Stargate Universe episode 3 review

The third part of Stargate Universe's pilot ramps up the action. Carl finds a few more pieces are slotting into place, too...

Air: Part 3

Part three of the pilot gets us a real chance to see the Stargate in action. As the team take their first real step through the gate, in search of helpful items for the ship to survive, we see a few elements of the show that hadn’t been shown in the first two parts.

Firstly, the ancient communication device gives us a storytelling device that shows us the role of Lou Diamond Phillips’ character Colonel David Telford, who is stuck back on Earth feeling sorry for himself. While Chloe Armstrong, the daughter of a senator, and Col Everett Young return home to give news on the Destiny’s progress, Col Telford and unknown Vanessa James take their places aboard the Destiny.

It’s an intriguing plot device and one that will hopefully give a lot more depth to the forthcoming stories and getting news back and forth between the two places. It certainly gives Phillips something to do.

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As for recurring SG-1 appearances, O’Neill garnishes Universe with his second guest spot already, and it’s much less self-serving fan service than in the first half of the pilot, planting himself as much more of an important figure in the series overall.

Back through the gate, we find ourselves on a barren, sand-filled planet. It’s markedly reminiscent of the first few scenes of the planet Abydos, from the original Stargate movie, minus the pyramid, of course. Looking for some lime in the sand to help improve the air filtration system on board, the team of seven split up and cover a lot of the surrounding area around the gate. As they split up, different situations arise and it could be that not all the team make it back alive. To say any more would ruin it though, right?

It’s the characters here that get the main focus, with Lt. Matthew Scott getting a huge portion of the show devoted to him. In his groggy sand walking phase, he hallucinates, seeing a figure from his past guiding his way, giving the viewer a snapshot of his past, and a greater understanding of his character’s affiliation with Chloe. It’s a good move using a little flashback here and there, and hopefully it’s one that will show other characters back-stories as time goes on.

This next paragraph is a little spoilery. Look away now if you don’t want to know the results.

We also get to see the family of Senator Armstrong deal with his death, when his daughter Chloe uses the Ancient communication device to return home and inform her mother of his earlier heroism. It’s some emotional stuff, but isn’t focused on too much before the communication is broken off. The main thing that comes of it is a very serious threat that the previous Stargate teams worked very hard to thwart, and that, to be honest, may be lost on viewers new to Stargate. It’s good, though, that they aren’t completely abandoning the story elements that were never fully realized on Stargate SG-1.

As for the effects side of things, the good work continues, as we get to see a little more of the ship, inside and out. It still looks very old, but in the same way, very authentic. When producer Brad Wright name-dropped Firefly as an influence there, he wasn’t kidding. The ship uses the same kind of effects when it is speeding off, almost as if a direct homage, and the very brown and bronze, almost wild west feel, is an obvious one to note. The fact that the ‘cargo bay’ area has almost been ripped out of Serenity’s ship and pasted directly into the Destiny’s, could be seen as a step too far, but luckily the differences outweigh the similarities, and it doesn’t take away from the show’s aesthetic.

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Unfortunately, this isn’t a standalone episode. For that, we’ll still have to wait a few weeks, as we have a two-part episode filling the next two weeks. It’s only a bad thing in that standalone episodes generally set the tone for how the show will feel on a week-to-week basis. Although I think we’ll generally have a continuous story theme, it’s always going to come down to the individual episodes to define the show.

A little bit of intrigue arrives at the end, as something mysterious happens with the ship, as a part of it flies off and away in another direction. It could be the start of an altogether more sinister plot device, leading the show into an interesting territory. This week’s episode continued the high quality output and I, for one, cannot wait for next week’s episode.

Check out our review of episodes 1 and 2 here. Stargate Universe is showing in the UK on Sky1 and Sky1 HD every Tuesday.