Meanwhile, since I've been immersing myself in it the past few months, I'm going to give some thoughts about Stargate:Atlantis, even if I've seen maybe half the episodes. Yeah, thinking seriously about the DVD, except we need to get through Firefly first.
Fan fiction writers love alternate universes. They let you end an episode better, or get the proper characters together, or even let you see your favorite guys or gals in a different setting. Some series don't lend themselves well to that - Sports Night just has to take place in CSN, I think. Others, like TS and DS, seem made for playing with.
I've never seen so many AUs as in SGA. The writers play with setting, with the timeline, with jobs of the characters. I've seen Rodney as a veterinarian and John as a mail-order bride, Weir as the head of a company and Carson as a prince. There's a series of stories going on now with John and Rodney as ice skaters.
Some of this can be laid at the door of sga_flashfic's Harlequin challenge (somehow, it all manages to be cesperanza's fault, doesn't it?) - this challenge, which pretty much begs for AUs, was so popular that the moderators had to extend the time *and* it spawned a community. However, that only hit on something that already existed, I think.
I got sucked into SGA fandom even though I'd only seen one or two episodes, and I felt comfortable there. It can't be the plots - we have fascists and space vampires. It can't be the science - I'm still laughing over the "science" in Inferno. The only thing that's left is the characters themselves.
And these are the strongest crop of characters I've seen in a long time. More than that - we know there is more to them than we see on the surface. We know so little about John Sheppard, but we know he's hiding more than his intelligence - and why is he hiding that? Rodney seems all surface, but there's something underneath that mess of insecurity and brilliance. All of them have secrets they're not telling us and we want to know.
Here's the thing. One could write a story putting them in...oh, Victorian England. And one can even eliminate all talk of flight, citrus fruits and diplomacy (I wish we'd forget the citrus fruits. Certainly the show writers have...) and we'd recognize the characters. It's not just quirks or speech patterns. It's that Rodney will always awkward in social situations and John will always risk his life while pretending he doesn't care, and Elizabeth will always betray her ideals for her people and Carson will always push all of his own boundaries, because this is their character.
I've only seen this level of development in due South - and DS has its own share of Alternate Universes. On the other hand, DS's characters all have *quirks*. Other than Rodney, who is really just the standard genius who has a hard time reading normal human behavior, the SGA crew *aren't* quirky. They're just recognizable.
Which may be why the last sga_flashfic explosion happened. Not only was it a different challenge - postcards take a different skill set than writing, and one that takes less time - but it was almost completely dependent on knowledge, either canon or fanon (who is this Parrish person and why is Lorne in love with him?) of the characters themselves. And it, too, spawned a community.