The Stargates shut down last night,

perhaps for the last time, with the series finale of Stargate Universe.   I’d love to see the gates in operation again, but a movie and three series is a pretty good run.  I don’t know if last night’s episode was shot before or after the series was cancelled, if it was meant to be an open-ended finale or a season-ending cliffhanger, but I found it satisfying.

I didn’t discover Stargate SG1 until my cable system finally made the SciFi Channel (as it was then) available and I could catch up on the first few seasons on marathon Monday evenings.  Eventually I saw the whole series, and I never missed an episode of Stargate Atlantis.

So of course I watched Stargate Universe from the beginning–and sometimes found myself wondering why.  The show was dark, literally as well as thematically, and the first season episodes often meandered off track or left me wondering what the heck had happened.  Flawed characters, tangled backstories, confusing scripts, but I kept watching.  Alas, about the time the series seemed to find its center, it was cancelled.

Perhaps the third series failed to find its audience because it was so different from the first two.  About all it carried over was the Stargate itself, and the communication stones from Stargate Atlantis.  It lacked the wildly over-the-top villains of the earlier series: how could mere mechanical drones compete with the bizarre Go’aould, the terrifyingly doctrinaire Ori, or the vampiric, half-insect Wraith?  There were never a heck of a lot of laughs on Stargate Universe, either.   No Jack O’Neill, with his dry, self-deprecating delivery, no Vala Maldoran, with her cheerful, light-fingered approach to other people’s property, no Rodney McKay, with his endearingly insufferable ego.

Perhaps the Stargate franchise simply ran out of steam, as Star Trek seemed to around the last season of Enterprise.  As I write this, an episode of the original series is running on a local oldies channel in the background.  I’m not watching, but I know exactly what’s going on, because I’ve seen it more times than I can count.  I was in college when the original series ran, and I’ll bet it’s been running somewhere ever since.  I missed the original run of The Next Generation, but eventually caught up in syndication–again and again.   Deep Space 9, probably the best written of the series, was also the darkest and deepest, while Voyager ranged from very good to very silly.  But I’ve seen every episode, good and bad, of all four series, often.  And the movies.

Why?  Because the characters captured me.  I love science fiction, but there have been lots of SF attempts on TV, some respected and some dreadful, that never pulled me in.  That brings me to Enterprise, the last of the franchise series, the one that didn’t even include Star Trek in its title.  I watched all the episodes–once.  It was well produced.  It had Scott Bakula.  It came up with a halfway believable explanation of the great Klingon forehead ridge mystery.  But I never really cared about the characters.  Somehow that crew just didn’t pull me in.

When the rebooted Star Trek movie came out in 2009, I was a bit skeptical, but I went with friends to see it on the big screen–and I loved it.  The movie Roddenberry would have made if he’d had the money.  A workable reason for changing the time line and starting an entirely new story.  Actors who made it work,  and the familiar characters we’d cared about for so many years.

As a writer, I only hope I can create characters who will affect readers that way, make them care, make them come back to visit and make them wonder what happens after the story ends.  Of course, a plot device as good as the Stargate wouldn’t hurt.

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