Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Netflix addiction continues

It's probably my fault for putting the television aside in favor of writing for so long, but now that I've unleashed the evil of Netflix streaming into my computer and TV, I can't walk away. In a few clicks I can check out entire series that I paid little attention to when they aired.

My addiction started innocently enough. Stargate Atlantis. I'd watched most of those as they aired, being the one sci-fi show I allowed myself at the time. But I'd had comments on my novel that I was too episodic, so I thought that investigating this episodic feel was a worthwhile endeavor. After I'd raced through the first season, the comment and how to fix the issue sunk in. Seeing how the episodes fit together back to back rather than once a week helped highlight my problem. Watching the other four seasons was purely out of weakness.

Farscape is limited to kid time. (Which in light of my next comment probably makes me sound like a bad mother.) I totally didn't remember the characters using 'bitch' several times in every episode. I remembered them using the made up curse words distinctively. Frell, I still use them. I guess you just can't replace bitch and get the same feeling across. Hmm. Something to ponder when using curse words, real and manufactured in writing.

My free time was getting far too Netflix-free so I decided to give Stargate Universe a try. When it aired, I was so pissed that Atlantis was axed (due to high production costs, which is the same thing that killed Farscape... which ugh, I'll rant to myself about quality sci-fi shows being cancelled. At least they actually ended both of those series.) that I didn't even give it a chance. Apparently not many people did, since it only lasted one season.

There seems to be two camps: those who didn't like the show because it was too much like a space opera (ie: the new Battlestar Galactica) and not enough like the original Stargate series which featured planet of the day and alien gun fights, and those who liked the show because it was like the dearly departed new (now old?) BSG. I'm in the BSG camp. Honestly, Universe also somewhat reminded me of my dearly departed Lost a little with all the flashbacks, visits home in other people's bodies and strangers being thrown together to survive in a hostile environment with few supplies.

While Universe had its shortfalls in cliched characters, convenient resolutions, and didn't I see this plot on BSG? moments, I missed 'good' sci-fi enough to make my way through the one and only season. It, of course, ended in a OMG who's going to die, everyone is in jeopardy ending that will never be resolved now. Darn you low ratings. If only they'd waited a while after ending both SG series to try to launch another, there may have been enough sci-fi starved people like me willing to tune in and keep it alive. Sometimes you've got to let people get thirsty instead of jumping on that hot fire. (Not necessarily five years thirsty, Mr. Martin.)

What was there to learn from Universe?

Allowing problems to be solved too conveniently does not make for compelling reading or viewing. Make those characters work, suffer and bleed for every step toward their goal.

Knowing that all the main characters will never die kind of takes the tension away. Don't allow the reader to think that you're not (wo)man enough to take someone out. I can't be heart-pounding, eyes racing over the pages, concerned enough to stay up reading until four a.m. to make sure MC makes it out alive if there's never a hint that the writer might really kill MC off.

Ending a chapter or episode with a OMG, what's going to happen next glimpse of suspense and then not capitalizing on it with the opening of the next is a big wasted opportunity for tension.

Making me hate a character and think he's the biggest ass in the universe then making me care about him by slowly revealing back story is a great way to sink your claws into a reader, but it's best to give me someone else to care about along the way or I'm going to fling the book into the fire before I get to the caring part.

Creating original characters in an established universe filled with years of hundreds of established characters seems impossible. If I find myself having the urge to include an unnumbered host of 'red-shirts' who will die or drift off with no direct impact on the rest of the characters, a techie who can fix anything once given a time limit to impending death, a commanding officer with repeated confidence issues, and/or a token awkward but brilliant kid looking for love, I shall flog myself and remember what I have learned.


  1. Great post!!

    I still harbor resentment for the SyFy channel for canceling FIREFLY. All of these other shows, I think, try to make up for its loss. I always got Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis a bit confused--always forget which came first. Whichever one came after, I had a hard time liking any of the characters. Eventually, I just gave up on it.

  2. I gave up on the SyFy channel when they forgot how to spell and changed their name. They seem more intent on producing their own B movies than providing quality sci-fi shows. It's depressing.

    I never got into Firefly. I'm not sure why exactly. My husband has it in our Netflix queue as something he'd like to watch too, so I'll be trying to get into it again some day soon. :)

  3. Oh damn Netflix for putting all of my favorite shows on their Watch Instantly. But if they took them down, I'd also be quite mad - so I supposed I'll just have to joyfully spend my hours watching reruns of Buffy. Again.


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