Viewers tune in for the hook, but they stay for the characters. It’s a lesson I learned working on Stargate. As much as fans enjoy the sense of adventure, the action, and the dazzling visual effects, it’s the characters at the heart of each show that draw them back, week after week. Whether it’s SG-1, the Atlantis expedition, the crew of The Destiny, or the crew of The Raza, fans check in with the characters they love because they’ve formed a connection with them. They are, in a way, extended family members they can visit with every time they watch an episode.
I think that one of the things that makes Stargate and Dark Matter special (and you can include Killjoys in this unique grouping) is that they offer science fiction fans something unique and, frankly, atypical of the genre – a sense of fun. They offer fans humor, whether in the stories or the characters themselves, something that goes such a long way toward establishing and fostering that aforementioned connection. And, while Wynonna Earp isn’t scifi, its genre chops and own underlying sense of humor makes it the perfect accompaniment to the existing SYFY Friday lineup. It’s the network’s most watched and most buzzed about night of programming. Back in 2011, Io9’s Charlie Jane Anders presented an article titled: 10 Actual Mistakes That Syfy Has Made Over The Years. Coming in at #3: “Abandoning Friday nights as an action-adventure bloc”. Remember the SG-1/SGA/BSG triple-bill? It was the original SciFi Friday lineup, the precursor to the existing Killjoys/Dark Matter/Wynonna Earp trifecta. The parallels are stark and if history has taught us anything, it’s “Don’t abandon Friday nights as an action-adventure bloc”!
Stargate: SG-1 was officially cancelled August 21st, 2006. In reality, the word came down down a little earlier – the night of the show’s 10th Anniversary party. The drinks and chocolate fountain were flowing, special commemorative booklets were being handed out, heartfelt speeches were being made and, at one point, amidst the celebration, the announcement was made. The tenth season would be the show’s last. But whether it was the acoustics or the booze or the generally festive atmosphere, most everyone missed it. I remember standing there, cup of liquid chocolate in hand, and throwing a confused look over to my longtime writing partner, Paul Mullie. “Did we just get cancelled?” His eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed as though he was trying to work it out in his head: “I – think so?”
It’s hard to make an argument that SG-1 was cancelled prematurely after ten glorious years on the air…but I’m going to make one anyway. It was premature. With the addition of Ben Browder, Claudia Black and Beau Bridges, and the introduction of a formidable new villain, plus some 300+ episodes of backstory and mythology to draw from, we still had so many stories to tell. If MGM called me up and told me we’d be doing an 11th season of the show and needed scripts pronto, I can guarantee you I’d have no problem coming up with a slew. Little known fact: Fans almost did get an 11th season of SG-1. The studio was in talks with iTunes who, at the time, was very interested in saving the show for one final 20 episode bow – but sadly, in the end, contractual handcuffs prevented it from happening.
Stargate: Atlantis was cancelled August 21st of 2008. If SG-1’s cancellation was a head scratcher, SGA’s was a fullout WTF?! Mainly because it didn’t make sense. I mean, what better way to launch a new Stargate incarnation than alongside a veteran powerhouse? One more season to wrap things up, say goodbye to the Atlantis expedition, and pass the torch. Instead, the veteran was unceremoniously ushered out and the new kid on the block just as unceremoniously ushered in, giving the semblance that one was cancelled to make room for the other. This, of course, wasn’t the case – but it didn’t matter. The optics were bad and the damage was done. The fans were pissed off – with predictable consequences. If there’s another thing history has taught us, time and again, it’s this: “Don’t piss off the fans!”. (See #1 on Charlie Jane Anders’ list).
Stargate: Universe was cancelled on December 16, 2010. I remember receiving the news in the office and trying to contact series EP and co-creator Brad Wright to no avail as he and the cast were in San Diego, out on a U.S. Navy ship at the time and effectively incommunicado. One of the actors later told me that the second they got into port, the cast checked their phones to discover their inboxes were full. They all knew – it wasn’t good news. Whether SG-1 and SGA’s runs ended too soon make for great debate, there’s no denying that, unlike SGU, both of those shows had endings that worked as series finales. That wasn’t the case for SGU as the series ended with the Destiny crew going into stasis, leaving a solitary Eli to figure out a seemingly impossible problem. Although the final shots of the ship’s various sections and systems going dark offer a perfect bookend to the show’s opening sequence of them coming alive, audiences were left hanging nevertheless. Destiny’s journey concluded prematurely and its tale ended incomplete. Adding to the frustration was the fact that co-creator Brad Wright had an endgame in mind, a final sequence he was working towards…that he never got the chance to reveal.
Dark Matter’s present situation is similar to that of SGU. Like Brad, I have an endgame in mind, one I’ve set up and have been working towards from the pilot. I know every secret’s reveal, how each set-up pays off, how every story ends. And, like Brad, I have the show’s final sequence in my head. I just hope I’m afforded the opportunity to get there.
Ideally, when all is said and done, the Dark Matter journey will be a closer match to that of Atlantis’s. Five full seasons – as it should be.