Stargate Universe and the theme of the Voyage of Death

You know, I have a theory about the sorts of shows such as Stargate Universe, Space: 1999 and, to some extent, Star Trek: Voyager where the characters are on some moving vehicle flying through space on a seemingly random trajectory. They've got the same theme as Life On Mars, Ashes to Ashes and (from what I have been told) Lost. It's the same theme as The Prisoner, really.

They are all dead.

The crew of the Destiny; the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha; Sam Tyler, DI Alex Drake, Number Six ... it's the end for them. Finito. The explosion of Nuclear Waste Disposal Base Two; the opening of the gate from the Icarus planet; they didn't escape. The Stargate opened, but it went nowhere, because they never got as far as the wormhole. The Destiny crew just don't know that, because like Bruce Willis' character in The Sixth Sense they only see what they want to see. Confirmation bias writ large; the hamartia of every ghost.

And the rest of the show, while it appears to be about intrepid people trying to get back home, is really about unquiet spirits who, in the middle of the journey of their lives, found themselves within a dark woods where the straight way was lost. Their stories are not so much about how they get home, as how they come to terms with the realisation that there is no going back; that the role of being dead is now their lot.

Either the story ends on a note which clearly reveals that their entire voyage was a literal journey home by living beings over the earth of the living - The Odyssey, Star Trek: Voyager; or the story ends without resolution or even a downbeat minor key ending - The Time Tunnel, Space: 1999, Stargate Universe.

(Edit: I have to tell you - the downbeat ending is the only true, natural one. A happy ending like the end of 2000 AD's series Leviathan or the Star Trek: Voyager series finale "Endgame" always seems forced; shallow, by comparison.

If you hear the premise of the story ending "trying to find their way home," you can immediately dismiss the story as a VoD show. You know it will only ever have two endings; the natural one or the Hollywood one. So why wait for it? Just wait to hear of its cancellation and then go and watch the finale, and place a bet on whichever ending wins. --Me)

And, having now seen the finale of Stargate Universe, I have identified the genre of fiction being portrayed. Stargate Universe's story is that of the Flying Dutchman - the Flying Coffin, Moonbase Alpha, Voyager in its first three seasons.

No lone hero braving his way through the Inferno to reach Heaven, this, like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap or even Alf and the kids from the Eighties Saturday Morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons; but a crew of people having mutinied on the ferry and thrown Charon overboard, and their strenuous efforts to try and commandeer the ferry so they could navigate the Styx only to discover, to their horror, that the damned boat can only be guided by its pilot, and unguided, it will just plough on down the river, further away from life but also further away from the Elysian Fields which was to be their true destination, forever.

The Voyage of Death, derailed for entertainment; souls lost, having been separated from their psychopomp, deluded into thinking that their destiny is back home, where the truth is they can't go back home, ever.

And in the case of Stargate Universe, there is yet another tragic undernote to consider here. With the ending of Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, this show was really meant to be a continuation of the franchise; but instead, like Star Trek: Enterprise, it was its coda.

Just as Moonlighting's ending was some surreal nightmare where the characters became self-aware that fictional TV characters in a light-hearted comedy detective series was all they ever had been, like the characters in SLA Industries who discover the grim secret that they are only player characters in a roleplaying game, the ending of Stargate Universe becomes just as meta: Stargate Universe is the final story of the Stargate franchise, after the stroke that destroyed it, and all that happens during the series is nothing more than the franchise experiencing its entire life flashing before its eyes before it finally, along with Destiny, hyperwarps its way into nothing, leaving behind an empty, starry void.

The ending of John Carpenter's Dark Star. Flareup. Wipeout. Roll credits.

Fade to black.

No comments:

Post a Comment

"And if we have unearned luck, now to scape the serpent's tongue, we will make amends ere long. Else the Puck a liar call ..."

So speak.