Television Review: Stargate: Universe (Season 1.0)

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of having occasionally enjoyed Stargate: SG1 because of how bad and cheesy the show was. The original film Stargate, however, is a sci-fi classic I have no shame at all in admitting I really enjoy. Stargate: Atlantis, the spin-off show was much improved from SG1 by having better, more engaging characters, better writing, and a better budget during it’s five season run. Then, in 2009, came the highly anticipated second spin-off series, Stargate: Universe. I never tuned in because by that point I was pretty much done with the Stargate franchise for a while and I didn’t have SyFy anyway. So life went on as usual, and I forgot about SG:U, having heard nothing about it.

A few weeks ago I suddenly remembered there had been plans of a third Stargate show and, needing a solid dose of sci-fi in my system, I proceeded to look up some information on what happened to it. I put the first half of the first season on hold from my local library (God bless it!) and sat down with rather low expectations.

Until I saw the first ten minutes.

That was all the time it took for me to realize that not only was this show vastly superior to all of the other shows put together, but that it was simply a good show, period. Somehow, someway, unbelievably, here was a Stargate show the way it ought to have been done from the beginning. The writing had improved by lightyears even beyond Atlantis, which still had solid writing; the story structures which began to get a bit repetitive had been transcended; the poor, simplistic cinematography had been left far behind. This, in short, is science fiction of the truest nature of the word. Just imagine if Battlestar Galactica and Lost got together and had a love child, scored by Vangelis and Hans Zimmer, and you’ll be pretty much prepared for SGU.

It follows the story of a group of about eighty humans stranded on an Ancient starship billions of light-years, and hundreds of galaxies, from Earth. They have no resources, no ability to control the ship, losing power and failing  life support. Rather than a predictable “journey through the stargate and have an adventure” template of the previous two incarnations, this show has a stargate, but is focused more around the characters trying desperately to survive all alone in the expanse of space. There is an overarching narrative flow that connects the story between episodes better than either SG1 or SGA, which gave the show more freedom and flexability when it came to the structures of each episode. Instead of each episode being a self-contained whole, they become little pockets of an ongoing narrative that is character-driven. The effect is masterful.

The only really criminal thing about the show was that SyFy only gave it two seasons, canceling it rather abruptly at the end of season two without letting it fully develop. Add to this that after canceling SGU, SyFy has started showing non-sci-fi content (like WWE wrestling) simply added to the sense of betrayal by fans of the show, who feared it was given the chop so that SyFy could appeal outside of its fanbase. Whether or not this is true, SGU certainly deserved a better run – rather like Firefly, though not nearly at Firefly’s level of quality.  If you’re a sci-fi fan who was hesitant about the previous Stargate shows but enjoyed Battlestar and Lost, SGU is definitely worthy of trying out. The mid-season ending of season 1.0 is so startling you basically have to go on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, SGU season 1.5 just came in.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: