wraithfodder (wraithfodder) wrote,

Two Guys and a Gal: Stargate Atlantis’ TPTB and Keller

After reading a few entries on Joe Mallozzi’s blog, and another, er, ‘interesting’ entry from Martin Gero, plus Gero’s interview on Gateworld, and all debacle over Dr. Jennifer Keller, I thought, I’d  vent a little in this meta. Some folks will agree, some won’t. But this isn’t a Keller bashing entry (the writers, though, well….)

First, I don’t hate Keller. There are aspects of her that I definitely dislike, which is basically the fault of the writers and the way they have her believable at one point, then you want to bang your head on the keyboard because Keller acts so dumb the next. I thought she did great in “Adrift” (well, the one in which she did the brain surgery on Elizabeth, but really, don’t they have more than one doctor on Atlantis? It would make sense to get a trauma doctor, who did time in Iraq, to serve on Atlantis). But then, in “Search & Rescue” … 1) while Lorne is in the back of the jumper with a broken leg, is she tending to him? Um, no. She’s upfront asking stupid questions of Carter, et. al. 2) she’s treating Sheppard in the Daedalus infirmary. She’s got on gloves, etc. but Sheppard is still in dirt-covered BDUs. It makes no sense (okay, maybe Flanigan doesn’t want fans capping his naked chest far and wide, but geez). Where was I? Okay, anyway, she’s telling him that he has to have surgery, no buts about it, has lost a lot of blood, yet she lets him go run off on a rescue mission. Medically, had he signed a form saying “if I drop dead, not your fault,” sure, but she doesn’t argue the point, just caves to his angst-ridden “can’t lose another team member” line. And, this boils down to writing/research, if he was that bad off, just what did she do to spiff him up so he could run off and not pass out? Then in “Brain Storm,” a guy is half flash-frozen (but not declared dead). Does she stay with this guy to monitor his status? No, she’s too busy micro-managing Rodney and the arguing scientists. I don’t care that she does that, that is, if she didn’t have a patient probably dying on the floor. Talk about a malpractice suit in the making!


So, the writers just don’t know squat about anything medical. It showed somewhat in SG-1 but there they had that handy sarcophagus. The lack of knowledge manifested itself much more clearly in SGA in that they don’t even bother to Google emergency medicine. Heck, no, I don’t want those great shows on Discovery about emergency medicine, but you’d think that TPTB would realize their audience ISN’T stupid. Sure, we suspend our belief to a degree because it’s science fiction, but come on, guys, it’s not like you, as TV producers, can’t call up a doctor and say “Hey, I’m writing this episode and we want to…” Most people would jump at the chance to help, for free!


Only other thing that really gets on my nerves at time is her whining. I think it’s the vocal pitch that is sometimes like fingernails on chalkboard. McKay’s ranting and whining doesn’t bother me at all (except for that one scene in “Runner” which was toooo much like a TV commercial for some phone company). Others may not mind it, but to me…. Gah. That pitch. That’s purely a personal thing and others may go ‘eh, what whining?’


Then there’s the dreaded (insert ominous JAWS theme music) …  McKeller! ;) To me, it’s not the end of the world. I didn’t mind McKay and Katie Brown as a couple but it didn’t bother me that they broke up either as he screwed up that relationship. As for Rodney and Jennifer. I don’t see the attraction, really. Don’t see the chemistry as lovers, eh, just don’t see it. However, the consequences of McKeller tick me off… which is basically bad writing because the writers are enamored with the ‘ship’ aspect of the plot. Don’t care if Rodney and Jennifer want to do the mile high club in “Brain Storm,” but for pete’s sake, she just nearly died from hypothermia (plus cardiac compressions which DO hurt, and she’s still in wet clothes? Cripes, what’s horrendous about this is that a Canadian wrote this episode and you’d think if anybody knows you get out of wet clothes to avoid hypothermia, it would be a Canadian. Well, kill that myth goodbye! ;)


I know some folks loved “Brain Storm,” and it did have its moments (Bill Nye was fun), but the rush to get Rodney and Keller together seemed to just make the writers forget about logic and such. Yeah, Gero says they were forced to write an environmental episode, which is a ghastly replay of many years ago when NBC forced the Sunday night lineup to all do a western theme – it tanked on seaQuest. In BS, I kept wondering why, in such a high security facility out in the middle of nowhere, they would have a wooden door?? So it’s easier to break down with an axe? That’s the only thing I can think of! 


