Stargate Universe – Review

Stargate Universe looks to be trying to balance a lot of things, and while the series reinvention seems to be the science-fiction hopeful of the season, I’m not sure how all that balancing is going to work out. For now, it isn’t working so well, but there is certainly enough potential to look past the stumbles of the first episodes. Once the general theory stabilizes and gets past the establishment work, we may find we’re onto something here.

Last night’s two-hour premiere was a good move in theory, because we have to hope for the uninitiated, but the effort dragged before long, and many were the moments of overly dramatic, overly extended subroutines that amounted to very little in the end. Eventually, the show spilled into a sort of insecurity, and instead of being quite serious and dramatic, it was just saying it was serious and dramatic.

The premise of the show revolves around the Stargates, which are basically magic portals that transport you millions of miles through space instantly, left throughout the universe by a species known in the show as The Ancients. Our story begins when a large group of people are forced to go through a Stargate when they aren’t sure where the other end leads. It turns out that it opens up on a spaceship so far from Earth that the numbers are incomprehensible.

The group we have is basically what’s left of a research and military base that’s studying a Stargate on another planet, along with a few civilian visitors who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Led, sort of, by Dr. Nicholas (Robert Carlyle), the group discovers that the ship was made by The Ancients, and that the life-support system is failing. The clock is ticking on how much air they have left, and if they solve that problem, they get to move on to figuring out how to get home.

We’re then left with a kind of Star Trek: Voyager reinvention as well.

The trouble with the show is that you’ve got to imagine the road ahead far more than you can rely on what’s given early on. I have a strong feeling that at the eighth or ninth episode, this is going to live up to the possibilities, and be a fun yet serious science-fiction adventure that could well take up the mantle of Battlestar Galactica. However, it’s a bit rough out of the gates, with a lot of heavy-handed work trying to set up the initial character interplay. Are people really being uppity at the only person who can get them home and/or the people with all the guns in this situation? Really? Does the military commander really stomp around and think he can push everyone around when he isn’t even really there? A good note there is that it doesn’t work, but still.

There is conveniently a cliffhanger aspect to the premiere, which will hopefully get people to the next episode, but there isn’t exactly such a draw at the end of that one. After next week’s episode, you’re sort of just in or out. Hopefully, a lot of people will show up for the fun of a show that really can do absolutely anything week after week. They might show up for the characters, but right now the characters are being abused, and aren’t allowed to deliver anything to really engage viewers. There’s just too much going, and too much that the writers are trying to squeeze in while devoting amazing amounts of time to stretching out the drama. Next week won’t change matters any either.

I feel nearly forced to recommend you give it a try, because in a few months I think you’ll wish you had, but the first few episodes are more in the class of that which you have to suffer through, as opposed to true parts of the good stuff itself.

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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