Friday, April 16, 2010

My Favourite Characters: Mysterious & Machiavellian

My tastes are simple. I enjoy sci-fi and superheroes. And other stuff, too, but outside of the fantasy genres I tend to get bored pretty fast. This is just who I am: realistic drama and drawn-out mysteries have to work extra hard to reach me, to allow me to identify with a character. My buddy Ron says I'm not hooked up right. I'm not unconvinced of that diagnosis.

And moreover, I like morally simplistic characters. All good. All bad. Like Superman or Darkseid. I'm oversimplifying this a bit, but I generally do have a hard time liking fictional characters of a more ambivalent kind.

So mad props to Robert Carlyle, for his portrayal of insane genius Dr. Nicolas Rush in SyFy's Stargate: Universe. This is a great new show, (o.k., it's no Defying Gravity so far, but then what is?) which my otherwise Stargate-loving friend Anthony was not won over by.

In tone, Stargate Universe is rather like the recent Battlestar Galactica, stark and relatively humorless in comparison to the earlier SG-1 or Stargate: Atlantis. Of course, it needn't stay that way indefinitely, the first half of the season has been a near-constant man vs nature struggle for survival. (With time-outs for Quantum Leap-style body swapping with less endangered Earth-type folks) I maintain that SGU could develop in various interesting ways, and I'm hopeful that it will not descend to the wrist-slitting tedious misery of Battleglum, or worse, Caprica. Well, I'm hopeful, anyway. It's good to hope things. It sure ain't as upbeat as Star Trek. But you never know.

Particularly desperate for a new sci-fi show to enjoy, with Doctor Who sparsely available in 2009, I latched onto Stargate Universe tentatively at first, but then when I FINALLY managed to see the pilot I was hooked. Granted, my favorite character was Eli. How could I not like Eli? (Pudgy, affable, computer gamer shown at right.)

But Rush is my favorite DUBIOUS character. My favorite SKETCHY character. I recently racked my brain for a guy who was neither a black hat, nor a white hat, but who I still really enjoy watching. And Rush is at the tippy-top of the list. No offense, Dr. House. Maybe if Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital was on Neptune's moon Triton you'd garner more of my minuscule attention span...

But, seriously: I'm fascinated by this guy. Did he endanger 80-odd lives and strand them on a ramshackle barge on an endless drop into outer darkness just to further his career? Is he on a quest to better humankind and has just grown too obsessed to care about other people? What of his research into the Ancients of Earth, and their ability to ascend into a bodiless, immortal state?
Could he be suicidal, desperate and distracted over the death of his wife? Is he just in a prolonged state of coffee withdrawl? WHAT'S HIS DEAL?
Maybe this is how people enjoy Lost. The MYSTERY and DRAMA hook them. They get to ponder oblique motivations and discuss amongst their friends. They didn't need the rustling in the trees that first night on the island to be immediately revealed as a dinosaur or they'd get bored (like I did). They aren't afraid that 6 years of questions will end abruptly without satisfying conclusions. Or maybe they are. I sure was. But I don't need to wonder anymore. Now I have a Lost of my own... in space. Oh, that sounds terrible. Maybe Anthony was right all along.

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