Back to McKeller. Mallozzi devoted his blog entry at http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/december-8-2008-ships-and-what-ifs/ to discussing ‘what ifs’ with ship. First, although he says Sam and Jack aren’t canon, he thinks they are, but realistically, as long as the studio/franchise can milk the UST, they will, because as soon as S/J get together, the mainstream viewers will go ‘okay, what’s next?” Couples are not allowed to be happily together on TV dramas. Heck, they even killed the nice hubby on “Ghost Whisperer”!  Well, he’s dead but not dead. It’s weird.


First of all, the big question: Why ship anyone? Does the show necessarily have to involve any sort of relationship? My answer to that would be that while, yes, it is science fiction, the characters at the heart of these stories are real people, subject to the same hopes, disappointments, and desires as you or I.


But unfortunately the writers just don’t seem to know how to write romance. They should watch Big Bang Theory for how geeks court the opposite sex. Now THAT’s funny! The thing is that Stargate has always been scifi/action adventure, not Grey’s Anatomy. When the writers tread into that territory (that is, if they try to go deep), it’s like getting mired in thick mud. The thing is that writers can write about relationships – friendships, etc. – that don’t have to involve romance. Once they get into love, it tanks, because they can only go so far before risking screwing up things. If we’d had a season six, would McKeller have continued or would it have been put in the background (where, realistically, that’s where it belongs)?


And so, heading into the show’s fifth season, we were faced with the prospect of a love triangle, with two very different suitors vying for the gal. Further complications were suggested in the first draft of Search and Rescue with the introduction of Captain Alicia Vega who, in the episode’s final scene, essentially asks Keller out. The prospect of introducing a gay character to the Stargate universe was always an interesting possibility, but one that would require the right circumstances. In fact, for several years now, there has been one recurring character who, in my mind, is gay but there has never been an opportunity to confirm the fact. While I feared that suggesting it in a throw-away (“I’m heading back to Earth to spend time with my boyfriend. See ya!”) would seem like a truly forced WTF moment for fans, alternately, making a big deal of it felt wrong as well. So, unless the right circumstances present themselves for this character, the fans can simply go ahead assuming he is heterosexual until such a time that, in a Rowlingesque postscript, I can add: “And, oh yeah, by the way - he was gay.” The character of Alicia Vega, meanwhile, did offer an opening that an established character did not: she was new and the final scene of the season five premiere felt neither forced nor insignificant. Of course, as Paul pointed out: “Do we really want to make this love triangle a love rectangle?”. Well, again, the decision was made for us when the episode ran waaaay too long and a good portion of Vega’s scenes, including the last one, had to be cut for time.


Well, the whole ‘oh Vega was gay’ thing is a throwaway because, well, it’s said way after the fact, after the character is dead, said after the scene is cut (if the scene doesn’t make the final cut, it’s not considered canon. JM or any writer can say whatever they want, but if it’s not on screen, it’s not canon. That’s how it works, because lord knows writers will say something and then contradict themselves a few episodes down the road with something that does appear on screen). As for the which recurring character is gay, the folks at GW are burning up over that – many seem to want Lorne to be gay (I have no idea why, but apparnetly not oggling his commander’s (Carter’s) boobs makes him gay, instead of a respectful military officer who doesn’t want to get nailed for sexual harrassment). But since Lorne is in the US military, if he was and did come out, poof, his character is off the show as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ applies to his branch of the service.  I think if the writers truly want to show some balls about creating a gay character, they’ve got the ‘edgier’ SGU coming up, in which they could do that…. But first they’ll have to pass it by MGM, SciFi, and all the other folks who will go “will our advertisers go for it?” That’s the crux of the matter. And oh yes, Vegas is in the military. She'd be discharged for such an admission. Guess the writers don't know the military rules?


