Having seen the two-hour premier of the new SyFy series Stargate Universe, I am stoked for what looks like another well-crafted, action-filled sci-fi drama. As we've seen in shows like Battlestar Galactica, established actors can bring the skill and gravitas required for a good dramatic series -- in this case, Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, Eragon), Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver, Young Guns), and a host of experienced television actors.
Compared to previous Stargate series, SG-U's serious and gritty style stands out, more reminiscent of BSG than of the campy humor and geeky in-jokes we've come to love, particularly in SG-1. We get colored filters that make the world look gray and inhospitable, and we get shaky cameras. Most importantly we get realistic characters who hook up in the storage closets and people who get wounded (and killed) in action in a way that feels more true-to-life than say, the way Star Trek: Voyager scrubs the deck clean of pesky casualties and carpet stains only moments after an explosion decimates the crew.
But to do SG-U true justice, it helps to resist the urge to compare it to SG-1, Atlantis, BSG, Lost, Voyager, Halo, Mass Effect, Lost in Space, The Last Starfighter (ahem) ... You get the idea. SG-U borrows favorite elements of these shows, but its situation, plot, and characters stand up on their own.
Robert Carlyle's intelligent, morally ambiguous, and impenetrable (except for teary alone moments) Dr. Rush proves complex in the way we expect of quality hero/villains. Elyse Levesque plays a so-far interesting Chloe McGavin Armstrong. And David Blue brings to life Eli -- a video game genius who gets transported to Rylos an alien ship to provide a little Shakespearean comic relief/wisdom. (He's my favorite character so far.) It'd be nice to see some strong female characters emerge as the show progresses, and I expect we will if the Stargate tradition exerts its influence.
Of course SG-U already delivers some juicy sci-fi action: a sweet alien ship where you'd expect to find Ripley running around, space battles and exploding planets a-la Death Star, PSP-operated Guilty Spark floating spherical cameras, FTL, red buttons, airlocks, and energy shields -- and, of course, the now 9-chevron stargate itself with its gorgeous liquefying wormhole effect and a new intriguing propensity for flinging its travelers headlong into walls.
There's a lot of good sci-fi and supernatural television on this year -- so much that I'm using a calendar to keep up with it all. But with its promising pilot, cool storyline, and well-crafted (and acted) characters, the only decision I need to make about SG-U is whether to watch it followed by Sanctuary while I TiVo Dollhouse -- or the other way around.
Stargate Universe [SyFy]
Stargate Universe [IMDB]
Official Stargate Website [MGM]
GWC Calendar of Sci-Fi Events
Guide to October Science Fiction [io9]
I finally got to watch the episode via Syfy Rewind last night after hooking the Mac up to the TV. The episode was wonderful and Elyse Levesque certainly was not the damsel in distress she initially might have seemed to be.
I can at least listen to the podcast now having seen it! It sucks that my local cable does not offer SyFy on the tier we can afford. Since the SyFy Rewind doesn’t post until Saturday, I’ll be a day behind for quite a while until this changes.
I got excited about this show at ComicCon when I saw their panel discussion. I’ve only watched a few episodes of SG-1, mainly due to lack of time rather than interest. It will be quite a while before I catch up on all the Stargate stuff out there, so I’m thrilled to have a new show start that’s taken a different lens to the franchise.
I enjoyed the pilot very much.I thought the characters were layered and relatable. I have high hopes that this show will do well since Defying Gravity died so quickly. Fingers crossed that this one will be around for a while.
A two hour stargate episode without a single Star Trek/Star Wars/Simsons reference? A Very different tone indeed!
While the obvious influence of a truly masterful sci fi series, Galactica is unmistakable, it’s hard to fathom how this team of writers and it’s show runner could have gone so far off course with this series. Absent a compelling story arc for season one, and devoid of anything approaching an escalating crisis this series will jeopardize, in a single season, the entire SG franchise that The Sci Fi Network (nee SYFY) spent more than a decade to establish as the cornerstone of it’s programming line-up.
On par with the saturday evening $5-6MM per film schlock movies SyFY currently licenses of deficit finances, this latest installment of the StarGate effort is a tiresome, underwritten shambles. Nothing transpires in season one. Audiences find few characters to cheer for, and see little or no action beyond the melodrama of families and relationships put under stress due to prolonged “deployment” to deep space (read: Afganistan).
The actors look bored by the limited depth of their characters’ roles. Even more discouraging is that this idea of being trapped on a spaceship with little or no action or dynamism is exactly what damaged the Star Trek franchise when Paramount ran aground with it’s woeful Deep Space Nine. For that lackluster series, producers finally had to tether a pet spaceship to the station so it’s crew could find others to interact with when their story lines grew stale.
Time to fire the writing staff, the show runner, and the rest of those responsible for this misadventure and retool for next season.
The show did get off to a bad start. It was dark and depressing, and it was hard to care what happened to any of the characters.
However, at episode 10, the plot really takes off. Episodes 10-20 are full of jaw-dropping “That just happened” moments. It’s not any less dark, but it is less depressing and many of the characters are now better fleshed-out and likable. SGU has taken up the banner of serious scifi where BSG left it, and I can’t wait for next season!