PDA

View Full Version : How to make us love characters



Katerine
August 14th, 2005, 06:29 AM
I've noticed a trend in TV shows in general, where the show begins with a single (however large) group of people who interact in various combinations, and the plots largely center around the premise of the show. Then, gradually, the characters start to separate until they exist only in their own little bubbles, and the plots start to center around one character or pairing at a time, pushing all other characters to the background.

The tendancy for characters and pairings to split off until they only exist in their own little bubble isn't as pronounced in Stargate as it was in, say, ER, but I have noticed that the Stargate writers have been doing a lot of character-centric shows, where they push the rest of the team to the background. Apparently, this is in an attempt to make us care for those characters more.

That isn't the way to do it. At least not for me.

I love Daniel. I love Daniel because of the way he saw through his own grief and reached out to Jack in CotG. For the way he stood up for Teal'c in Cor'ai. For the so-natural way he consoled Sam in Singularity, and the way it looked like it was something he could have done at any time. For the little dance he does when he finds something new. For the way he and Jack speak in unison. For the snarky debates. For the way he's usually the voice of ethics. For the compassion in his eyes whenever somebody else is hurting.

I love Jack. I love Jack because of the way he took Daniel in in CotG. For the simple invitation to Teal'c, and the way he stood up for Teal'c in The Enemy Within, and for the way he's helped Teal'c fit in ever since. For the fond exasperation in his manner when Teal'c gets the "Jaffa revenge thing," or when Daniel wanders off, or when Sam or Daniel start talking and talking and talking with every expectation that Jack will know what they're talking about. For the fact that his #1 priority is very obviously always to get his team home safe. For the way he and Daniel speak in unison. For the little looks of concern whenever a member of their team is hurting. For the incredibly easy way in which he relates to children. For the snarkiness and the fun.

I really like Sam. I like Sam because of the light in her eyes when she and Daniel are feeding ideas off each other in CotG. For the way she stood up to a superior officer without crossing the line to insubordination in CotG. For the practical, pragmatic way she consoled Daniel in The Gamekeeper by trying to bring him back to the present, and for her cringe each time the coverstone fell. For the way she worked nonstop to get Teal'c back in 48 hours. For the way she worked through illness to get Daniel back in Crystal Skull. For the delighted grin on her face whenever she's discussing one of her new experiments. For the way she always begins her explanations assuming that Jack knows everything she knows, then instantly tones down the science-speak when she gets a look from him. For her dedication to her work and her friends.

I really like Teal'c. I like Teal'c for the compassion in his eyes when he says, "Your death cannot help her," in CotG. For the logic and precision in his speech. For the subtle irony and smugness that is Teal'c-humor. For the clear respect he shows for Jack and General Hammond, and the totally different (but not diminished) type of respect he shows for Sam and Daniel. For the way he doesn't reach out to friends, but is always simply there in case he's needed.

It's the little things that make me love the characters. Not the big, grand character-centric eps.

This isn't to say that character-centric eps should be done away with entirely - just that they aren't the basis for making us love a character or pairing, and never will be. And when the writers try to make it that, it's inevitable that they will not only fail, but push people away from that character/pairing.

I like Crystal Skull, for example, and I enjoyed Daniel in that ep - but if the writers tried to make me love Daniel more by writing more eps like Crystal Skull, they'd end up making me care less about him. (It would, however, be a good way to make me care more about Sam and Teal'c, since they worked so hard to get Daniel back). Because that ep is so Daniel-centric, that it doesn't have room for the best thing about Daniel, which is of course the compassion he shows for others.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Don't get what I'm saying at all? ;) (Some days I'm better at explaining things than others :) )

UhSir
August 14th, 2005, 08:41 AM
Very nice! I get what you are saying.

Just a quick note about the character-centric eps: They can and should be written to include everyone possible. It is the best way to establish an even deeper bond between the team.

Osiris-RA
August 14th, 2005, 10:02 AM
ExATCLY! It's the LITTLE things that matter! Not how many purple hearts they've earned! *cough*Mitchell*cough* Very well put! A green deserving post! :):D:)

Katerine
August 14th, 2005, 10:26 AM
Just a few quick follow-up discussion questions:

What are the little things about the characters (any characters, SG1 or SGA) that you like? Are they pretty much the same things? What do you think of character-centric eps in general?