And there is one other alternative, one that I’d originally envisioned exploring when I was first spinning the story that would eventually become Remnants: John’s ex-wife, Nancy. In a very early version of the story, Nancy, who we have established works for Homeworld Security, is appointed to review Woolsey’s probationary record. Finally privy to the secrets her ex-husband had to keep from her all those years, she is actually able to empathize and understand him a little better. Of course, with better understanding complications arise… No idea where it would have gone, but I imagined it playing out as part of an extended episode arc.


Ah, truly sucks that Sheppard didn’t get this kind of development, as five years into the show, he’s still pretty much a mystery. But that would also get in the way of Rodney having some sex (and he’s had more relationships, etc. than anyone else on the show). ;)


Read Gero’s Q&A over at JM’s blog at

http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/december-6-2008-writerdirectorexecutive-producer-martin-gero-brainstorms-your-questions/ and have promptly forgotten most of it due to the way he answered questions. Yeouch. He’s JM’s apprentice, that’s for sure ;)


But then whole McKeller thing gets addressed at an interview with Gero (http://www.gateworld.net/interviews/crossroads.shtml ) (mind you, reading the comments attached to this article is sort of amusing, and well, it does validate GW’s moniker of ‘hateworld’ which I’ve heard bandied around the web and at cons for years). Anyway… some excerpts from the very long interview:

I wanted to do something that potentially was Earth based, but I didn't know. I had a[n] inkling that this would be my last episode as I was thinking about it. Whether the show was going to get picked up or not, I wasn't sure whether I was going to come back. I wanted to do something in my never-ending quest to flesh out McKay's character, I wanted to see him with his friends, or old buddies.

……..Because I felt it was going to be my last episode with McKay I really wanted to give him that. To have that relationship actually happen as opposed to us skate around it with innuendo and "maybes," you know? Because I don't think Keller necessarily would do that. I think Keller is stronger than that and would not limp around for years on flirting and whispers. He needed a close before she decides, "Well, I've given him six months."

MG: The last shot I did, really my last professional obligation on the show, was shooting David's coverage hearing that Keller loves him. It struck me for a moment. I got very emotional. By that point everyone knew that the show was over. This was my last little bit. They had to go off and make another five shows. He kind of reacts and just doesn't know what to say and just kind of softens in a way. For me, that certainly isn't my character, but it's a character I feel has been my alter ego within the series, certainly, I think.
GW: You and Rodney have been very close.
MG: Yes, we've been very close. For me this episode brings closure to the series for that character, in a sense that that's really all he's wanted for five years. For someone to say, "I love you," and mean it. That's really all that we want. And a lot of his narcissism and arrogance and general unpleasantness has really come from the fact that he's never really, truly, been unconditionally loved in that way. I kind of had a closure moment with that character. I was like, "OK, we've left you a better character than you were when we started."

Okay, to me, this all boils down to Gero writing McKay as his alter-ego, and thus, Gero gets the girl. Because Gero didn’t think he’d be on the show if a season six came about, he wanted to close up McKay, which I guess is why the whole rushed relationship in “Brain Storm” seemed to come out of left field. While I have no problem with a writer getting into the character in order to write, I think the desire to finish what Gero felt was a personal obligation, did a disservice to the show in what I felt was a poorly written episode because plot was shoved aside for the love story.

GW: I'm going to take your guys' side for a minute here. I don't understand this open hatred of the Keller character that has come from so much of the fandom. Certainly GateWorld. I cringe when Jewel comes to our Web site. And I will openly say this -- she's not my favorite character. But I like her. I don't understand where this resentment is coming from.
MG: I do. It's pretty clear, man.
GW: You think it's Beckett?

