Review: Stargate Universe “Air Part 1&2”

I watched the Stargate film back in 1994 when it came to theatres, and then when Stargate: SG-1 came around, I didn’t bother watching it.  I watched a season-and-a-half or so of Stargate:Atlantis, and was usually amused. But I have many friends who swear by various parts of the Stargate-verse, loving SG-1 and trashing on Atlantis, loving-but-criticizing-Atlantis and not caring about SG-1, etc.

So when I saw that there was a new, supposedly stand-alone Stargate series, I took notice.  The casting of Robert Carlyle in the lead went a long way towards getting my attention, as did the concept.

For those not already in the know, here’s the breakdown:  Stargate Universe is about a group of people who get trapped on an ancient spaceship made by a predecessor species only known as the Ancients.  The ship was designed to tour the universe, and from time to time opens up a dimensional portal (the Stargates, natch) to a habitable planet in the surrounding galaxy.  The Stargate remains open for a finite amount of time, and the ship is on auto-pilot, preventing the heroes from taking control of its route.  Using the gate to get back to Earth or to get from Earth to the ship (called the Destiny) is tremendously-plot-says-don’t-do-it difficult.  The tone seems to be substantially darker than previous Stargate series, prompting people to dub it Stargate Galactica or BattleStargate, likening it to the critically-acclaimed 2004-09 Battlestar Galactica.

The overall formula seems to be (Stargate + LOST) x (Sliders + Battlestar Galacatica) = Stargate Universe — which is certainly not a bad mixture of inspirations.

A more detailed and spoilery review follows:

Eli is an interesting geek lead, fairly Judd Apatow-esque, if not quite as crass.  He’s charming enough to get a pass on being somewhat annoying.  The young Lt. Scott is just insecure enough to be interesting, and I wonder if Col. Young is long for this world.  I was somewhat surprised to lose Senator Armstrong right away, though from his own POV it made a great deal of sense, since he couldn’t have had an unlimited supply of those pills.  We’ll likely see Chloe emerge more fully as her own character after his death, and according to the heaps of praise her father was spouting at dinner, we should expect a great deal from her.  It looks like they’ve got Lt. Scott lined up as her love interest, though it may be a triangle with Eli on the lonely end.  I can’t say I’m terribly excited about some of the spoilers I hear about Ming Na’s character Camille (the first publicly out character in a Stargate series from what I’m told), but I appreciate that they seem to be trying.

Young also has Something Wrong with him, health-wise, which we may see play out sooner or later.   I was very fond of the idea of embedding an ‘unsolvable’ program into an MMO to attract the obsessive and brilliant.  I know several of those MMO players, even if I’m not one of them.  No Math Boy am I.

Dr. Rush is an interesting Baltar-analogue (and Carlyle is fantastic as always) — Macchiavelian and more than a little amoral (driven by the loss of his wife, possibly to the extent of seeking Ascension at whatever cost he can make others pay).  The entire story isn’t an Idiot Plot, but instead an Amoral Genius Plot.  It currently seems that with the right power they could dial back to Earth, but unless they can overcome the 9-Chevron-dialing problem, no one is dialing them.  It seems the crew isn’t going anywhere that Destiny doesn’t let them for quite a long time.  Once it’s completely established that they can’t just dial Earth (or anywhere with an SGC unit), then we can get down to the actual meat of the series.  Of course, being the folklorist that I am, they’re not likely to fully indulge in the story I want to hear — how the whole group works to establish a community and how they adjust to their new universe (hah!)  It’s likely to be but one of many things the series works through.  It just means I will still have to write my Anthropolists! In! Space! novel.

Chances are this won’t be ‘the next Battlestar,’ but it might be a new direction for Stargate, which is promising enough.

One thought on “Review: Stargate Universe “Air Part 1&2”

  1. “they’re not likely to fully indulge in the story I want to hear — how the whole group works to establish a community and how they adjust to their new universe”

    I know, right? I think the biggest problem I have with Lost In Space shows is that everyone spends seven years trying to get home, and then gets home and it’s all fine, ignoring that people change alot under these circumstances, the social work they do changes how they function as a society, and the world will have changed in their absence. I want them to just settle in and become something new. I loved that Farscape decided to stay away from Earth– how can poor primitive Earth live up to that much more beautiful alien world? But not going home is a rough road to write. I think they can do it, but it won’t be easy.

    ~:) sami

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