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October 26, 2014

'Stargate: Universe' a Whole New World

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Oct 1st 2009 11:55PM
'Stargate' has long been one of those science-fiction franchises that seems untouchable to the average person. 'Star Wars' has Ewoks and other cute creatures like Yoda, and 'Star Trek' has gimmicky, affable characters like Spock, Data, and Worf to draw people in. 'Stargate' has always floated - in neutral - off the mainstream radar.

Its various incarnations, including 'Stargate: Atlantis' and 'Stargate: SG-1', have sat on the cusp between "serious" sci-fi (like 'Battlestar Galactica') and the more "cheesy" sci-fi (some 'Star Trek', 'Xena: The Warrior Princess', 'Buffy'). Fans of 'Stargate' are die-hard, there's no doubt about it - but it has had its fair share of problems attracting new viewers. (Getting your partner to watch with you doesn't count, because they're secretly dissing the show when your back is turned.)

Canadian Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, co-creators of 'Stargate's TV version, have completely shattered this unapproachable quality with their latest creation, 'Stargate: Universe.'
'Stargate' has long been one of those science-fiction franchises that seems untouchable to the average person. 'Star Wars' has Ewoks and other cute creatures like Yoda, and 'Star Trek' has gimmicky, affable characters like Spock, Data, and Worf to draw people in. 'Stargate' has always floated - in neutral - off the mainstream radar.

Its various incarnations, including 'Stargate: Atlantis' and 'Stargate: SG-1', have sat on the cusp between "serious" sci-fi (like 'Battlestar Galactica') and the more "cheesy" sci-fi (some 'Star Trek', 'Xena: The Warrior Princess', 'Buffy'). Fans of 'Stargate' are die-hard, there's no doubt about it - but it has had its fair share of problems attracting new viewers. (Getting your partner to watch with you doesn't count, because they're secretly dissing the show when your back is turned.)

Canadian Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, co-creators of 'Stargate's TV version, have completely shattered this unapproachable quality with their latest creation, 'Stargate: Universe.'
Besides jamming the roster with an all-star cast - including recognizable faces like Lou Diamond Phillips [read interview], Robert Carlyle, and Louis Ferreira - they've discarded the past cheesiness, of which there is no trace whatsoever, and replaced the vibe with an urgency and seriousness that borders on abyss-like darkness.

Right from the beginning of the pilot episode, there's a very 'Battlestar'-esque feeling, one of militaristic industrialism and post-apocalyptic gloom. There's an uncertainty hanging thick in the air as a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians are left to fend for themselves on the spaceship Destiny, in the darkest reaches of space, billions of light years away from Earth.

Each of the characters has an interesting back story and plenty of mystery, which bodes well for potential future plotlines. It's also handy that the Destiny is a massive ship, and the humans on board are only occupying a fractional portion of it - plenty to explore! And with the whole undiscovered universe at their front door, who knows how far 'SGU' can go?

Says Wright: "We wanted to do something different. After 300-plus hours of things called 'Stargate,' we had to evolve the franchise. If we were going to stick around, we wanted to bring 'Stargate' into the 21st century. 'SGU' is more realistic, and yes, grittier, but it still maintains our sensibilities, which include our sense of humour and characters based in the here and now."

I'll admit I watched the pilot episode of 'SGU' with some trepidation. As a sci-fi fanatic, I always dread watching modern attempts at the genre that fall flat, especially transparent efforts to 'sex' it up (are you listening, 'Defying Gravity' creators?). Also, I had seen some 'Stargate: SG-1' and 'Atlantis' episodes and they really weren't my bag. So when, during the first half-hour of 'SGU,' I found myself sitting on the edge of the couch and actually caring what happened to the characters, I was ecstatic. After the death of 'BSG' I thought it was all over for me and TV sci-fi. Not so, it seems.

Wright agrees with my point of view, and thinks 'SGU' will help usher in a whole new audience of 'Stargate' fans. "Most people watch shows they like, and I think people will like 'SGU'," he says. "We may lose viewers from our regular fan base, but we will certainly gain viewers who have never watched an episode of 'Stargate.' 'SG-1' and 'Atlantis' were very successful, and I'm proud of them both, but neither became a cross-over hit in mainstream television. 'SGU' has that potential."

Sign us up for this mission.

'Stargate: Universe' premieres on Space on Friday, October 2 at 9 pm ET.

Also, don't miss the first-ever episode of Space's half-hour flagship show 'Innerspace', which features Ajay Fry and Natasha Eloi chatting all things sci-fi, airing on the same night at 11:30 pm.

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