MG: Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
GW: You think that's all it?
MG: I think it's a lot it.

When I read this, I just thought, so much cluelessness, from the interviewer to Gero. Many fans state why they dislike Keller. For me, I dislike aspects of because when the character is put front and center, 9 times out of 10, there’s going to be a combo of whining/screaming with a side dish of having to be rescued. There are fans who dislike her because she took Beckett’s slot, but GW’s/Gero’s comments above show they don’t read past a few posts in a thread. Of course, the really ironic thing is that GW acknowledges how much of fandom doesn’t like Keller, for whatever reason…

MG: She is Sci fi royalty after Firefly. Me and her hanging out at Comic-Con is like hanging around with Angelina Jolie. It is nuts. She gets really angry because people keep coming up to her and being like, "I wish they'd just write you better." And she's like, "I really like Keller. Please stop saying that." You know what I mean? I don't know. Because there is that weird thing. It's not that they don't like Jewel. They just don't like the character. And I don't understand that. I think the character is really likable.


Usually the folks who create the character will find that character likeable, and there are plenty of fans out there who think Keller is ‘hot’, although I don’t know if they like the character or just think the actress is sexy hot. Again, Martin is very close to the character so doesn’t see the flaws that, at least to some of us, stand out like neon billboards in Vegas (and when I say flaws, it’s the writing that is the flaw).

MG: I just feel like people never gave her a fair shake. Whatever. At the end of the day it's a really difficult thing dealing with fandom to a certain extent, because it's really hard to distil. When the show first started I was on the message boards a lot. I read them a lot because I thought it would be helpful. But at at the end of the day I don't know that it is.



Listen, heaven forbid I start a fire storm here. I think they are well within their rights to say whatever they want. That's the great thing about the Internet and interacting that way. My feeling is, I'm not talking about Keller in specifics. in general the negative votes tend to be more vocal towards whatever issue it is than the positive votes. The positive votes just get tired. You get those exhausted posts where people are just like, "Stop watching the show if you hate it so much."

That's what I don't really understand. There is such vitriol and hatred on that board, and I don't get it. I don't understand why they watch every week. They're like, "Oh, they did it again!"


Because we like the other characters, or we like the storylines, or we like SOMETHING about it. Oh Martin, you don’t understand fandom, do you? Or even the general viewer? There have been plenty of shows over the years in which I’ve seen characters/actors I don’t like but since they’re not the lead, and not in every scene, I’ll tolerate their brief screen time to see the folks I do like. People who truly hate a show SIMPLY stop watching. The people who kevetch do it because, for the most part, they love the show enough to say “Hey, I care about you ruining it.” Good lord, I may say I hate sausage pizza, but if I pluck off the sausage, I’ll still eat the rest of the pizza. There isn’t a single TV show that I’ve seen that doesn’t have an episode that made me go “WTF?” (okay, except for the very limited run Pulaski the TV Detective) and made me wonder if the writers were snorting cocaine (and yeah, enough of them did in the 80s).


Anyway,it’s all sorta moot as we have three episodes left. “Identity” does look Keller-centric, and the TV commercial for it looked like fell smack into the “save me” territory with Keller again (although she’s not tied to the train tracks, it’s getting pretty close). I’m hoping McKay won’t be fawning all over in it. I just sorta cringed when I saw McKay giving Keller a backrub, on the Wraith hive ship, in “Infection,” as well, there on the job, and when you’re on the job, you don’t screw around (as in romantic stuff). Save it for when you’re off the clock. “Vegas” sounds AU, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers on that (although the photos I’ve seen of Flanigan in it look mighty fine). “Enemy at the Gate.” Know only what TV Guide dumped yesterday but it’s so vague that we don’t know what happens with the characters.


Oh well, that’s it. I just wanted to ramble about why Keller bothers me at times. Or well, why certain writer’s writing bothers me at times ;).

Tags: meta, stargate atlantis
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