Re that last one: I like Daniel-centric eps, mostly the ones in the later seasons, largely because they happened *after* I'd already fallen in love with the character. Those eps didn't make me care about Daniel any more than I did already, though, which is my point. Except in the case of something like Absolute Power, where his character evolved over the course of the episode. But even then, I cared about the angst because I cared about Daniel, not the other way around, and it wasn't the angst that got me to care for him more - it was his willingness to learn the lesson Shifu had to teach.

But it's really when the characters are in supporting roles that I fall in love with them. Mentioned this before, but when I think of the person who I loved the most in The Gamekeeper, I don't think of Daniel so much, and I certainly don't think of Jack - I think of Sam. Because of her cringe each time the coverstone fell, and her pragmatic approach to attempting to help Daniel.

Madeleine
August 14th, 2005, 10:58 PM
If we're talking about the heroes / goodies in a show then for me the way to get me to like them is to make them *not perfect*. They need flaws. More than that, the flaws need to be recognised as such by other characters. Nothing is more irritating than a promising character who is decent but tends towards selfishness / impatience or some other imperfection and who causes problems for the others because of this fault, and yet the others all fete the character as if they were the golden child who could do no wrong.

Take everyone on BSG for instance. Most of them are good guys, and on the same side, but not one has gone more than a few eps without being bawled out by a colleague for something they've done wrong. It's more interesting that way.

I like to see how characters cope with their own shortcomings and failings, and what they do to rectify their mistakes, or how they react when they see that they've fouled up. I don't see as much as I'd like on Stargate. It's not a big deal, it doesn't spoil the show for me or anything, but sometimes I feel that a story would have been improved by a single line of critical comment from Hammond or jack.

Katerine
August 15th, 2005, 06:54 PM
Several excellent comments, but I'll just address one of them:


I like to see how characters cope with their own shortcomings and failings, and what they do to rectify their mistakes, or how they react when they see that they've fouled up. I don't see as much as I'd like on Stargate. It's not a big deal, it doesn't spoil the show for me or anything, but sometimes I feel that a story would have been improved by a single line of critical comment from Hammond or jack.
I think a lot of this just has to do with the fact that Stargate is SciFi, not technically drama. The issues that arise are usually caused externally, leaving the heroes to have to deal with it.

But you're right - one of my favorite plot devices is to have a problem caused by one of the main characters, with rest of the characters having to cope. The only example I can think of offhand is Teal'c's "revenge thing" in Exodus - it's very rare (though not unheard of) for me to like a Teal'c plotline so much (love the character, but just can't get into the Teal'c-centric plotlines usually), and I think it was largely the fact that it was Teal'c causing the problem just by being Teal'c. It was a very nice change of pace. And I loved Jack's reaction to the revenge thing - the frustration from the fact that there was absolutely nothing he could do to change Teal'c's mind.

CeeKay Sheppard
August 15th, 2005, 07:27 PM
What are the little things about the characters (any characters, SG1 or SGA) that you like?

John Sheppard: I love his compassion for his people; he never leaves a teammate behind, and you can tell how Ford being missing is tearing him up inside. I love the banter between him and McKay. I love the way he puts up a tough fa├žade, but sometimes lets his sensitive side show. I love the way he puts his own morals ahead of his orders and regulations. I love the way he puts others' lives ahead of his own; he's always the one who hangs back and covers the team as they retreat through the Stargate.

NotANumber
August 19th, 2005, 11:50 AM
I prefer seeing the team together as much as possible, but episodes where a single character does his/her own thing can be interesting because you'd expect people to have interests outside of the workplace. That being said though, it's a pity we don't get many chances to see the team together off-base where they don't have to worry about saving the world. I really love the scene in Lost City where they're all sitting in Jack's house talking about the relationship between C. Montgomery Burns and the Goa'uld. Or when Jack, Sam and Daniel go out for something to eat in Upgrades.

Or the scene at the end of Threads where they all go fishing together. That's one of my favourite episodes, becuase they all have their own things going on - Daniel and Oma and the issue of Ascension; Teal'c and Bra'tac helping to build the new Jaffa Nation, and the fight to protect Dakara; Sam trying to deal with her father's condition; Jack and the advice he gets on his personal relationships. The episode is character-driven, as opposed to the plot coming from an external source, and each character gets their own piece of the spotlight.

startrekempress
August 30th, 2005, 04:00 PM
If we're talking about the heroes / goodies in a show then for me the way to get me to like them is to make them *not perfect*. They need flaws. More than that, the flaws need to be recognised as such by other characters. Nothing is more irritating than a promising character who is decent but tends towards selfishness / impatience or some other imperfection and who causes problems for the others because of this fault, and yet the others all fete the character as if they were the golden child who could do no wrong.

