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.