Stargate Universe

stargate-universeFirst a disclaimer. Yes I like Sci Fi. No, I’m not versed on the various incarnations of Stargate, so don’t go looking for me to compare this latest spin-off with its predecessors. I will leave that for fans to do. Truth be told, I’m more Kurt Russell than Richard Dean Anderson…

The two hour premiere of SGU begins with a flurry of soldiers being spat out, literally, by Stargate‘s portal onto a dark, abandoned spaceship. As the bodies crash land onto the floor, ammunition and cargo follow them at breakneck speed. It’s a treacherous start. By the time they have all arrived they comprise a small army of space travellers, marooned, wounded and bewildered. Impressive entries aside, we’re as confused as they are.

Amongst the new arrivals are Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle), Col. Everett Young (Justin Louis), First Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) and Col. David Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips). While it is Young and Scott who try to restore order to their dazed team, it is scientist Rush who explores his surrounding with quiet awe, engaging us more. This guy knows something is up. In the middle of it all there’s a momentary glitch when everyone is unsettled by something that can only be described as a bend in time. What was that? Well it wasn’t the monster from the opening scene from Lost but it kinda has the same effect on these frazzled characters.

But before we get a chance to discern much more we are back on Earth watching Eli Wallace (David Blue) playing a video game online with a friend. This dude’s so good at this that he even reaches the super-duper-never-been-reached stage of the game when he’s interrupted by a knock on his door. Standing before him is a mean-talkin’ Air Force general (from Central Casting?) and, omigod, Robert Carlyle -I mean Dr. Rush. They tell him he’s managed to solve the unsolvable puzzle they placed in his video game and could he please come and help them with the real thing in space? Yeah right, dude.

Sure enough he’s beamed up (apologies to Star Trek) aboard a spaceship to help them with their own Stargate. But wait, this isn’t the same spaceship. I know I’m confused.

It seems it isn’t just the Stargate itself that messes with time, it’s the storytelling too. We intercut between before / after scenes with our multinational exploration team. They are forced to escape through the portal, to eventually arrive at an unknown destination and unable to return to their rightful home, Kansas. I mean Earth.

Wallace is a teenage brainiac who, it has to be said, appears to be representing the audience. Was it too many Sci Fi conventions that convinced the producers to actually insert a fanboy into the plot? It’s a bit like those video games where we become an honorary member of our favourite action team. Eli is the dude in the sweater who gets to play sci-fi with the big boys. Are you buying this?

Carlyle brings much-needed gravitas to this piece, playing an unkempt scientist who takes charge of the sudden expedition. He’s clearly a long way from The Full Monty but adds conviction to the fantastical plot. Here he will serve as a keeper of history and mythology, always a big part of the franchise. Brian J. Smith is very effective as the dashing alpha-male hero. In a plot-heavy two part premiere, there weren’t too many others making an impact, except perhaps the bad-tempered US Senator played by Christopher McDonald. But there are plenty who will doubtless make their mark.

The series’ non-linear opening requires patience but eventually the sum of the parts makes up a mostly satisfying whole. Some scenes, notably flashbacks, were probably too soapy to have the Battlestar Galactica team worried.

By the time the 2 hour premiere ends there is enough to have set up a new franchise, and hopefully keep true fans entertained.

The Sci Fi channel (and not the Syfy channel) should be congratulated for snaring this one, set to fastrack after its US premiere. Good to see a channel that knows its audience.

35_starsStargate Universe premieres 8:30pm Friday October 9th on SciFi.

18 Comments:

  1. Finally watched it after 22 days sitting in my IQ2 (subsequent episodes also building up in the IQ2!). The jumping around with before and after got annoying but glad I persisted and look forward to watching the series. Might also try other Stargates on 7TWO and Sci Fi but probably just record to watch later as watching too many franchises or seasons of the same show can wear down the interest too quickly. Defying Gravity on Arena is pretty good as well – also weeks behind in watching them off the IQ2. Weird one for Arena considering their normal programming.

    And yes, great review David! Normally I don’t read reviews and if I do its after trying the show in any case – like I did here. Enough for now, back to work!

  2. As Daniel said – central casting! David, I don’t expect you to recognise the lead actor from the original Stargate series playing said General but at least credit him as MacGyver. As in: ‘Standing before him is MyGyver and, omigod, Robert Carlyle’ . The plot did make me think of Galaxy Quest.

  3. @ jason
    Atlantis is available on DVD up to and including the final series 5.

    Best way to watch any Stargate series is on DVD – no commercials,5.1 sound etc…i just hope they start bringing it out on Blu-Ray.

    Luckily i have Sci Fi but another option hopefully is that itunes will have episodes for download just as they have started with True Blood season 2.

  4. @TVFan I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for SG-U or any others coming to FTA any time soon, I’d guess you need to wait for the DVDs, or find a friend with access to SciFi to record it for you.

  5. Well from what ive read about it,
    Scifi Australia hasn’t got any plans to change to SyFy anytime soon but they will fast tracking programs from Sy Fy in the United States

  6. Does anyone know when Stargate will be back on channel 7 for the poor viewers who cant afford the paytvSci-fi channel ?

    7, 9 and 10 user to show sci-fi shows late at night in the old days but now they cant afford sci-fi.

  7. Both SG1 and Atlantis were very good shows. Very entertaining with a good level of humor and action. Unfortunately 15 season between them there really was no entry point for those unfamiliar with the show. I understand this is meant to be more for a wider new audience.
    Looking forward to this a lot. It’s a bummer Atlantis got canned for this, but the writers know how to make entertaining tv. There’s very few other Action Adventure shows like stargate around.

    As in an interview with the production designed on the last few trek shows, Stargate did star trek better than star trek was doing it.

  8. Wow. So many good actors slumming it.
    I’m not going to say I have never had a few post-pub, late-nigh Stargate viewings, but its previous incarnations have been daytime soap in space.

  9. Battlestar was perfectly sculpted with the writers taking control of creating a story that lasted as long as did justice. 4 seasons was enough.

    (Now I’m watching it from scratch on the dlx blu-ray boxset and it’s brilliant second time around).

    Looking forward to SG:U.

  10. @Jack! Battlestar always had a limit, SG 1 just kept going and going but remember Caprica is coming soon! I’m glade SciFi has stepped up and Seven didn’t get this only to screw it up like the did SG-A. I’ll wait the week to see it on TV, only problem is it makes Friday night very busy.

  11. I have been looking forward to this for months … very disappointed that it has gone straight to Foxtel instead of “free to air” … means that most of us will have to get it by “alternate methods” … again!!!!
    We will see how many seasons they get out of this one … 10 years for Stargate SG1 was a very impressive score … I don’t see Battlestar Galactica reaching such success, do you??? I have never been captivated by Battlestar despite the presence of Jamie Bamber … but Stargate has always worked for me.
    Jack!

  12. Sci Fi channel? Awwww crap. And what about Atlantis? Is that on the Sci Fi channel too. I think they only showed up to season 3 on seven, there’s another couple after that I’m pretty sure

  13. Can’t wait for this one, love the trailer we’ve seen so far and good on SciFi (are they ever going to change to Syfy?) just a pity they aren’t as fast as say the last few eps of Battlestar airing here just hours after the US. Maybe they can move it to the Saturday timeslot later?

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