Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stargate: M*A*S*H-lantis

For those too young to have seen the show in it's first run, M*A*S*H was a powerhouse of Thursday television night for over 11 seasons, based on the hit movie of the same name. The show was a dramatic comedy about the staff of a mobile army field hospital in Korea during the 1950s. The show exposed the sometimes ridiculous and more often terrible effects of war. While set during the Korean conflict, the film and television show is considered by many to be an allegory for the Vietnam war, which was fresh in the public consciousness during the life of the show. The show is still being broadcast in syndication and is available for purchase on DVD.

"Dreams" was an episode of that seminal television show that was initially broadcast on February 18, 1980. It was generally well-received for it's anti-war message and is fondly remembered by fan of the show for it's stark emotional portrayal and the effects of the conflict on people, both military and civilian.

In "Dreams", the hospital staff endure various nightmares as they attempt to come to grips with the horrors of war and the traumatic disruptions to their personal lives and psyches. M*A*S*H was not the first to explore this plot device and was not the last, as it is a handy way to explore characterization and give depth to a story. The "Nightmare" plot is one of several common and easy story devices used over a wide range of media. Many examples can be found to have been utilized time and again over the years in various print, comic book, movie and television stories. Another familiar story device is that of enemies being locked or trapped someplace together, who later come to a grudging understanding of each other, though usually the status quo of their mutual enmity returns by the following episode or chapter.

The recycling of the "Nightmare" plot was baldly evidenced in the October 19, 2007 episode of Stargate: Atlantis, "Doppelganger".

Stargate: Atlantis is not the most original show, being somewhat derivative of the final seasons of Earth: Final Conflict given the similarities of the predatory villains. But I like the various Stargate series and SG: Atlantis it has a sense of humor about it in the Been there, Done that portrayal of recent addition Amanda Tapping to the show as Colonel Sam Carter.

What is most disappointing as a fan is that the recent episode of SG:A is unoriginal and very similar to the M*A*S*H "Dreams" episode from start to finish. Several of the dream sequences were even in similar settings (namely, the water sequences of Nurse Margaret O'Hoolihan and Scientist Rodney McKay and the military personnel in a hospital setting). The episodes are similar enough that one could easily label it a direct rip-off and even though the basic premise of each show is similar (military personnel in a foreign setting), and it was clearly inspired by the M*A*S*H episode. It would be too charitable to call this episode of SG:A an homage to the war drama. I prefer my Science Fiction to be a bit fresher in practice and this episode came off as formulaic at best.

If you have the means to do so and a little time I urge you to watch the two episodes in their entirety for the geek of it, but here is a little sample from the finale of both of the shows to illustrate their similarities.

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