Syfy is coming out with a new installment of the Stargate franchise, Stargate Universe. I had the opportunity to watch an advance copy of the two hour season premiere "Air" which airs tomorrow Friday October 2 on Syfy, as well as the third hour/episode also titled "Air" which airs on October 9. In order to give you a comprehensive view of what to expect, I broke down this review in several questions that you might be asking yourself about the show.
1. What is the premise of Stargate Universe?
The official summary of the show goes something like this:
"Stargate Universe" follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians, who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship, which is locked on an unknown path and unable to return to Earth. Faced with meeting the most basic needs of food, water and air, the group must discover the secrets of the ship's Stargate to survive. The danger, adventure and hope they find on board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.
In non-promotional terms, Stargate Universe is a story of folks who don't really know each other that well and who find themselves in the middle of nowhere with very few resources and no clue on how to get home. If this reminds you of Lost, you are not the only one. It definitely borrows heavily on that premise which makes things interesting story wise.
2. How is the Stargate Universe similar to other Stargate shows?
Well, since the story occurs within the same mythology of the other Stargate stories, it definitely keeps some of the basic features. There are Stargates (I know, duh), alien technology, military and civilian authorities fighting for power and of course an eclectic team of experts. Nothing earth shattering there.
3. How is the Stargate Universe different than other Stargate shows?
The short answer is that SGU is different in everything else. The storylines are darker, grittier and provide for more intense scenes than we are used to. This makes for some more realistic dialogues and interactions which can sometimes be refreshing, but also sometimes a little cliche. Not bad but not great either.
In addition, unlike the other franchises, SGU does not have a clear cut hero or villain but mostly a bunch of folks who live in this grey area where no one is perfect. Basically, they are very human in the way they are flawed and to some degree relatable. While some would find a lot of appeal in this kind of arrangement, I personally felt that I missed someone to root for since I really didn't like any of them enough to do so. Even Robert Carlysle, who I really like, plays a kind of douchy character that alternates between nice and creepy way too easily for my taste.
4. Is Stargate Universe just a remake of Battlestar Galactica?
No. Initially, I assumed that same thing but after watching the premiere, I could not quite go there. SGU certainly borrow heavily from the BSG themes in terms of realness and grittiness but it lacks the coolness that BSG carried with the Caprica Lingo ("So Say We All", "Frak") and the cool nemesis (Viva Cylons). So while there are some comparison on some aspects, mostly it is not a remake of BSG
5. Is there a nemesis in the Stargate Universe world?
No, at least not yet. I, like others, was expecting a nemesis to emerge early in the show. I was imagining some combination of Goa'uld, Ori and Replicators that the team would have to take on. Unfortunately, the only enemy they have to face is the dire reality they are facing. Again, not something that captured my imagination. This is actually my major pet peeve with the show so far. SGU needs a nemesis, a real one that we can all root against (or for, if you are into that).
6. Is Stargate Universe worth watching?
Yes. Without a doubt, Stargate Universe is a must watch show because it brings something new to the Stargate franchise. The premiere also has set up interesting storylines that have the potential to develop into something even more compelling. Plus the acting is really solid and has the potential to deliver solid and believable scenes. The only missing ingredient so far are more compelling characters and a strong nemesis.
To conclude, I would say that there is some real potential for Stargate Universe to become one of my favorite shows. All they have to do is live up to that potential.