Kind of like how I explained to my mum why I like Vala: she's not *good*. I used to watch TNG, and the characters there are perfect. I remember reading somewhere that Roddenberry thought that in 200 years people would have evolved past interpersonal conflicts, and I remember thinking 'yeah right'. People disagree. It happens. It may suck sometimes, but it does happen. I can't stand characters agreeing all the time unless that's an essential trait of one character in particular. Make characters not get along sometimes, for crying out loud. Only makes them all the more real to me.

~Sarah

NotANumber
August 30th, 2005, 08:33 PM
Kind of like how I explained to my mum why I like Vala: she's not *good*. I used to watch TNG, and the characters there are perfect. I remember reading somewhere that Roddenberry thought that in 200 years people would have evolved past interpersonal conflicts, and I remember thinking 'yeah right'.
This is what was great about DS9, it put all the nails in the coffin and then single-handedly buried Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek. Pity though that it's now considered the b*****d child of the Trek universe, apparently Berman and Braga hate it.

startrekempress
August 31st, 2005, 12:09 PM
This is what was great about DS9, it put all the nails in the coffin and then single-handedly buried Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek. Pity though that it's now considered the b*****d child of the Trek universe, apparently Berman and Braga hate it.

Well, frankly, I have very little opinion of what they think, seeing as they don't care about the fans at all and they wrote all the horrible characterizations that contributed to the demise of the franchise altogether. And I love DS9. :D

But to keep this OT . . . I think Vala serves the same purpose as Quark did (and the Ferengi in general) . . . to point out that there will always be people entirely out for themselves, not caring about others and doing whatever it takes. While I would hate to see a whole show like that ::cough::networksitcoms::cough::, in moderation it makes an excellent contribution to a good show, and keeps it all in balance while heightening realism. But somehow you end up liking those people anyway. ;)

~Sarah

1DanielForMe
January 8th, 2006, 12:32 PM
Katerine, I hear you, and then some.
I love Daniel more than anything, and for the record, in the end, I don't give a fig about his looks, when it comes down, that's just the vessel, not the source, his true beauty comes from that amazing soul, that's Daniel, and as long as he continues to be the most beautiful soul (which of course he will), I will continue to love him.

Frostfox
January 8th, 2006, 12:49 PM
Katerine, I hear you, and then some.
I love Daniel more than anything, and for the record, in the end, I don't give a fig about his looks, when it comes down, that's just the vessel, not the source, his true beauty comes from that amazing soul, that's Daniel, and as long as he continues to be the most beautiful soul (which of course he will), I will continue to love him.


I find Daniel far more attractive than MS (and he's gorgeous).

I like episodes which slide in good characterisation, it doesn't need to be the focus of the episode, little character scenes can be as affective as a whole episode when done well. I'm thinking Jack and the little girl Merrin or Sam and Cassie in the bunker when they are sending her to get blown up or Daniel and his grandad in Crystal Skull or any number of scenes between Teal'c and his son, particularly when he was younger.

FF, edited to add, another huge DS9 fan here.

dark_faith
January 8th, 2006, 02:19 PM
I so agree with this thread!

When I look at Atlantis season 2 and all the episodes Sheppard or Mckay centred, it drives me crazy. Now I just expect to watch an episode where they won't be there!


Nothing is more irritating than a promising character who is decent but tends towards selfishness / impatience or some other imperfection and who causes problems for the others because of this fault, and yet the others all fete the character as if they were the golden child who could do no wrong.

Exactly what I feel with Sheppard, I like the idea that he is not perfect but why don't the others see it? Why weir doesn't kick his ass once in a while when he behaves like a jerk? The lack of interaction between the characters, the lack of continuity in Atlantis, prevent the characters from looking real. And that's a real shame.

1DanielForMe
January 8th, 2006, 03:50 PM
Well, I see the Atlantis characters (and for the record, the SG-1 characters) as real no matter how they interact, but it would be nice to see more of the inner workings and tension between them, how the characters react and grow with one another is definitely not as notable in Atlantis, at least in my opinion, and I would say this is the factor which keeps me from counting any episodes of the show with the likes of SG-1 masterpieces such as (to name just a few) The Torment Of Tantalus, Cold Lazarus, and Cor-ai.

I find Daniel far more attractive than MS (and he's gorgeous).Indeed, I'm not attracted to Michael at all! (To be sure, though, he certainly is a way cool guy.)

