Stargate: Universe Review

This last friday, the long awaited new Stargate series of Stargate: Universe premiered on the SyFy network (still trying to figure out why this isn’t SciFi network anymore but I digress). I have been looking forward to SGU for a very long time, really I’ve been looking forward to a follow-up of SG1 since about the seventh season of SG1.

There was hope for Stargate: Atlantis when that came out. I thought the show had a huge amount of promise when it first came out years ago. However, the promise fell quickly, falling prey to the problem of copying SG1 too much with worse casting choices. Heck, they even copied SG-1’s strategy of bringing in popular sci-fi actors when the ratings were plummeting in its later years. For example Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), Amanda Tipping (SG-1), and Jewel Staite (FIrefly). But in the end, the bad acting and bad writing and the lack of doing anything particularly interesting really made Atlantis not worth watching.

Stargate: Universe starts out of the gate (pun sort of intended) shooting. Just the base premise of SGU taking place on a ship light years away from Earth takes it out of the typical Stargate storylines. And it is a great story at that, i thoroughly enjoyed the discovery that we had watching the ragtag group of stargate refugees discovering the ins and outs of the Ancient Spaceship. The fact that the ship is on auto-pilot and taking them to planets that they will find things that they “need” is also pretty cool. The ship stays at the planet for a given amount of time before moving on. This part I could do without but I understand why they are doing it. It is designed to give them something to have a constant struggle with, but I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Another thing I think SGU fixes from SGA is that there is honest tension between characters. Dr. Rush is generally hated by everyone, but because of his knowledge of the Ancients and science he is always in a position of power, and seems to be making power plays behind everyone’s backs to ensure that he stays in that position of power as well. There are also other characters who hate each other, some who are sleeping with each other, and I’m sure many other secrets will pop up. They’ve really laid some groundwork for some complex workings in the ship, something I don’t think even SG-1 had.

Lastly, is the acting. I must say that SGU has some pretty good acting and it all starts with the main character Eli played by David Blue (previously seen on Ugly Betty for a short time). Blue does an amazing job at the naive yet intuitive young gamer being shoved into outerspace. I think it is a breath of fresh air to the series that offers the viewer a tie into the series. Eli basically is the viewer in the show and it has many opportunities to infuse laughter into a show which is otherwise dark.

Then there is Dr. Rush played by Robert Carlyle of “Trainspotting” and “The Full Monty” fame. He’s never been an A-list actor or anything, but he is still a step above everyone on the Stargate: Atlantis, or even SG-1 (at least the original cast). He was handed what looks to be a very complex role with likely backstabbing to continue his personal goals. I think what makes him even more complex is that he probably isn’t as terrible as they are making him out to be, he just seems to not have an ability to communicate well as evidenced when talking to the grieved daughter of the senator after his death.

The rest of the cast did a fairly good job as well, though at this point I don’t think many have been given the chance to shine quite yet. I was a little disappointed to see Lou Diamon Phillips getting killed off with very little time in the pilot episode, though IMDB lists him as being in 7 total episodes which leads me to think they will have some time travel or flash backs early on or something. There is little chance that he would be in the show in any other way. I think he also would have been a welcome addition to the show.

Lastly I’d like to talk about special effects. They were pretty darn good I must say. Technology has obviously come pretty far way since even the end of SG-1 which really wasn’t that long ago. Some of the scenes, such as when the G’ould attacked the planet in the beginning, were stellar. I hope that this sort of top notch graphics continues as the series does, but I have a feeling they are front loading it for the series premiere. This tends to happen, I personally felt that for the most part the best part of the special effects for Battlestar Gallactica was early in its airing, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they did it here again.

Overall, I think Stargate: Universe could be a really great program. It is sort of a mash-up of every Science Fiction show that has done well. The good fight of Star Trek, the struggle to sruvive of BSG (the original), the search home of Voyager, the dark grittyness of BSG (the new one), heck I fully expect to see cowboys running around from Firefly, but I think Eli’s humor is supposed to give us that piece.

Right now, I think that SGU is most definitely one of the best sci-fi shows on TV. This either speaks to how good it is, or how bad Sci-Fi is right now despite the dearth of it. It is definitely worth watching, and if you don’t have cable like me, then fear not it is in hulu (pilot episode is embedded above).

2 replies on “Stargate: Universe Review”

I couldn’t disagree with you more. I too had great hopes for Stargate: Universe. But I doubt I’ll be watching anymore episodes. I just finished watching the Episode “Life” and it continued what appears to be an expanding trend. That is; it contained about 1/4 Sci Fi and 3/4 Psychobabble. It was like watching 1/4 of Sci Fi and 3/4 “Dallas in Space” All this soap opera stuff when they travel back home in another’s body is like watching “Days of Our Lives”. I’m a Sci Fi fan not a soap opera buff. Give us Sci Fi.

Life wasn’t one of their best episodes I agree. But the show has done far better than most sci fi at creating quality stories. I think part of the soap opera issue is that they paid attention to Battlestar: Gallactica. That show was a soap opera in space. Babylon 5 too. Yet these ware two of my top 5 sci-fi shows of all time so I guess to some degree I don’t mind. I still think it is a great departure from the traditional Stargate and hope to see it get continued because it is well worth watching, I don’t know anyone in real life who doesn’t agree that SGU is by far the best stargate at the very least. I personally can’t put it in my top 5 as of yet, but it might be my top 10 all time and it certainly has promise to be up there.

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