An Ongoing Trip Through The Wormhole
Way back in 1994 a movie was released to some critical acclaim and commercial success, it was not an easy birth for the scifi epic that was Stargate having initially been given a $25 Million budget but ultimately costing twice as much. The movie with its style and scope was intended to be the first part of a trilogy but that never came to pass and when MGM were approached separately by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner with scifi projects that two were brought together and Stargate SG1 was born. That series went on to be very popular with the scifi community without really breaking the scifi bubble in terms of mass awareness (unlike Trek) but it spawned Stargate Atlantis (5 seasons) and Stargate Universe (2 Seasons) as well as two TV/DVD movies and the non-canon children's animated series Stargate Infinity.
The decline of the DVD retail market put a cap on MGM investing further in SG1 and SGA after they finished their Syfy channel runs and MGM's own financial troubles which even threatened the future of Bond and other global IP concerns meant no more Stargate after Universe was cancelled. Of course the usual fan led efforts continued to support the franchise but for the most part Stargate was only kept alive by a fairly buoyant publishing deal mainly through Fandemonium (Stargate Novels) and alas some failed gaming efforts and of course the conventions, especially the conventions. Recently American Mythology has entered the Stargate comic/graphic novel market and their releases have been a welcome addition even if reception has been mixed (not unexpected given the scifi fans heart on their sleeve approach). However things changed (as they often do) when MGM announced a new Stargate project, we hoped for a massive investment in a new show (like CBS did with Trek or to a lesser extent a network rebirth along the lines of Red Dwarf, The X-Files or Twin Peaks) but it was not to be.
The new project (Stargate Origins) was to be a web based series of ten episodes around ten minutes each and funded with a subscription based online portal appropriately named Stargate Command. Once again a mixed response from fans especially as MGM can not due to existing contracts offer a global product and even now we are not sure exactly what MGM intend to do in the long term but here we are with the first three episodes released and the remaining ones due weekly behind the paywall.
It took me a while to subscribe to the service even though I am in one of the supported markets but eventually gained access to the exclusive content, mainly interviews and a few features. Now of course the remaining seven episodes of Origins should be exclusive but the first three are well outside the confines of the portal and it will not be a surprise to see the rest appear in the wild soon after release, the bane of modern digital distribution. So Episode 1 opens with movie footage which makes a lot of sense, it sets the scene and makes you feel at home, it then jumps ten years forward and we are introduced to the three main "hero" characters, Catherine (Ellie Gall), her father Paul Langford (Connor Trinneer) and her love interest Captain James Beal (Philip Alexander). After a decade of research Professor Langford is no closer to discovering the purpose of the artefact but it seems others are as a German Nazi Officer Dr. Wilhelm Brücke (Aylam Orian) arrives complete with a lexicon of Gate information and a means to power it up. We get a confrontation and to condense the first three episodes without giving away too much away the wormhole to some new world is created and people step though, later armed with the lexicon Catherine with friends follow.
I have to upfront and admit when a web series was announced I knew it was not going to be a high budget production, infact I was thinking along the lines of a couple of million dollars for a 90 minute production. For those that like the "b" movies that Syfy often offer up you know that they could do a lot with a little money but the results are not often worthy of praise. Of course with passion and commitment things can certainly be swayed towards being well beyond what you would expect and so far Stargate Origins is still on the fence. The warehouse set and props looked very good, the casting and acting (for the most part) perfectly acceptable but then they showed us the kawoosh and event horizon. Now the kawoosh was just ok but they did emphasis the rear vortex (as in the movie) and I really liked that but the CGI for the surface of the wormhole was very very weak, embarrassingly so given the strides made by the three live action shows over 17 seasons. That aside some of the plot elements were a little puzzling, continuity (Stargate Knowledge/Activation) is out the window already but that is easily adjusted (memory wipes and/or deaths etc) and while we've seen the Gate powered by many means of the years and on many worlds I'm not entirely sold on how the Nazi got the thing working for the first time since it was used by Ra back in the day. We also got to see exactly how limited the budget is in terms of locations/sets etc as we were obviously in a very confined shooting set dressed accordingly and as mentioned in another blog/review the cinematography is not kind to the props, lighting is everything in making something look far better than it should. The gate room on the alien world was grating to look upon, so small, so plastic looking but again not all bad since costuming was good and you know I think this is what we are going to get for all of Origins. There are going to be cringe worthy elements and also very pleasing elements, hopefully after ten episodes and maybe edited into a feature presentation we can say it was a step in the right direction. However it also has to be said that as the major studios and media concerns (CBS, Disney, Netflix, Amazon etc) go to war for the consumers money by offering huge investments in content there is no doubt MGM are the minnows in a very small pond not even connected to the lake the big boys are splashing around in.
Stargate Origins is better than nothing but alas falls neither into a "gift" from MGM to the fanbase for our loyal support of the franchise or a real attempt to relaunch Stargate in a form that reflects the modern economic model/market. I am satisfied that I subscribed to Stargate Command as I do want to show MGM that beyond owning the DVD/Blu-rays, books etc I want more content and am willing to pay but at this point I have doubts Origins will prove anything either way to the suits that hold the purse strings.