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October 7, 2015

Stargate Universe -- An early look

by Mike Moody, posted Sep 29th 2009 2:02PM
syfy stargate universe
When word broke that the Stargate franchise was moving into darker territory with Stargate Universe, fan reaction ranged from cautiously optimistic to downright angry. The anger mostly came from fans who felt jilted by Syfy's sudden cancellation of the veteran show Stargate Atlantis (it didn't help that Syfy announced the new series in a press release shortly after announcing the cancellation of Atlantis). To some, it seemed like the fan favorite (Atlantis) had to die so the edgy new experiment (Universe) could live.

–- a fine, scrappy show packed with great actors – might now be facing an uphill battle with some of its target audience members. Stargate fans unwilling to give the show a chance should know one thing: The franchise's spirit of adventure remains intact in the first three episodes of Universe. It is different and darker than Stargate: SG-1 and Atlantis – even blatantly dreary at times – but it's still Stargate.

The series stars David Blue as Eli Wallace, a pajama pants-wearing slacker genius who, by accident, unlocks the latest missing key to Stargate travel. As portrayed by Blue, Eli is a sardonic but loveable manchild who reacts with fanboy delight at the sight of the Stargate. Thankfully, the character is a lot less clichéd and grating than he sounds (and he's not just Rodney McKay minus fifteen years).

Eli ditches his basement-dwelling lifestyle to join Stargate Command and Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle), who are trying to unlock the Stargate's ninth chevron, which will allow man to boldly go ... you get the idea. Things go horribly wrong when Eli, Rush and a team of military personnel and civilians are trapped on an Ancient ship, the Destiny, with no way to return home. The ship, which is almost falling apart, is programmed to keep jumping to new worlds on the far end of the universe.

The two-hour premiere, "Air," is a fine start full of mystery, suspense and humor, but it's far from superb. After a jolting first few minutes, things start to drag as the story unfolds in a non-linear narrative, a device relatively new to the franchise. The Universe producers have listed Lost, and Battlestar Galactica as influences, and the ghosts of those shows live on here. The characters' lives unfold in flashback, just like Lost, and the Destiny is all aged metal and narrow grey corridors, not unlike the Galactica.

Universe is shot mostly with handheld cameras to give it a documentary quality that sets it apart from the stagey look of SG-1 and Atlantis. Thankfully, the show's downbeat and realistic tone and its themes of survival and isolation match the set and filmmaking style. Also new to the franchise is an emphasis on character drama and relationships. Luckily, the producers have assembled an great team of actors to flesh out the large cast of characters.

Carlyle is excellent as Rush (no surprise there.) The veteran indie film actor turns in a sly, twisty performance as the show's seemingly duplicitous mad scientist. Rush's obsession with traveling to the ninth chevron address is what gets everyone in trouble. From then on, he operates on an island of arrogance and self-serving ideas, putting him in direct conflict with everyone else aboard the Destiny.

The supporting cast members – including Elyse Levesque, Justin Louis, Ming-Na, and Brian J. Smith – add depth to their sometimes thinly drawn roles. Smith is a standout as Matthew Scott, a younger and less romanticized version of Atlantis' John Sheppard. (Lou Diamond Phillips' Colonel Telford only shows up for a few minutes in the premiere and is given a little more screen time in episode three.)

Stargate Universe might signal a bold leap in a new direction for the Stargate franchise, but it's nothing most TV addicts – especially sci-fi fans -- haven't seen before. Still, the show promises adventure and character drama all wrapped up in a big, geeky-friendly package. What's not to love about that?

Stargate Universe premieres Friday at 9 PM on Syfy.

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In the first couple episodes a small craft of some sort took off from the ship,what was that about?

November 22 2009 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do not like it. Watched an episode last week. Watched the next just now. Skipped the last part to go feed earthworms. (I have a compost bin.). This from someone who has watched the SG shows *and* movies *and* read the SG Fandemonium books.

The BSG 2's influences are there all right (jumpy plot, jumpy cameras, self-absorbed characters, dark attitude, dark sets), the weakest SG1 plot devices reappear (wormhole/sunspot time travel, Ancient mind swap devices), a focus on 'gritty' and 'contemporary' (troubled teens! adultery!! lesbians!?!), and they reworked all the props and artwork just for ... for .... for what?

My earthworms can digest almost anything. But I cannot.

Hmm... I never tried the SG-1/SG Atlantis audiobooks. I thought "how enjoyable can a couple of people reading a story be"?

Time to find out.

November 20 2009 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SC's comment

Excellent post!

December 02 2009 at 8:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Stargate fans unwilling to give the show a chance should know one thing: The franchise's spirit of adventure remains intact in the first three episodes of Universe."

