Friday, October 2, 2009

Stargate Universe

The newest Stargate series, "Stargate Universe" premiered on the Sci-Fi channel. I've watched the Stargate series ever since it's first movie, to it's airing on Showtime, to it's eventual happy home on the Sci-Fi network, with Direct to DVD movies and second series Stargate Atlantis. So I'm pretty up to speed on everything that's gone before in the Stargate series. That said - I was pleasantly surprised that this series did not fall into the same cliche story settings that have frequently been used in the series thus far. I'm talking about how, frequently, the regular cast of SG-1 and Atlantis had unlimited resources and geniuses at their disposal - making the situations they faced more complicated, and technobabble-laced, than usually needed to be. That's what happens when the plot-line for a show goes on as long as this - it all starts to build up upon it's self until it collapses. If you don't find a way to clear the air, and make the plot-line fresh, the stories can become predictable and stale. Don't get me wrong, I loved SG-1 and Atlantis, but their adventures did seem to follow the set formula of having a situation, explaining the situation, and then eventually solving the situation.

Stargate Universe breaks out of that habit by making survival the situation - and not giving the heroes many resources to make that happen. This series is somewhat copying the plot of Star Trek Voyager, with a crew lost on a space ship out in distant space. Thankfully it's not a complete re-tread of Voyager - as there are, literally, no resources for this crew to depend on. I didn't even see a bathroom on this ship -- so while I expect they will eventually find some kind of comfort level, it won't be easy. Which is good, for us, as it gives us a much more character driven series. There obviously will be planet exploration - but the first episode is much more to do with keeping the few hours of air-supply going and not dying. Within the two-hour premiere that problem isn't even permanently solved.

The cast seems less defined that in previous Stargate shows, but that's good - as it gives this crew a sense of community. There isn't a huge unlimited amount of staff onboard - and I think popping in guest stars won't be immediately apparent, unless they are aliens. I remember how Stargate Atlantis also mimicked this lost in space routine their first season, being unable to contact Earth. Even during that first season there seemed to be an abundance of staff - and an abundance of resources and creature comforts. Stargate Universe is a much more stripped down version of that first season - which seems fresh and innovative where it could easily have become boring and predictable.

Lost in space might not be an original concept - but this series shows a lot of promise of doing it well. They also stole the plot of the Last Starfighter too - so you'd immediately think originality wasn't this show's strong suit. Perhaps it's not - but it seems like character and plot development is, giving us a rich and somewhat dubious cast and crew. On Atlantis, they made a point of having civilians working with the military. That soon became a lame plot-point, as the civilian scientists and characters worked just like the military characters. There are some good characters here, like the Senator's daughter, who truly are civilians on the ship, but seem like they are going to stand out as terrific characters to explore.

Also - they really should hang the main scientist, Dr. Rush, as soon as possible. His arrogance and stupidity really did get them into this situation. They truly did not need to go through that gate - and it could have been easy for the writers to make the decision, to go through the unexplored gate, the only option for survival. They instead opted for the more interesting direction - of making this purely the selfish decision on Dr. Rush's part. He might be the smartest man in the room - but he's also the one with the biggest target on his back, and with good reason.

I really urge you to try out the series. I say again, it's not doing anything innovative - but it's doing something right. A good start to the series.

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