In the science fiction world of series with “Star” in the title you fall into one of several categories: Trek, Wars or Gate just to name a few. I grew up on re-runs of the original Star Trek, so by rights I should be a Trekker and I am to a point. I have watched all the original series episodes at least twice. I have seen all the movies. I have my favorites and I am nervously awaiting the next one. However I have not fallen in love with all the iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
I watched a fair amount of Next Generation while I was studying abroad. It was our afternoon ritual and kept us all tied to home but the episodes being aired were the cream of the crop and I found out later that the show has some real stinkers, particularly in the first seasons. When I went back to watch it just a few years later I couldn’t even make it through the pilot. You really have to love Q to love that show and I loathe him. I make no apologies, here. No amount of Sir Patrick Stewart being awesome can tip the balance enough for me to devote time to watching it consistently and I feel like that is the key to being able to say you are a fan of a show. You stick with it regardless of how silly and weird it gets. You form connections with characters that you feel embody what a hero should be. You fall in love with minor characters. You memorize episodes and find real life comparisons for lessons learned through that show. You mourn the death of fictional characters etc, etc.
Voyager grabs me sometimes and some of Deep Space Nine is for me but not all of it. So while I loved Enterprise with all my heart and I highly recommend it, I would not call myself a Trekkie or Trekker because I don’t feel like its fair to those who really are. Notice I have not said any of these series are bad because I don’t think they are. My heroes, just lie elsewhere.
I am a Gater, a proud fan of Stargate SG1, Atlantis and Universe. I have seen all ten seasons of SG1 at least twice. I believe Stargate Universe might have been the best piece of science fiction television of all time, right next to Dr. Who and while I’ve saved it for last I have fallen in love with Stargate Atlantis.
I always appreciated the way in which SG1 treated earth’s mythologies even when it got just a little silly with it. Stepping through the stargate each week, the SG1 teams encountered new cultures and ways of being which they sought to understand. Since there was a common threat in the galaxy the show is about working together. To give you an idea of how much my husband and I love SG1, it was our honeymoon. We bought an enormous TV and went to planet after planet with Sam, Daniel, T’ealc and Jack.
Several years later working my way through the five seasons of Atlantis I am noticing things I had taken for granted in this setting before. Stargate as a whole has a good selection of strong female characters and a lack of sexualization. Woman in this universe hold positions of power, kick ass, solve problems using science and math and for the most part do not have their authority challenged based on their gender. Women of Stargate are soldiers, scientists, doctors, diplomats, mothers, scoundrels and they enjoy the respect of their peers. Since there is little to no romance in these series there is no need to female characters to be “oversexed”. They are simply written to do what they do best, be that designing nuclear power devices or leading an expedition to another galaxy. They are relied on to have skills and only villains would dare objectify them. Another example is that a scientists who is sexist is the exception not the norm and his behavior is called out at every turn. Even he is not so much sexist as he is arrogant with no respect for anyone’s work, male or female, but his own.
Now to be fair there are some sexified villainesses and a character who comes in late in SG1 who is very up front about her sexuality. But neither of these things are bad the way they are handled. In fact Vala Mal Doran and the lessons she learns through her failed seduction attempts only serve to prove my point. If you look around to other sci-fi shows on at the same time as SG1 started in 1997, Stargate has less cat suits and bath scenes and if you compare it to mainstream television from the same time period there is no comparison.
This kind of art does not happen by accident, there are some strong creators and writers to credit here, namely Robert C. Cooper, Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright. Character equality is so seamless that you take the gender parity completely for granted and for me that is the point. When the status quo is really equal then there is no need to draw attention to it. It simply runs smoothly. I have to credit this universe for playing a part in my slow feminist awakening. I know a lot of my feeling of “what do you mean girls can’t do that?” comes from Stargate. Therefore I am going to take some time and pin point exactly what makes each of these series something I can proudly recommend to my friends with children, particularly growing girls.
PS I think a similar case can be made for Babylon Five and I may have to make it some time.