Home > Episode Recaps, Opinions (TV), TV > TV: Stargate Universe (S01E01 & S01E02)

TV: Stargate Universe (S01E01 & S01E02)

Wikipedia Fact: ""

Wikipedia Fact: "Stargate producers Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper conceived Stargate Universe as "a completely separate, third entity" in the live-action Stargate franchise – as opposed to Stargate Atlantis, which was created as a spin-off from the first series Stargate SG-1. They wanted to produce a stylistically and tonally different TV series with a more mature and fresh story approach as not to get too repetitive."

Year of Broadcast: 2009 (UK broadcast six days behind US)

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Jamil Walker Smith, Elyse Levesque, Alaina Huffman, Ming-Na

*Spoilers follow*

Summary (episode one): Fleeing an enemy attack, a group of people – civilians and military – find themselves stranded upon an ancient alien craft, billions of light years from home.

Thoughts (episode one): Despite being a big fan of science fiction (I’ve yet to post about a piece of TV, film or gaming that isn’t part of the genre), I never followed Stargate SG-1 beyond a few episodes of the first season.  For some reason it just didn’t grab me, and for that reason I didn’t look into Stargate: Atlantis either, being a spin-off of a programme I didn’t watch.  However, with SG-1 lasting ten seasons, Atlantis another five, and with several straight-to-TV/DVD movies between them, it seemed like something worth paying attention to.  Going by the little I knew of it, the second Stargate spin-off series, Stargate: Universe, seemed like a good point to jump in, especially when Robert Carlyle says that he considers it one of the highlights of his career (a career that has its share of highlights).

Series premières can be a tricky proposition even when everything you’re establishing is brand new and the viewers are being exposed to the universe for the first time, and it can only be all the harder when you’re dealing with a well-established continuity and an existing fanbase, needing to both satisfy the loyal fans and make things accessible to newcomers.  SGU’s first episode walked the line well, opening with the dramatic arrival of the cast through the Stargate and into the ship, before flashing back and establishing how they got there.

For veteran fans, SG-1 cast members Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks and Amanda Tapping were on board to ease the transition (though they’re not part of SG:U’s main cast, with two being left behind and one only appearing in an orientation video).  For the newcomers, most of the education came through the character of Eli Wallace, a twenty-something computer nerd (and how much of SG:U’s audience does that description fit?) exposed to the Stargates for the first time, learning as us newbies do.

As well as Eli, there was a lot of focus on Carlyle’s character, Dr. Nicholas Rush.  He’s quickly established as somewhat obsessive, more concerned with the Stargates than anything else, and perhaps the only person who did not react badly to the thought of being stuck on an alien ship for an indeterminate amount of time, being more taken by the opportunities it presents than the danger and uncertainty.

Overall then it made for a tightly-packed, intriguing episode.  With most of the allotted time needed to both set up the premise and get everybody up to speed, there wasn’t room for much else, with most of the other characters hinted at more than properly established.  It’s probably why in both the US and UK the first two episodes are shown back to back, which leads us to…

Summary (episode two): The survivors attempt to restore the ship’s life-support systems but the damage is severe; Dr. Rush assumes command of the expedition, but is not met with universal approval.

Wikipedia Fact: "About a year before being cast, Scottish actor Robert Carlyle wanted to try something new in his career and approached television companies in Los Angeles. They offered him several parts, but Stargate Universe had the greatest appeal to him as "suddenly a drama was opening up in space, and in the past that was something that was slightly missing from the genre"."

Wikipedia Fact: "About a year before being cast, Scottish actor Robert Carlyle wanted to try something new in his career and approached television companies in Los Angeles. They offered him several parts, but Stargate Universe had the greatest appeal to him as "suddenly a drama was opening up in space, and in the past that was something that was slightly missing from the genre"."

(image source: Geek Tyrant)

Thoughts (episode two): A series with obvious parallels to SG:U is Star Trek: Voyager, which was also about a group of people being stranded on a ship, far from home.  Voyager never really lived up to the concept though or convincingly portrayed a ship that lacked the support network of the Federation.  Supplies were never as limited as you’d expect, the ship was always repaired quickly after battles, and essentially it didn’t take much time at all for the series to slip back into the comfortable formula of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In that respect, SG:U is already doing a better job than Voyager generally did.  In this second episode the crew discover the ship is heavily damaged, leaking air through holes that seem to have been incurred in a battle, its safety systems of bulkheads and forcefields not enough to entirely prevent the leaks.  It also emerges that the CO2 scrubbers necessary for removing carbon dioxide are not functioning, damaged beyond repair.

The first problem requires somebody to sacrifice themselves by sealing one of the holes from the outside, which hopefully grants the survivors the time they need to try and repair, but the issue with the scrubbers is more elaborate.  The scrubbers have to be completely replaced using materials they don’t have, and it’s here that the series establishes what will probably be its primary formula for the episodes ahead.  Essentially, the ship (which we discovered is named Destiny) was sent ahead unmanned into unknown space by the “Ancients”, with the intention being for them to use the Stargate to come aboard once it had reached somewhere worth going.  These Ancients also sent out other ships to find habitable worlds and construct Stargates, and Rush is able to set the Destiny to locate a Stargate on a world that should hopefully contain what they need to repair the scrubbers, and the episode ends just as a team disappears through the Stargate into an unknown world.

Speaking of Rush, in this episode he says that he’s contacted home using special communication stones and has been put in command of the group.  We don’t actually see this conversation take place though, so it’s possible that he’s not being entirely truthful, a suspicion which seems to be shared by several of the survivors.  While Rush has still been very much in his element figuring out the ship (with Eli also having fun with the camera bots he discovers), he did notice when Chloe Armstrong needed him to be human, and it will be interesting to see which side of his character wins out as they presumably continue to puzzle out the ship’s systems and explore strange new worlds in the weeks ahead.

In its first two episodes Stargate: Universe has established itself as a strong new series that functions without viewers needing any real knowledge of prior Stargate, and they could easily end up with a series here that stands tall alongside the best of Star Trek.

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