Of Stars and Gates

We’re five episodes into Stargate Universe now and it’s growing on me like some kind of alien brain eating fungus. The damage to my simile nervous system has been deep enough that the spores can’t be removed until I’ve seen the whole series.

It was touch and go with the pilot episodes. The plot had no new hooks- it was basically an Accidental Atlantis scenario and the characters were great but lacking a little depth. It wasn’t until now that I realised that the problem wasn’t with SG:U… it was with me!

I’d been spoon fed one-dimensional characters from episode one of SG-1 and the reason I didn’t get the characters in SG:U is because, while admittedly a little stereotypical, they have much more depth than you expect. I’m not knocking the old Stargate characters- love them to bits and the team dynamics are fantastic- but perhaps I was too used to knowing how each one would react in a certain situation. Indeed.

This is where Universe differs because even the boldest character, the fantastic Dr. Rush portrayed by Robert Carlisle, is capable of surprising you as he flits between mad scientist and noble pioneer. I realise the obvious fact here- that this is just a symptom of the franchise diverting from a known favourite format to a new style. Something inside a fan always rebels at the sight of a new take on an old classic.

Same theory applies to the plot hooks. After five episodes of the characters being explored in depth as they are stranded aboard an ancient ship called the Destiny, I realised what was missing. Baddies.

SG-1 had the fantastic Goa’uld and semi spooky Ori. Atlantis had the Wraith, vampires in space. Replicants and enemy human factions got up in everyone’s grills. So far, no Universe baddies! Not one person in a rubber costume or historical garb! They haven’t met any overt alien life forms at all and certainly none of the medieval peasants who seem to live all over the cosmos.

I loved all that stuff and it gave Stargate the tongue-in-cheek sense of play that really worked surprisingly well in contrast with the serious parts; however, got to admit I’m a fan of harder sci-fi when it comes down to it. Universe has a lot in common with Battlestar Galactica- get past the fancy directing and FX and you realise you have a really gritty, tightly wound setting populated with potent characters. I’m so glad that if there is going to be a big bad in Universe, we haven’t seen them yet. We’ve matured into the scared, claustrophobic, human variety of Evil, leaving behind the five hours of make-up kind.

It’s not Stargate as you know it. That’s sad, but it’s fine- we had 15 seasons of that. Now it’s time to put Robert Carlisle in the body of a genius who would rather stay stranded in space than go back to Earth and surround him with totally unprepared civilians and a few jumpy soldiers.

Taking odds on who he kills and eats first…

Here endeth the gush.

by Bret

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