28 October 2009

Frakking Toasters

Stargate: Universe Review

Sorry for the misleading title, but I could think of little more appropriate to describe the Stargate franchise’s newest offering – Stargate Universe, which sees the series head off in a rather new direction as a rag-tag group are stranded on an ancient ship, far far away, with no way to get home

So I thought a Battlestar reference was in order, it was either that or a Voyager one…

Does it sound a tad similar to the last series – Atlantis, which featured a rag-tag team of scientists and soldiers stranded in the lost city of Atlantis, far far away..?

In fact, the main difference between the set-up for the two shows is that Atlantis used the rarely-used eighth chevron, Universe used the mysterious ninth chevron, ooooh…

Both arrived on an Ancient vessel threateningly close to losing power - but that’s about where the similarities end, the shows may be vaguely similar in their concept, but Universe is very different – the team are completely unprepared, evacuated to an unknown destination while under attack, taking virtually no supplies and several wounded – whereas Atlantis was a deliberate mission

The Atlantis team quickly resolved the major threat to them when the city saved them by automatically rising out of the sea, and while in the same vein, the Destiny provided the SGU team with a source of mineral for life support, the mission was a trek across the desert with barely any water, and it’s power then failed and it headed for a sun – Atlantis, once risen, started making away teams and set about exploring, in a virtual carbon-copy of the long-running SG-1 show

There was even an overbearing colonel introduced who gets seriously injured right at the start, seemingly paving the way for our all-round American hero lt. Scott to take charge, just like John Shepherd did after the rock-headed Col. Sumner died in the premiere – even teasing us with the idea that the seemingly dying colonel Young would sacrifice himself – but alas, they were toying with us and he lives on as a main character, with a limp

Colonel Young serves as a metaphor for the different direction that Universe takes from its sister show - in a way, Universe is almost an anti-Atlantis – dealing with the issues of actually being stranded, with no source of food, water or power, or even the right people for the job

This is a much more character driven show – it is in fact, remarkably similar to Battlestar Galactica – very dark, with lots of eerie music, silent fly-bys in space and none of the camp, cartoonish aliens that previously passed for sinister, and while a degree of exploration is included, there are unlikely to be any friendly villagers called Galon or Jinto, nor any big enemy spaceships to blow up, this a thoroughly different show, focusing primarily on the human flaws of the crew

This in turn leads to much better characters, and acting, so it is rather a big deal that the show have proper Hollywood actor Robert Carlyle as the protagonist Dr. Nicholas Rush, who is Scottish, irritable, and also quite sinister – a much deeper character than the comical Rodney McKay or straightforward Col. Carter, and he is backed up by the antagonistic Colonel Young, a more humourless version of the infamous Jack O'Neil, then there's T.J - a sole medic who was supposed to have left the force, and so 'has issues' - Chloe, a tortured political assistant who is in practical terms, useless, and again 'has issues', and there's also a seriously disturbed sergeant, Greer, who really does 'have issues' – while Eli Wallace (David Blue) provides the archetypal wise-cracking member of the team, obviously Stargate couldn’t change that much and there remains somewhat of a link to their light-hearted SG-1 roots through him

Another notable point is that the crew brought an Ancient communicator that meant they were in contact with Earth right from the start – an intriguing inclusion to the plot, instantly removing any inevitable plots about making contact with home, and the mystery that would surround the issue, which were major points in Atlantis, and indeed, Voyager – they got rid of that right from the start, a good move in my view, it takes away any viewer questions about when we’ll be seeing Earth and the inevitable ‘we’ve found a way to communicate’ episode a couple of seasons in – and it also allows characters to return home and talk to loved ones – useful for the development of the plot – although what I can’t understand is why they don’t use it to bring in some more scientists (like Jackson or Carter) to work on their problems, as the somewhat unstable Rush is essentially alone as an expert and there are several useless minds on there

So yeah, see Battlestar Galactica (it really is remarkably similar) – but with less mission-control and more exploration – time will tell if it can pull away from the cheesy 'lets go exploring' world of Stargate, and if it can it do a better job than the often overly character-focused BSG

1 comment:

  1. I've been watching this, Tarquin, and that's a pretty accurate assessment of it. It has a lot more depth to the characters and is indeed a lot darker, and Dr. Rush is clearly in dire need of some of Gordon Brown's pills - I like it!