Stargate Universe (SyFy) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Stargate Universe (Fridays, 9/8 Central)

Syfy

Oct 02, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Disclaimer: I've never been a hardcore fan of the Stargate series. Sure, the Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day) flick was dumb popcorn-style fun and the original TV series, Stargate SG-1, wasn't on for 10 seasons for nothing. Even Stargate Atlantis and the two direct-to-DVD releases (Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum) were good time wasters. I just never got into Stargate as much as other high-concept esemble sci-fi shows such as Babylon 5, Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica.

Luckily, Universe was made with relative noobs like me in mind. It's built on the general theme of the other projects but has little connective story threads other than a few cameos from SG-1 lead, Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver). Instead of getting bogged down with the Egyptian mythology of past series straight away we get straight up chamber theater drama.

The new narrative revolves around a nerdy gamer named David Blue (Eli Wallace) who lives with his ill mother. Thomas' character is SGU’s gateway for new fans. He's in his mid-20s and cracks a code embedded in a MMO by the government. Suddenly he finds himself beamed up into a spaceship and signing up for the Stargate program to pay for his mother's endless medical bills. His character is clearly the best part and a solid anchor for anybody tuning in late to this ongoing intergalactic saga. Eli’s mentor within the Icarus program is Dr. Nicholas Rush.

He's admirably played by Robert Carlyle (Full Monty, Trainspotting) in a stern, yet affable fashion. In only the first few episodes he's set up as the dramatic anchor and foil to the comedic Blue. He tells the very eager Blue everything he needs to know to commence the program, and consequently we get a hefty dose of working knowledge of the world of Stargate. The three-part storyline (the pilot is a two episodes in one shot) is entitled "Air." It's standard sci-fi fare where the crew on an ancient space vessel are locked on an unknown course.

Of course the ragtag crew must find a random MacGuffin to keep from dying from a lack of oxygen due to a hole in the ship's hull. The actors do a fine job with the survivalist material but this type of life-or-death storyline tends to work better after a solid emotional relationship has solidified between the audience and cast. The ensemble is the best part of this sometimes dragging, mediocre pilot, lensed by cinematographer Rohn Schmidt (The Shield, The Mist) and Atlantis and SG-1 director Andy Mikita.

Along with Carlyle and Blue, Universe's ensemble is fairly solid. We have Lou Diamond Phillips (Che, La Bamba) as the hard-nosed Col. Telford, Ming-Na (ER, Vanished) as Camile Wray, Alaina Huffman as 1st Lt. Tamara Johansen, Louis Ferreira as Col. Everett Young, Jamil Walker Smith as MSgt. Ronald Greer, Elyse Levesque as Chloe Armstrong, and Brian J Smith as 1st Lt. Matthew Scott. As you can tell from that list, this particular series still retains a love for dramatic commentary on the military complex interacting with cold scientific fact-finders.

Unfortunately, a big chunk of the cast members are regulated to a chamber in the ship, gasping for air, so we can't really see how well everyone slips into their respective roles. That fact ties back to the diminishing dramatic returns already stated. The overarching through-line of "pooling" between worlds on shuffle opens up endless possibilities for the unlikely crew, not unlike the earlier iterations of Stargate.

Aside from the capable actors and OK story, geeks will love the ancient technologies at work on these introductory episodes. The SGU crew is able to contact Earth through "thought stones" that allow the caller to enter the body of a receiver, taking control of them to interact with Stargate officials back home. The stones can also be used by those on Earth to dial the SGUs. The only predicament is that there are only five stones at the beginning of the pilot, and two are used so far.

That will most likely play into the survival aspect of the series that is only hinted at here. The remaining 17 episodes will hopefully zoom in on the show's Lost-in-space potential for solid melodrama. This month marks the 15th anniversary of the original release of Stargate. After all the consequential films, live-action and animated series, graphic novels, video games, amusement park rides and even a pinball machine, SGU just might be the sound of a well finally running dry. (www.stargate.mgm.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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Sophia Carter
August 20th 2010
12:42am

Thanks to the post. Another show that I will never to missed to watch.

Lucy Sympton
July 1st 2012
4:51am

This will be a great show. Kyle your review is really good to read and getting some good information. Love this article. Thanks for this allocation. :lol: