Fri
Oct 2 2009 3:20pm
Across the Stargate Universe

SyFy was nice enough to send us a screener for the new series, Stargate Universe, which premiers tonight. I had never watched Stargate before, but I confess I was sucked in by the shiny press pack. Seriously, it lights up. That’s cool. And Robert Carlyle is in the show; I’ve loved him since I saw The Full Monty as a young un, which is, I know, a little weird. Believe me, this story gets weirder.

Say you have an established franchise, together with the opportunity to revise or reboot it in a new series. Say you get a great actor to head the cast. Say you have the idea to throw a random assortment of military and civilian personnel onto a ship deep in unknown space and use that set-up, together with the franchise mythology, to see what happens.

Look, I know series pilots must be tough; unfortunately, I know that because so many of them are awkward, as this one was. It tried to split the difference between throwing us in the deep end and leading us in as gently as possible. To the former end, we get an episode that begins in media res; to the latter, the episode also works backwards to show how everyone ended up where they are.

It’s a classic structure, but the episode was trying too hard to rush everyone through their requisite plot points and character moments. We learn who’s a workaholic, who’s a smartass, who’s an ingenue, and, whoops—better have something interesting happen, so they put the characters in mortal danger to address a problem I solved five minutes ago with a flying robot and a stick. I should not be smarter than the smartest scientists ever.

Overall, the pilot felt worried, like if it didn’t tell me right away that this guy’s wife was dead and that that woman wanted to go to medical school, I wouldn’t be its friend. Performance anxiety in light of the inevitable comparison to Battlestar Galactica? But, hey, it’s got spaceships and Robert Carlyle, with my supporting-cast nods going to David Blue as the slacker genius and Lou Ferreira as the tough lieutenant. I just hope the series takes a deep breath, relaxes, and learns to lets things unfold.

Stargate Universe premiers tonight at 9pm Eastern, 11pm Pacific on the SyFy Channel.

[Image from SyFy.com]


Megan Messinger is a production assistant here at Tor.com, a job which lets her play with little press-pack clicky lights all day. She is learning to play the fiddle.

22 comments
j p
1. sps49
I'm more interested in the press kit (pictures, please?) than this new Stargate series. Probably because I'll never get a press kit.
Kate Keith-Fitzgerald
2. ceitfianna
I love Robert Carlyle and might take a look. He's been appearing in some interesting places. In 24: Redemption, he did an amazing job and that was the first 24 thing that I've ever watched pretty much due to him. I've never really gotten into the whole Stargate world, its too big and the shows I pass by always seem cheesy and not in a good way. The original movie worked in a lot of ways, kind of a science fiction Mummy and I just haven't been sure if the various series had the same feel.

Though I must say I've been pleasantly surprised by a lot of the SyFy series, most of the newer ones aside from BSG have a good bit of camp and seem to know what they're doing with it. This ended up slightly longer than I expected but basically I might give it a chance since SyFy tries hard and Carlyle is wonderful.
Daniel Cole
3. zaldar
wait you have been suprized with some of the sci-fi shows because most of them have camp.....?? BSG was the only one I was suprized with because it DIDN'T have camp. It is of course the only series on the station I could stand to watch more than 1 or two episodes of.
Kate Keith-Fitzgerald
4. ceitfianna
Hmm, I think my phrasing was off. I went in expecting some camp but was surprised by how it played with the camp aspect, which is a tricky thing to do. It was good quality camp as opposed to some of the B-movies which just make me wince and change the channel. Sanctuary clearly knows its tropes and plays with them.

I've found they work when I want some popcorn television since I love good serious fantasy and sci fi like BSG, sometimes its nice to just have Monster of the Week.
David Spiller
5. scifidavid
This by far the new show I am most excited about, although it is bittersweet since I will miss Col. Shepherd and Dr. McKay. Still I will be happy if SGU is 3/4 as entertaining as SGA was.
Josh Kidd
6. joshkidd
Does this seem to anyone else like a Stargate version of Star Trek Voyager? Is it just me?
Meagan Brorman
7. nutmeag
Megan, I know what you mean by pushing the audience into the characters' lives. It really hit me when the senator's daughter was screaming after he went into the shuttle. With the music, it just seemed like they were trying too hard to get us to care about her predicament. And the flashbacks also got to me pretty quickly. But still, I'll keep up with it, if only for my fanship of the other SG series.
Danisidhe
8. Danisidhe
I've enjoyed Robert Carlyle since Hamish MacBeth (ah the beauty of being Australian, TV from everywhere) and I have been an SG fan for a long time so I hope this is good but I'm wary. Episodes for the last season of Atlantis seemed to have two styles: creature feature or flashback chrono-play, I figured it was because they were too busy planning Universe to be bothered but if Universe begins with the latter... I'll be waiting to hear if ep. 2 is a creature feature.
Dru O'Higgins
9. bellman
Like you, I was saying "just use the damn flying robot!"

I enjoyed SG-1, mostly because it happened to be scheduled at a good time on the canadian science fiction channel. Didn't like Atlantis at all. I still have hopes for Universe, I can never tell if it'll be watchable until several more episodes have been aired.

But the ship is just so excellent, those who haven't seen the show should check it out just for that. Supposedly designed with elements of steampunk in mind.
Danisidhe
10. sofrina
@ joshkidd -

i definitely thought, 'well this is just voyager all over again.' let's see if they find a wraith to deprogram and integrate into the crew.
rick gregory
11. rickg
Downloaded the pilot on iTunes, haven't watched it. But if you want to compare this to Voyager I think you need to take another look - BSG was another "oh lord, we're all along trying to get somewhere" show. It's not an uncommon type of story after all. Some Greek guy named Homer did something called The Odyssey...

Comparisons to recent SFF series aside, this will succeed or fail on the first year's story arc and on how well the characters work.
Megan Messinger
12. thumbelinablues
Danisidhe @8, I think a creature feature would be an improvement! Less time for flashbacks, more time for running away from something with drippy fangs.

Bellman @ 9 I KNOW! I was sitting there thinking, this MUST be why they introduced flying robots, right? Right?! But no. And then when they get the Stargate running at the end, they're all staring at it for a minute before Eli has the brilliant idea to send one through.

rickg @ 11 That's totally fair, and I usually like it when a show takes a classic(al) premise and imbues it with new life, but when it's done badly it's almost more disappointing. "Come on, guys! It worked for Homer...."
Daniel Cole
13. zaldar
Ah ok ceit understand you know. I thought you were surprized the sci-fi channel had camp which was what I was going to check you for insanity for. I don't like camp much and about the only thing I watched on the sci-fi channel was BSG (I refuse to use the same name for the channel). As I pretty much hate stargate and have to many things to watch all ready I doubt I will be checking this out. Flashforward and Fringe seem to be much better shows.

Pitty really the sci-fi channel used to have great stuff before they decided to try to "expand" their audience. I should post on their forums why I don't watch them anymore...
Stephen W
14. Xelgaex
Regarding just using the flying robot, I immediately thought of that, of course. But eventually I figured there must be some reason why it wouldn't work. It's just too obvious, you know? The only possible reason for not using it must be that the characters have some additional information about the problem that we don't see.

My theory was that the interface in question was some kind of touchscreen that used body heat rather than pressure for interaction and thus it couldn't be activated using the robot. Alternatively maybe what they were trying to do required there to be life signs detected in the area.

Not that any of my explanations excuse the fact that the show didn't make any explanation of its own. It would have only taken a few seconds to have it suggested and then shot down.

Overall I liked the pilot though.
Danisidhe
15. peterja
I have been a fan of stargate since the start with Kurt Russell ,and i must say that Stargate Universe is slow over actted and boreing WHEN IS it going to start.. all hype that surrounded the start of this ,i was expecting something great ,, but i think they have run out of ideas ... i do hope that people are not going to put a mystical edge to this ,, i just want to be entertained .Not educated
Danisidhe
16. Pierre-Marc
Hi,

I have only one question. Maybe I'm just slow and I don't understand but, in the first episode, who is the ennemis with Goau'l ship who attack the base ? I really have no idea. Somebody know ?
nolan
17. topknot
The ships belonged to the Lucian Alliance.
Danisidhe
18. Pierre-Marc
Thanks !!!

I may ask you how do you know, they never mention any thing.
nolan
19. topknot
It was mentioned, when they were attacking there was a conversation, between Samantha Carter and I believe Col Young, which the question was asked "how did the Lucian Alliance find our hidden base?"(not an exact quote). No answer was given to this question.
Danisidhe
20. Pierre-Marc
Thanks again, I missed it.
Danisidhe
21. ChristianJ3333
This show has gone DOWNHILL. Long time viewer and owner of all SG-1 series and SG Atlantis series. What are you guys doing? I have seen increase in sex and homosexualism in this show. There is NO need for this in this show. No longer support or purchase anymore DVD's of this show. NO LONGER a VIEWER of SGU. Removed it from my TIVO.
Danisidhe
22. vn1500g3
WTF????? Are the writers for SGU smoking Meth? I had high hopes for
this show. So far though, every single episode has been a let down.

I realize that trying to follow up a Ten season hit like SG is tough,
but come on, at least have the heart to try and make a go of it. I’m
going finish this season to see if they (the writers) got off their
collective asses. After that, if it doesn’t improve, I’m done.

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