Magical Mondays: All Alien Planets Are the Same

I love space. I am absolutely obsessed with outer space, exoplanets, and various other things that I don’t fully understand because I don’t science for a living or even go to school to learn how to science. But as someone who reads every science journal I can get my hands on about space and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, I think I’ve reached the point where I have at least a rudimentary understanding of things like gravity. Since I find science super fun, I’ve always been interested in exploring it through a fictional medium where I can vicariously travel to different planets and meet alien life. Stargate, Star Wars, Star Ocean, the new Star Trek movies—why do so many titles have Star in them?—and even Dark Matter and Jupiter Ascending are all right up my alley.

But one of the things that has always annoyed me about these stories is the lack of variety on the planets they go to visit. This is significantly less true for Star Wars and Star Trek, which feature a wide array of alien life and habitats, but in the end, the only way I can conclude that physics works the way it does in too many of these stories is because of magical plot convenience.

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Magical Mondays: Stargate Universe, Switching Bodies, and Consent

Stargate Universe CastI will always love the Stargate franchise, but holy hell, it has had some really problematic shit. All is not lost, though. While the first couple seasons of the original show had some pretty awful material, it improved a lot over the remaining seasons. By the time Stargate Universe—its second spin off show—came out, I expected the writers to have learned from all the mistakes of its predecessors. It really didn’t. Stargate Universe’s first season is the franchise at its worst—and that can best be seen in how the show utilizes alien technology.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Goa’uld: When Our Gods are Aliens

Stargate HaTak shipStargate will always be my favorite science-fiction show ever. If Jurassic Park is what got me into science, it was Stargate that continued to encourage me over the years. And though Stargate has had numerous problems starting out, it ended up being progressive in many other areas. All in all, Stargate: SG-1 was a fantastic show, and one that I was sad to see leave the air. And not only did the story delve into aliens, strong female characters, fantastical science, and various minority issues, such as racism and slavery, it also featured a lot of mythology. Unfortunately, the mythology, while being a central part of the story and adding depth to the narrative, is not the best from a more religious perspective.

Spoilers for the whole series below.

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Throwback Thursdays: Stargate SG-1

Welcome to another edition of Throwback Thursdays! I want to talk about the sci-fi show of my childhood—Stargate SG-1. The story starts as an ancient teleportation device, the Stargate, is discovered in Egypt, and Dr. Daniel Jackson, an anthropologist, joins the team lead by Col. Jack O’Neill to explore the worlds connected by the Stargates. The team is also joined by Dr. Samantha Carter, astrophysicist and member of the U.S. Air Force. On one of their expeditions they meet Teal’c, an alien slave warrior. He betrays his masters, the Goa’uld, and joins the team. The Goa’uld are a parasitic alien race pretending to be gods, and they remain the main enemies of our heroes for most of the show’s run.

Stargate_SG-1_teamAs a child, I loved this show because it was set “now” and the Stargate allowed them to travel to different planets without any tedious or scary space travel. Daniel and Sam were my favorites—as a child who would grow up to be a scientist, I related to their excitement and curiosity about learning about different planets, people, and technology. Now, as an adult, I decided to revisit my favorite series to see if it’s as good as I remember. I actually just finished watching the entire series. And, well, the result is mixed. But despite my annoyance at various offensive tropes, I still loved it, mainly because of the awesome female characters.

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Stargate SG-1 and the Evil Seductress

Hathor SG1Trigger warning for rape below.

A while back, I wrote a post on Stargate and feminism, and said that I appreciated that the show at least tried to talk about women’s issues. Unfortunately, the episode in question, “Emancipation”, did it in the worst way possible, and it ended up being both racist and sexist. Sadly, “Emancipation” is hardly the only harmful episode in the first season. The other episode that stuck out to me is “Hathor”. In some ways, “Emancipation” is worse than “Hathor”, since the offensive material is so much more obvious, but at least “Emancipation” knew it was trying to address certain issues. In “Hathor”, one of the main characters is raped, and the show doesn’t even seem to be aware that it happened.

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Stargate SG-1 and the White Feminist

Stargate Emancipation Sam AngryThe other day, to avoid finishing the third season of True Blood, I started rewatching Stargate SG-1. Like many shows, the first season is really predictable, episodic, and cheesy. Despite that, I have fond memories of the Stargate franchise—it really grew as a show over the seasons, and the later episodes didn’t have the same problems that the ones in the first season had. This is a really good thing, since Season 1, despite being really fun and goofy, ended up having a lot of offensive material. Though Stargate SG-1 does really well talking about certain issues, such as slavery, the first season completely fails in others, like male rape.

However, it also set out to talk about women’s issues, specifically with the character Samantha Carter. And Sam is an amazing female character. Indeed, Stargate has a lot of well-written, well-developed female characters, but Sam was the first. And Season 1, Episode 3, “Emancipation”, sets out specifically to talk about oppression against women. Unfortunately, it does so in the worst way possible. Here is the Wikipedia summary for that episode:

SG-1 visits a planet inhabited by the Shavadai, a nomadic tribe descended from the Mongols. They regard women as property, and restrict their rights in the belief that to do otherwise would bring “demons” (the Goa’uld) down upon them. Carter ends up being ‘sold’, but when Carter beats a chieftain in hand-to-hand combat, the team changes the tribe’s opinions about the rights of women. Guest starring Soon-Tek Oh and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

Yeah, you can imagine the problems I had with it.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Camile Wray

SGU-Life-MGM-01Despite all the awfulness of Stargate Universe’s storylines, it did have some fantastic characters. A lot of people complained that the show was trying to be Star Trek, which I can see, but what I liked most about it was that it wasn’t trying to be SG1 or SG Atlantis. It is still part of the franchise and in the same universe, but it is a completely different show. The biggest change of pace was with the characters. They were not the same archetypes that the franchise had grown used to over the years.

Stargate Universe also has a diverse cast. The character I’m focusing on today, Camile Wray, is a civilian working on the Stargate program through the IOA—International Oversight Advisory, an organization setup to oversee Stargate operations—and she is of Chinese decent. On top of being a leading character who happens to be both female and Asian, Wray is also the first openly gay character in the Stargate universe.

Spoilers after the jump.

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