When they realized that there was no way they were going to be able to wait for SG1 to finish because it kept getting renewed, they decided to run both series concurrently and move the Atlantis series to another galaxy.
Moving the series to the Pegasus Galaxy freed the producers and writers up to tell different stories and introduce new and different races and cultures that were not bound by the canon that SG1 had established. It also meant that they needed to establish a new antagonist species to the series. They didn’t want to re-tread old ground on the type of enemy they had for Atlantis– they wanted something different from the Goa’uld. The Wraith were the result. Vampiric in nature, the Wraith feed upon human beings- draining their life energy and absorbing it into themselves. This makes them incredibly resilient to damage and allows them to heal quickly (especially if they have just recently fed). It was decided that the Wraith would have a matriarchal society with Queens being the top of the chain, much like bees. They took a lot from the hierarchy of bees in designing the Wraith.
Due to the success of the original film, there was intention for Stargate to continue, the original creators of the film envisioned a trilogy of films-whilst others had a different idea. Producers Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner had been working on The Outer Limits together and both of them, independently from each other, approached MGM with the same idea: a TV series based on the Stargate film. Upon realising they had the same idea, they decided to work together on the project. They spent three months studying the original film to learn the mechanics of the Stargate and came to a conclusion: there was no way that the Stargate would only go to one place. From the idea that the gate requires 6 symbols and the point of origin to establish a connection (and there are 38 symbols on the gate itself, not including the point of origin), you can deduce that there are 1,987,690,320 different permutations of gate addresses possible. That’s a lot of potential addresses to go to. So, it makes sense that there are Stargates all over the galaxy rather than just two.
In October of 1994, Stargate hit the cinema screens and became a surprise hit. Critics were not kind to the Roland Emmerich-directed epic adventure, but it struck a chord with audiences with it’s stunning photography and intriguing story. It launched a franchise that has become one of the most popular Science Fiction franchises of all time. A franchise that consists of: 3 films, 3 live action series, 1 animated series and, most recently, a 10 part mini-sode series. Not to mention the various games and books that were released. But we will get to all that in time; first we need to go back to the beginning, to where it all started….The 1994 feature film.
I should probably preface this part of the article with a small statement; it may seem like I am being harsh against the feature film but that is only because of everything that came after. The film started it all and without it we wouldn’t have got SG1 or anything else, however, for me the film just doesn’t hold up in comparison to the series.
I’m going to pretend for just one minute that I didn’t start watching Alien Nation because the main character’s name is shockingly close to my own. I didn’t see an advert for it on the Sci-Fi Channel at the age of 13 and hear “Detective Matt Sikes” and think to myself, “That’s almost my name! I have to watch this show.” No- it was the incredible social commentary that drew me in, the social commentary that was entirely absent from the advertisement. The truth was, 13-year-old Matt Dykes heard Detective Matt Sikes and saw an action-packed cop-show advert that happened to have aliens in it and wanted to watch the show. But you know what? I am so glad I saw that advert because when I was able to sit down and watch Alien Nation, I was blown away by the series. It wasn’t long before I was recording them on video. Once the DVDs were finally released in the UK, my pre-order was placed immediately. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have watched all 22 episodes of the series close to 30 times over the last 18 years. What is it about the series that drew me in, apart from sharing a very similar name to the main character? The answer really is this: everything. The characters, the setting, the stories, the music, everything about the series. It was interesting, it was different and it had something to say.
I remember a time when a film was released, people watched them. And if they didn’t enjoy them or they didn’t like them, they might have gotten annoyed about it or they maybe complained to their friends about how shit it was. Now people seem to think that if they don’t enjoy a film or TV series, they have a right to petition the makers to go back and remake it to how they want it. I, for one, am sick of it.
We have written a few articles on this site about fandom, nerddom and the like, but I feel that we often spend the majority of the time condemning fans for wanting things they love to match their expectations- without ever really trying to think about things from their side.
I’m going to do something out of character: I’m going to try to see how I’ve been wrong and dive into why the angry fanboy is right- even if what they do with their anger is wrong. No matter how much you hate any piece of media, you can trust that people (not all of them, sure) poured their blood sweat and tears into it and any personal attacks are not only a waste of time, but outright cruel. To do this, I’m going to be looking at some recent films and TV shows and spoil the hell out of them, so be warned….
July 20th 1969 was a watershed moment for the human race; from the moment that spacecraft touched down on the surface of the Moon everything changed. The real-life events- that 20 years previous would have seemed like science fiction-became science fact and the stars were within our grasp for the first time ever. We could land a human on the Moon, then we could colonise it. If we could land a human on the Moon, then we could land a human on Mars. The fantastical had become reality and we now knew what it took to travel amongst the stars.
SAM RECOUNTS HER TIME VISITING WETA STUDIOS IN NEW ZEALAND!
On December 26th, I got to visit Weta Studios on the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington, NZ, fulfilling an eighteen-year dream. Weta is four separate companies — Weta, Weta Digital, Pukeko Pictures, and Park Road Post. They also have physical studio space at Stone Street Studios. The front doors of the Weta Cave, the physical effects and prop house where Richard and Tania Taylor, along with Peter Jackson crafted the miniatures of Middle Earth, are guarded by Mr. Bilbo’s trolls. There’s a gift shop with a mini-museum, one of the only places where they have any major references to Peter Jackson’s early horror films. We got a snap of the Sumatran Rat Monkey.
The tour itself does not go through any workspaces, but it does include windows into their machine shop and armory. There are also artists working on their projects that take questions at the end. It’s far from the real experience of being in a studio space, but the tour guides and props they have on display are no less beautiful.
The second half of the tour found us at Pukeko Pictures, a production company responsible for the animated series Thunderbirds Are Go! Like the original Thunderbirds series from the 1960s, this family show used physical sets. However, instead of marionettes, the characters are all CGI animation. The sets themselves are more of what I had expected to see at the Weta cave — sets actually used for filming, and they were an absolute dream to view up close. Seeing the craftsmanship, ingenuity and creativity, not to mention the fascinating hybrid animation technique, really inspired me.
It has been eighteen years since I first watched Fellowship of the Ring — my first true movie obsession, the film that made me want to make films. In that time, I did go to film school, and I now work in animation, albeit in marketing, not production. It’s fascinating to take a step outside of that and see a movie studio through a fan lens. It made me realize what a big influence a movie can have on a person. As much as I wanted to see the nitty-gritty, the cubicles, the harried assistants and the ugly process of actually building a movie, it was refreshing to be reminded of the magic.
This week, back at my own desk, bogged down in the minutiae of one sheets and trailer release dates, I kept reminding myself to take a step back. While movies are my job and jobs feel tedious more often than not, what we do has the potential to connect with people. Whether it’s a favorite joke, a sweet character moment, or a movie like Fellowship that is such a big undertaking it inspires a person’s life choices, movies find their way into our hearts and minds. They connect us across oceans and continents, and we find ways to make sense of our own stories because a bunch of weirdos go to work every day to build something from nothing.
Weta was not necessarily the mind-blowing experience it would have been for me when I first watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but in some ways, it was more satisfying. It changed me yet again — from a jaded adult to one a little more inspired to take on her day.
Samantha Garrison belongs to a Saint Bernard named Laddi, so her life is an endless stream of drool. She believes in Ewoks, the true saviors of the galaxy far far away, Tilda Swinton, and a world without Jurassic Park sequels.