As someone who creates entertainment, well, as someone who wants to create entertainment anyway. I want to do better. So when I'm reading, watching, listening to something. I'm always trying to take a mental note of how can I make myself better as a writer, artist, whatever.
Well, much like medical researchers that can learn a lot more about how the body works from studying a victim of a genetic disorder than from studying a thousand healthy people. I think I can learn a lot more from a bad hour of TV than I could from a dozen brilliant works of genius.
Stargate - the early episodes of this show were a real mess. I know it's early broadcast history was at least a bit unusual, but that show never should have made it past it's pilot episode. It did, and the latter half of the first season did improve, so much that I even enjoyed a few of the late season 1 installments. I am aware that this show has a huge fanbase, I haven't seen beyond the first season, so forgive me if I'm a bit critical.
What bugged me most? Really, and this might sound nitpicky, but it's probably because I was getting so bored watching the episodes that I let my mind wander.
Why does everyone speak English?
The movie the show was based on made a point that the linguist was there because he was an expert in ancient languages, the people of the world they visited spoke only a derivative of ancient Egyptian.
Switch to the pilot episode, the folks from that world still don't speak English, but everyone else they met in Season 1 did. People taken from other periods in Earth's history, Mongol, Greek, Roman, whatever it was, they spoke English. I'm willing to swallow a whopper or two for the sake of the story. I don't want to spend every episode watching while the characters spend 15 minutes trying to figure out that the inhabitants of the world they are visiting are saying 'hello'. It would get old, fast.
But give me something, especially if in some episodes, the lack of a common language is the cause of the problem. No one notices, questions this, or even comments on it. It's just assumed everyone will speak English. Although, at some point, maybe two thirds the way through season one, when a character on an alien world was posing in a threatening manner, Colonel O'Neal did ask for Daniel to find some term in any language the natives would understand... at which point the menancing character revealed that he could speak perfect English.
Again, one episode, the Aliens sit and listen for 15 minutes saying nothing, then they stand up and announce they've been learning English and can now speak it. They're super advanced. Of course, the team encounters a cave monster, an alien cave monster, trapped in a mountiain for centuries - it speaks English. Geez. Super advanced aliens, give them 15 minutes, stupid alien monster, it already knows.
What lesson did I learn? Well, if you don't know what the hell you're talking about, but you know it's a problem, make something up. Give me anything and if the story is good enough I'll buy it. Five seconds of screen time (or a line on the page) and we can all move on to enjoy the rest of the story.
If you can't do that, at least try to be consistent, maybe I won't notice.
Stargate and the Incredible Hulk - I only watched the classic two part episode of the Hulk, Prometheus. In that episode the Hulk enounters a meteorite that keeps him from turning entirely human when he calms down, he gets captured by the military and proceeds to smash everything. It wasn't until I saw this episode that I realized what had been bugging me about Stargate so much.
The SG1 team is military. But unlike any military I've ever seen. These guys are just about stupid. I've never served in the armed forces, but I'm pretty sure they don't work that way. My wife may not have originated this, but I heard it from her so I'll give her credit. She said, "If the story can only work if every character is an idiot, then it's probably not a very good story."
The lesson learned? If I don't know how something works, be it military decision making or basket weaving. Don't BS your way through it, especially if it's integral to the plot.
These are only two points, and the lessons learned contradict each other, but that's okay. I will only apply these lessons intermittently - and never at the same time. I was planning on posting a third point, but it's so explosive, so game changing, that I don't think I can do it in this post. It would be like the Ghostbusters crossing the streams. The universe could explode.
You'll have to tune in next time to learn what the biggest lesson of all is.