'Stargate Universe' Season 2: Catch-Up Guide
by Mike Moody, posted Sep 27th 2010 7:00PM
The 'Stargate' franchise heads into uncharted territory with season 2 of 'Stargate Universe,' premiering Tue., Sept. 28 at 9PM ET on Syfy.
Flying into the unknown is nothing new for the venerable sci-fi brand, which got its start more than 15 years ago with the feature film starring Kurt Russell and James Spader.
Since the 1994 release of the movie, which became a surprise hit, the 'Stargate' story has continued with three TV series. 'Stargate SG-1' was a direct continuation of the film and featured new actors (Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks) taking over the lead roles. 'Stargate Atlantis' moved the action to a different galaxy with new characters, villains and adventures. Now 'Stargate Universe,' the most creatively ambitious edition in the franchise, centers on a ragtag starship crew lost in the far reaches of space.
For newbies, let's take a quick walk through the world of 'Stargate' and get a primer for season 2 of 'Stargate Universe' with co-creator Brad Wright and star David Blue.
What's a Stargate?
Every incarnation of 'Stargate' is unique in story and character, but they all share certain facets and ideas. Every show, of course, features characters using a Stargate, a portal device created by an ancient race that allows people to travel to distant planets at a rapid pace.
According to 'Stargate Universe' co-creator Brad Wright, there's one key aspect that has helped the franchise stay on the air for more than a decade.
"I think what makes 'Stargate' 'Stargate' is that we (the characters) are people from the here and now. These are folks with all of our sensibilities. We're not from another galaxy. We're not from a distant future where nobody uses money. We make cultural references," Wright told TV Squad in a recent interview. "Those touchstones and the characters make it accessible."
What's different about 'SGU?'
The key word there is "accessible." Without abandoning the franchise's spirit of exploration or its relatable characters, the new 'Stargate Universe' has arguably rebooted the story for new viewers who didn't follow all 10 seasons of 'SG-1' or five seasons of 'Atlantis.'
'Stargate Universe,' or 'SGU,' also marked the series' first foray into highly-serialized storytelling and character-based plots -- narratives that stand in stark contrast to the episodic nature of the two previous shows.
'SGU' is also a lot darker and more serious in tone when compared to 'SG-1' or 'Atlantis.'
Wright said the changes in tone and storytelling style were, in part, influenced by a bid to attract more viewers to the franchise.
"If you just try to hang on to the viewers you have and the numbers are going down, they'll eventually go down to the point where the network and the studio will say, "OK, we're done." That's what happens. That's definitely what happens. I think what we had to do was not make a little change, but make some big changes in terms of how we told stories," he said about 'SGU.'
"Now one of those (changes) was to make it more character based and less plot oriented. And with that, we're winking at ourselves a little less or, frankly, a lot less than we ever did on the other shows, and we're trying to be more realistic."
A quick primer for 'SGU' newbies
Season 1 of 'SGU' established a more "realistic" tone with a dark central storyline that followed flawed characters – a mix of military personnel, scientists, bureaucrats and a few regular citizens -- unwittingly thrust into a dangerous outer space adventure. The first half of the season mostly revolved around survival, with the characters stuck barreling through space on an ancient spaceship, The Destiny, and searching for food, air and water and trying desperately to return to Earth.
After establishing the character dynamics and the rules of the ship and its Stargate, the season's second half introduced more aggressive outside threats in the form of creepy CGI aliens and a band of space pirates called The Lucian Alliance.
The season ended on a major cliffhanger with all of the central characters in grave danger and the Lucian Alliance poised to take over The Destiny for good.
So what else do new viewers need to know before jumping into season 2 of 'SGU'?
"They need to know that these people that have been thrown together [on The Destiny] are not the right people for the job. These are not the people who were sent here to do this; they were actually the people who were trying to go home, these were the non-essential personnel, if you will," said Wright, who also promised that 'SGU' newbies would get a quick recap in the first few seconds of Tuesday's premiere.
"Frankly, there are very few barriers to entry in this show in the sense of back-story, because we do a fairly elaborate 'previously on ...' at the beginning of every episode. So if you miss something, we help you catch up."
Eli Wallace is 'SGU''s 'Rosetta Stone'
One of the show's main characters, Eli Wallace, played by David Blue ('Ugly Betty,' 'Moonlight), serves as a surrogate for the audience, an entry point into the world of 'Stargate.'
In the show's first episode, Eli, a brilliant but unmotivated slacker, is recruited to help Stargate Command, a top-secret military unit that oversees all Stargate operations, unlock the key to a new level of Stargate travel.
"I think the goal -- and hopefully we're achieving it -- from the beginning was that he would be not just the surrogate, but a way to explain what's going on and show what it's like for them [the viewers] to be in that situation," said Blue in an interview with TV Squad.
Blue said that Eli would continue to act as a guide, or a "Rosetta Stone," for new viewers in season 2. He also said that 'SGU' is capable of attracting viewers outside of sci-fi fandom because of the show's relevant characters and engrossing ideas and storylines.
"I don't want to compare us to 'Lost,' but it's that kind of wonderful reaction where somebody watches something and they don't think about it being sci-fi, and that's what real sci-fi is. You disappear into it. You don't think, 'Oh, this is science fiction,' you think, 'This is amazing, this is fantastical and it's what I want to be real,'" he said.
What to expect from season 2
Wright, who had just wrapped shooting on an upcoming ep that features 'Atlantis' vets David Hewlett and Robert Picardo, spelled out his hopes for 'SGU''s second season.
"I would like them (the viewers and fans) to embrace the mission and embrace the journey that Destiny is on and that our characters are on," he said. "A lot of critics of the show early on have recognized that the show isn't 'Battlestar Galactica' and it isn't 'Voyager' and it isn't 'Lost' -- it's its own show. I would like our fans to realize that 'SGU' is its own show and it has its own identity, and it's an interesting one."
Wright also revealed that season 2 would offer more action and adventure and that the characters would finally discover the true purpose of their mission.
"I think season 2 is going to be answering a lot of questions that were building up and that people may have been wanting to know the answers to all through season 1, the biggest of which is 'What is this mission all about?' and 'What was this ship launched for to begin with?'" he explained.
"If season 1 was 'We're stuck on a runaway train and we don't even know where it's going,' then in season 2, we figure out how to steer the train and drive the train, and, of course, the question still remains whether or not we should.
"But we also learn what the mission is and what the Destiny was launched for, and with that, our characters begin to understand that this isn't all about getting home anymore."
Check out a sneak preview from Tuesday's premiere below and learn more about 'SGU' at the Gateworld Omnipedia.