Stargate Universe episodes 1 and 2 review
The third iteration of Stargate on the small screen gets going. So, Carl England, is Stargate Universe any good?
Air: Parts 1 and 2
Right from moment one, you can tell where the budget has ended up. The flashy opening showing every floor and corridor on the ship Destiny is very impressive and from the very beginning shows a huge difference in the way the show appears.
The differences in the show from its forerunners continue to reveal themselves. Firstly, the ensemble cast is a huge difference compared to the previous shows. Stargate SG-1 was based on Earth, and had four main characters and two or three recurring ones, with guest stars popping up here and there. Atlantis moved its base of operations to a different galaxy, and for at least one season, had to be self contained on the Atlantis base with six main cast members and a handful of recurring and guest stars. Now, Universe has nine main cast members, with an array of recurring ones. It’s certainly a sign of the times, with the decision obviously influenced by shows like Lost, Heroes and, of course, Battlestar Galactica.
The similarities with Battlestar Galactica don’t stop there, though, with an old ship being a huge feature for one. The crew are stuck on board and can’t go back where they came from because it was destroyed in an attack, hence the fleeing. As well as this there is an insufficient military presence for the purpose, with an overwhelming civilian one keeping the cast fresh, and the empathy levels high.
The problems for shows like SG-1 and Atlantis was that the overwhelming military protocol and personnel meant that it was difficult for anyone not interested in that side of things to follow the shows. What it also meant was that relationships would be hard to evolve as, in the American military, you cannot have a relationship with a fellow officer. By adding a civilian cast, you give the show a chance for bonding, love and sexual relationships to form.
Right off the bat, relationships are formed and others start to form. It’s an important point to note that the creators have mentioned that this will be more about the characters, and less about aliens and technical jargon, and so far, the pilot shows that is true in many ways.
With comparisons to Voyager being a point that may be holding people back from watching, it shouldn’t be. The show is dark, edgy and much more frightening than any Star Trek television show could ever be. It’s worth noting too that SGU takes its cue from Lost, as FlashForward has too, in opening big with a confusing few scenes that barely give you any detail on what is really going on.
Over the course of the two-hour opener the story backtracks to tell the story from Eli Wallace’s point of view. He’s an unemployed, young, civilian who, upon completing a videogame created by the Stargate team, is beamed up to the U.S.S. Hammond.
This is a point that should be duly noted for non-Stargate fans. You do not need to have watched the previous series or even the film to watch this. That having been said, it helps to know the basics, and fans of the previous series should get along with the new format and show quite easily, with a few special guest stars to help it fit into the Stargate universe (small u, naturally).
The new cast gels together well, and the ever-impressive Robert Carlyle is a huge bonus to the team, as he is at the top of his game as the seemingly apathetic and heartless Dr. Nicholas Rush. In light of the plot being possibly bigger than the cast, at least in this first episode, big name cast members such as Lou Diamond Philips and Ming-Na don’t get much time to flesh their characters out. This may be a blessing in disguise, as it leaves the more unknown members of the cast in the front, giving their characters the most attention. It’s a smart move and it really pays off, as the less known cast members are given the majority of the show to prove themselves, and they do so quite capably.
Overall, the show is generally entertaining, but it is a shame however, that the pilot story was split over two weeks, as part three has yet to air. The story leads into the third episode, so it is hard to judge just what exactly the show will have in store without seeing that, which features a crucial element of the show, going off-world. Depending on how that, and the subject of alien races, is handled, the show could pass or fail on next week’s episode, as they will be heavily featured elements.
Still, judging by the two hours presented to us so far, the show seems like a complete triumph, for SyFy and for showrunners Robert C Cooper and Brad Wright. Whether it will best the best space-based sci-fi show in a long time, Battlestar Galactica, is still up the air, but it certainly has the potential. It has some very emotional moments, and is definitely worthy of a try.
In conclusion, watch it. It takes the best elements of Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, and puts them all into one show. If you have any interest in these shows, it’s more than worth it. Even if you hated the previous Stargate shows, you’ll be sorely missing out if you let this show go by unwatched. I, for one, am very excited about what SGU has in store, and will be waiting restlessly for Air part 3.