TV Series Review: STARGATE: UNIVERSE – SEASON 1 (2009)
After 15+ years of the STARGATE franchise, 2009 brought us a brand new take on the entire mythos with a new show that differed from the original in almost every way. STARGATE UNIVERSE was everything that the original wasn’t, while still maintaining the essence of the Stargate universe.
A li’l background on Stargate for people not in the know. Adapted into a hugely successful TV Series from a 1994 film, STARGATE: SG1 became one of the longest running sci-fi shows… ever!
The entire concept is this: A metal ring is discovered on Earth, with strange metallic properties which is essentially a gate, through which a wormhole connects and can send travellers all over the galaxy.
STARGATE: SG1 dealt with the creation of a secret air force division with the sole purpose of exploring of the universe in order to make allies, find usable technology and such. The 10 year run of the show, generated awesome storytelling which really took STARGATE to the heights its at right now. The writers incorporated existing Earth mythology like Vikings, Egyptian, Roman and Greek Gods, King Arthur, Atlantis, etc into the storyline as being actual aliens who lived on Earth and perpetuated what’s now become myths or ancient history.
STARGATE: ATLANTIS was a spin-off show that expanded on one of those myths, dealing with the discovery of an outpost of the Ancients who created the Stargates in another galaxy. An airforce crew was sent to explore this outpost for the mysteries and insights into the history of the universe. Following more or less the same premise of SG1, of teams going through the gate to explore different planets and making allies, but more often enemies is what drove ATLANTIS. Not much of a change.
However, the most recent spin-off is STARGATE UNIVERSE. Going back to the roots of the show, UNIVERSE’s premise is simple and created for the newer audiences who didn’t need 15 seasons worth of previous backstory to understand or enjoy the show. Written for a newer fan base, UNIVERSE is accessible to anyone.
The premise: Further revelations of the Stargates reveals a mysterious 9th symbol that can be dialled, however to where, is a mystery. A research team of scientists and military have been working for years to uncover the mystery. Enter an unemployed and immature math wiz who unknowingly solves the problem allowing them to make the connection to this mysterious address. Through this kid’s eyes, the Stargate universe is simplified and explained to the new viewers.
Following an attack, the entire expedition is forced to evacuate back to Earth using the Stargate. However, due to the interference of an obsessed scientist, the team unknowingly end up going through to the mysterious address instead of Earth. It’s revealed that they have all traveled onto an Ancient ship on a millions of years old preprogrammed course, away from Earth and any known galaxies. The crew is stuck, with no way to get back home, except to unravel the mysteries aboard the ship, and in the process finding out more revelations of the Ancients, their mission and the nature of the universe itself.
STARGATE UNIVERSE is a very gritty and realistic show. (I realize I’m talking about a sci-fi show) Not only the story, but even the way the show is shot is very real and takes away from the polished look that the previous STARGATE shows established.
The characters represented are very rough and all range from completely horrible people to anti-heroes. The initial conflicts are derived from the usual issues when a group of people are holed up together through circumstance, to aliens, exploding ship, lack of food… and the ever looming possibility of never being able to get back home.
The man who steals the show is Robert Carlyle as the resident genius with an attitude, Dr. Rush. Carlyle is awesome as a guy obsessed with his work, for him coming on board the Destiny is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he could care less about anything or anyone else. If there is a clear cut villain of the show, it is easily this guy. The twist is that his logic is often indisputable, regardless of how twisted and callous his actions are. Rush is a character that you either love, or love to hate. Either way, his clash with almost everyone on the show makes for great viewing, considering they’re all supposed to be on the same side.
The performances from all others are perfect. Mixing civilians along with a military rule on the ship causes for great tension and an internal power struggle. What sets this scenario apart from the other STARGATE shows is, that these people never actually signed up for this mission. They are all people that have been displaced from their own galaxy, against their will and are powerless to do anything about it. Lies, deceit and betrayal among characters who are supposed to work together, is really what drives this show forward in this first season.
The fact that majority of the niche aspects of the Stargate universe are explained from the perspective of Eli, the whiz kid, make the show accessible to an audience that have never seen, or know anything about STARGATE. Similar to how the generations old wizarding world was seen through the eyes of Harry Potter himself, in the book/film franchise, is how STARGATE UNIVERSE positions itself to audiences.
Season 1 of STARGATE UNIVERSE deals with the crews settling into their predicament, exhausting all means of trying to get back home, and a looming threat on the ship itself from hostile forces. An internal power struggle between military forces and the civilians also arise from conflicting ideologies. Throw into that mix trying to learn how to control a ship that may even predate existence of intelligent life itself, and find a means of survival. Season 1 essentially deals with how these people, completely unprepared for the situation their in, react to all these issues.
For a science fiction show with it’s basis embedded in 15 seasons of technical stories, the greatest thing about STARGATE UNIVERSE is that, it takes flawed protagonists, places them in impossible circumstances, and is able to tell great character driven stories.