Dani347
January 8th, 2006, 05:01 PM
I love Daniel centric episodes. Never met one I didn't like. However, I know that you can't have just Daniel centric episodes. And, if you are going to have them, than you need to have Sam centric, Teal'c centric, and Mitchell-centric. Which means you can't have too many of any one character, because what there should be is a majority of team episodes.

But, lets see. Little things I like about the characters.

Jack: I liked the "back at ya" he gave Teal'c in Tangent. That's when I started defining their relationship as "brother's in arms" I liked the cold way he told Janet to tell him when Apophis had died. Liked in a "wow, that was intense and a little scary" way. I liked his interaction with Reetu Charlie. I like his bickering with Daniel. I loved his speech to Thor in The Fifth Race. I like how he pointed out that he had done some "****** distasteful things himself" (I'm not sure if the full quote could be spelled out on the board." My feelings of Jack and Sam are kind of tainted (hope that doesn't start anything) but I liked them together a whole lot in Secrets. I love that he feels SG1 are his "kids."

Daniel: hope you don't mind if I ramble a bit, since he is my favorite. I love his passion. I love that surprised look he gets when he's spent time passionately defending a course of action, only to find out that people agreed with him the whole time. Even more when he continues to argue even after he's won the victory. I still will forever love him asking why Sam should feel detached over a little girl dying. I love that devilish grin he has sometimes. I love when he gets giddy over a new discovery, or being able to read fast. I love it when sometimes he gets too tongue tied to even speak. I like the times when he gets a little juvenile. I love his glasses, and Daniel is way better looking than MS.

Sam: I've just recently noticed that she has a nice rapport with Teal'c, that they don't do nearly enough focus of. I like Sam's smile. I guess that's not a character trait, but she has a nice one, and I did just say I liked Daniel's devilish grin. I like when she gets gung ho about something. I love the science twins thing with her and Daniel. Which they don't do enough of now.

Teal'c: I like Teal'c mostly in relation to others. I love his friendship with Daniel. I'm always going to have a top spot for Jack and Daniel's friendship, but there's something really deep (because Teal'c is a deep guy, we all know;) ) about his friendship with Daniel. Maybe because there are so many reasons why it never should have worked out. I loved how Daniel trusted him to accompany him in Secrets, and that Teal'c set him straight in that episode. I love the times you see Teal'c waiting by an unconscious Daniel. I've already said I like him and Sam. I think in terms of uncomplicated, just plain fun friendship, I like him and Sam best. And, again, not enough examples. Although I liked the little scene in Space Race where he wrangled his way out of going with Jack and Daniel. And, the "Indeed" Sam gave him (plus the grin she had). I like his friendship with Jack, and think that in some ways, he might be closer to Jack than anyone because Jack can understand some things better based on his experience. I love his friendship with Brata'c.

Mitchell: He hasn't been on long, but I like that he respects SG1. I like that he came in seeing them as these big, larger than life heroes, and even after seeing the gloss stripped and the humans (with flaws) there, he still likes and respects them. I like those quiet moments, where he says something without force, but with a ton of conviction.

(hmm. Seemed I rambled about Teal'c more than Daniel)

Skydiver
January 8th, 2006, 06:22 PM
for me, i need to connect with the characters. I need to care for and about them.

i, quite obviously, connected with jack first...face it, rda is easy on the eyes and jack o'neill is a likeable guy.

then i fell for sam. i loved this 'one of the guys' woman. i loved the fact that, yes, she was a woman, but her gender wasn't the sum of her reason for existing and, quite often, was not a focus of the story.

teal'c took a little longer. in fact, i really didn't start to look at the character until season 4 or so. now, i love him. i love the subtext he brings to things. and i'm a total sam/teal'c slut :sam: :tealc:

i love the big brother/little sister thing they have going on.

daniel...i've never totally connected with him. maybe it's because he was always at odds with the others so often. maybe it's because i just couldnt get into his head.

i really still can't. sometimes i will, but when i look at all i've written a lot of it focuses on sam, a lot jack, a lot the pair of them, quite a bit on teal'c and daniel....daniel just doesn't connect with me

how can they get me to like a character? how about showing me something about him? let me get under his skin. let me connect with them on some level.

for many folks a 'insert character's name here' episode isn't necessarily one where one character gets more screen time than another...it's an episode where we learn something about them.

ITLOD is a sam episode...but the eps doesn't focus on her totally. it also focuses on how jack and daniel nad teal'c deal with what's happened to sam. it focuses on how they try to save thier friend. how they feel about it.

i know that many folks see lifeboat as a daniel eps but...i see it more as a MS eps. Daniel was hardly in it. I never got this 'omg, we MUST save him' feeling from the other guys. what i got was a 'yeah, we gotta fix that don't we' feeling from the guys.

crystal skull was more of a daniel eps to me than lifeboat largely because most of the eps was how they feel about and how they were trying to fix things.

i feel that babylon is much the same way as lifeboat. yes, it focused on cam but... anyone get the idea that ANYBODY at the sgc gave a fig if cam came back????? if they dont' care, how am i supposed to care????

that, to me, is the biggest weakness of the whole thing. we have all these shiny new characters but, as of now, is there anything about any of them that just makes you think 'this role couldn't EVER be played by anyone else????'

Dani347
January 8th, 2006, 06:27 PM
I actually see Lifeboat as a Janet episode.

Lexa Jayde
January 8th, 2006, 06:29 PM
i LOVE what you guys are saying on this thread.... some very interesting points.... Love yas all!!!!!

Skydiver
January 8th, 2006, 06:41 PM
I actually see Lifeboat as a Janet episode.
it did do a lot for her character. just like rite of passage did. we learned something about her, got to see her tick.

in death knell, we got to learn something about sam. we got to see her struggle and got to see how the guys handled it. we got to witness some of that 'dogged determination' that i always read about in fic.

i have yet to get something about any of the new guys that just whacks me between the eyes and makes me see how the others feel about them.

there's too much telling and not enough showing.

Seshat
January 8th, 2006, 07:13 PM
I really like the idea of this thread! :)

I like it when each of the characters gets fleshed out a little bit more each episode, when we learn something about them that we did not know before, something that makes them more human. I like characters with individual little flaws, and hopes and quirks, backgrounds and pasts, the things that make them individuals and not just "heroes". I don't like them to be perfect. I like them to be human. When they become less human is when I stop caring about them.

I am not a big fan of character-centric eps. I prefer to see the team interacting as a group, or at least in twos in concurrent plotlines that overlap to some extent. Affinity to me was an example of taking the characters just too far out of their element as team players and being too disjointed. The show was all about Teal'c (whom I think is just the yummiest alien on the planet!) but I didn't feel the connection between the characters the way I did in The Changeling, for example, another Teal'c-centric show which I thought worked much better because all the characters were more interwoven into the story.

qksilver99
January 9th, 2006, 09:24 AM
Don't know if I can mention the Fourth Horsemen Part II here, but I had a real problem with a scene between Hank and Dr. Lam. And it's a good way of showing how the viewers can not be forced in loving the characters.


Hank Landry is dying from the dreaded Ori Flu, and he and Carolyn talk about their relationship. And you know, even though I will tell everyone and anything that Beau gave one hell of a performance .... I didn't care one iota about their relationship... because I didn't KNOW them at all.

When Jacob and Sam had a similar discussion in the Tok'Ra Part II, I became a big Jake Carter fan, because we had watched Sam for long enough to know who she was, brilliant yet flawed (in other words INTERESTING), in part due to her troubled relationship with her father. When you met Jake Carter in Secrets, you were like... THAT EXPLAINS it.


Character love can't be rushed into, it's built over time unless you get a well known someone like Mitch Peliggi into a role and you know from watching him in other shows that his character will be one to watch.

For example, I always liked the General Hammond character, but it wasn't until Season 8 with General JackJack that I realized how BIG a role George Hammond was in making me enjoy SG1.

That's my 2 cents.

:hammond:
Helena

andi_b
January 9th, 2006, 09:44 AM
it did do a lot for her character. just like rite of passage did. we learned something about her, got to see her tick.

in death knell, we got to learn something about sam. we got to see her struggle and got to see how the guys handled it. we got to witness some of that 'dogged determination' that i always read about in fic.

i have yet to get something about any of the new guys that just whacks me between the eyes and makes me see how the others feel about them.

there's too much telling and not enough showing.

Yes, YES!! I've said this elsewhere - I think Browder is a wonderful actor. In Farscape he gave the most complex, emotional, heart-wrenching performances I've seen in SciFi television. And he does nothing for me here. And what you've said is the reason. I've been looking like crazy for some Cam Mitchell fan fiction, to get a grip on this character, and found nothing of significance. There is nothing to write about!

1DanielForMe
January 11th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Well, as I've stated, great personality is what really draws me to a character (and why Daniel is my favourite), and Cameron struck me with his humility and excitement at the prospect of being part of the SG-1. What I'm saying, of course, is that I really like Cameron, and feel we've already seen a good portion of just who he is. Even for those who don't agree, though, we have only known him for less than a season.