I've never heard so much nonsense in my life! The first three episodes were mind numbingly boring as hell. The other shows were bright and colourful and most importantly "interesting!". SU is dark, dull, dreary, bland need I go on! The first 2 episodes were just faded metal, the 3rd was plain white sand and the next was pitch freaking black!... WTF!!!!!

I will not help to perpetuate the egos of Brad Wright and Robert Carlyle who have just hijacked a beloved franchise and are nose diving it into the same bottomless pit that Star Trek Enterprise fell, and ST hasn't ever really recovered since, new film or not!

October 24 2009 at 11:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can anyone create a TV series these days that is not full of confusing flashbacks? It is very annoying - and hard to follow. I finally figured it out by color: Dark = flashback Really really Dark = present. I too thought the plot was thin and the hysterical fit Chloe threw when her Dad died totally ridiculous if they really believed they would probably all die the next day anyway.

Well, I'll give it one more try. Next week apparently its the Gobi desert planet so back to the ship they go.

October 08 2009 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sure hope so because I'm not real impressed so far. I loved the
other SG's but not so much Battlestar because it was just TOO dark!
The filming, the constant dreary atmosphere...

October 05 2009 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched the SU Friday night and was very disappointed in the story line and the picture quality. It was not worth 2 hours of my time and could have been done in 1 hour. I didn't know what they did to SA until reading all these comments. What a shame and then to replace it with this is a disappointment.

October 04 2009 at 12:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just watched the premiere and i kind of liked it. I was a big Stargate fan before...at least SG-1 and only some SG-A episodes (SG-A liked the first season but i thought it got worse and worse).

For me SG-U is a very interesting and fresh approach at the SG Universe. Yes, of course it uses a lot of stuff and ideas from other shows (drama driven people, overall dirty look) but i don't think that is a bad thing. It finally breaks (at least for the moment) from the typically mighty and bad master villain concept and shows more character.

For example: Dr Rush is for me the most fascinating character the franchise created until now. At the one hand, you understand his addiction for knowledge and his fear for never having another chance to go to the 9th Chevron adress unless it's done now. On the other hand, he's just a self-centred jerk whose ends want to justify the means.
SG-1 and SG-A always introduced plain characters that were fun but never very deep. They could handle a life challenging situation in a few minutes. ("damn it, Rodney, we need more speed" "sorry, this ship is running at 120%...but wait, if we do it like that, we can get 250%"). For the first time in a SG show, the situation really seems stuck and it can't be fixed with just a blink of an eye.

Alright,...some of the drama seemed unnessesary. Why couldn't they have used one of the flying Keno thingys to push the damn closing button? Why did everybody just leave the contact to earth thing when it seemd totally obvious that Rush lied and O'Neill never would have left him in charge. What about this strange attack by the Lucian Alliance (maybe they will solve those 2 last points in the next episodes)

And i was a bit disappointed that the appearance of RDA, Shanks and Tapping was so minor...and useless. It felt, like they were only in the opener because the producers could make them do... . Certainly they could have had better motivations for our old beloved characters.

But i'm curious how this new show will progress. And as i said before...i liked the new approach and style of the show. I'm very excited!!!

October 03 2009 at 5:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a huge fan of the Stargate franchise having watched all the SG-1 episodes multiple times and every SGA episode. I wanted to like SGU, but it tried too hard to be dark like BSG instead of focusing on story or characters. The 2-hour series premiere was completely unnecessary and could have been cut to an hour thirty or an hour. Full review of the episode.


October 03 2009 at 1:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i have loved all stargate series to the end but the sg universe to me has started out very boring if your going to have a 2 hour primere have some dang action the show has nothing but boring wanna be drama to hold u on till next show but ill wait for next episiod if it cant show me some ummpffs lol i aint going to watch, This show reminds me of to much like battlestar gallactica to much on wanna be drama why u think that show dint last long people would watch stargate universe if the writers were alot better than this premire

October 03 2009 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm one of those disgruntled fans too. I tune into SU just to see what the story line would be like. It's definitely not SG1 or SGA. The show is so dark you really can't tell what is going on. I was totally disappointed there was no chemistry between the actors. It was really dull. Robert Carlyle is no Samatha Carter. Why the sex? It wasn't necessary. Keep the show clean don't join the industry. The only character that appeared true or with any personality was the LT. I don't think it will last more than two seasons unless they do something very quickly to bring life into the show.
I am still very angry over the cancellation of SGA and SG1. Anxious to see the new SGA and SG1 movies. SYFY new creation SGU is dull and dark and lifeless.

October 03 2009 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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