Remember how Deep Space Nine was the game changer for the Star Trek series, taking the concept in a gritty, new direction? Stargate Universe sees that challenge and raises it. What a difference one measly chevron makes.
The best way to sum up Stargate Universe is the Bob Marley tune Buffalo Soldiers: “Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival”. For those that don’t speak rasta, understand that the plight of Stargate Universe is a gritty struggle wherein the winner gets to live another day. The heretofore unheard of ninth chevron dictates the shift of Stargate Universe. Previously in the Stargate universe, characters used eight chevrons to dial up a planet. In order to dial into this mysterious ninth chevron, the Stargate requires massive amounts of power. A team of scientists stationed off-world attempt to discern how to channel that planet’s energy into the Stargate to activate the ninth chevron not fully realizing exactly what’s on the other side. When the planet falls under attack, they use the gate as their means of escape and find themselves trapped aboard The Ancients’ ship Destiny. I’m sure back in the day this was quite the flagship, but it has fallen in disrepair over the many years of abandonment and our hodgepodge crew must think fast to acquire just the rudimentary necessities to live. So important are these little things we take for granted that episodes take on the necessity as a title such as Air, Water and Time. More after the jump.
The series differs from the previous Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis in a couple ways. New additions include the Kinos, little floating ball cameras (think Phantasm, but not spikey) that are used to both explore and record personal messages. Also, because of the distance separating Destiny and Earth, the crew uses communication stones that shift a person’s consciousness across the vast reaches of space. This gives our crew a chance to walk Earth, albeit in someone else’s skin. It also gives Earth a glimpse into the lives of the Destiny’s crew. It also leads to a couple plays for power, specifically between Young and Telford, but we’re getting to characters.
Their situation is dire, but the crew is anything but. The character’s eyes through which the viewer relates to this ongoing tale are those of Eli Wallace (David Blue – Ugly Betty, Moonlight). He was unaware of Stargates and such, but found himself cracking the indecipherable code of a video game, drawing the attention of the government and earning a one-way ticket into the Stargate program. Eli sees the world through pop-culture colored glasses, but make no mistake, he’s an intellectual rivaling his boss Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle – Trainspotting, The Full Monty). Rush reminds me most of Lost in Space‘s Dr. Zachary Smith, a man of science who follows his own hidden agenda. It is hard to nail down Rush to any allegiances beyond himself and his motivation is revealed when we learn he wasn’t going to be on the mission team had it been under normal circumstances. Standing opposed to Rush is Colonel Everett Young (Louis Ferreira – 1-800 Missing, Hidden Hills). Young is a strong leader and able to stop being by-the-book enough to improvise for the welfare of his crew. Young’s right hand man is Lieutenant Matthew Scott (Brian J Smith). Scott is a total Boy Scout who has eyes on the US Senator’s beautiful daughter Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque). Of course, so does Eli. There’s other romantic tension on the ship as the soldier with the most medical experience Tamara “TJ” Johansen (Alaina Huffman – Smallville, Painkiller Jane) shares a past with Young. Walking the fine line between helpful and loose cannon is soldier Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith – Hey Arnold!, Waynehead). Working (over) the crew from back on Earth is Colonel David Telford (Lou Diamond Philips – Wolf Lake, Young Guns), who trusts neither Rush’s nor Young’s leadership. Every good space story needs their “company man” on the inside and in Stargate Universe that is International Oversight Advisory’s Camile Wray (Ming-Na – Vanished, ER) who just wants to get home… to her lady.
The first ten episodes included here ramp up to a delicious cliffhanger and probe all aspects of the human condition from unfettered ego to unrequited love. It’s hard to believe that Earth and Time could be from the same series as both are brilliant consecutive episodes with little more than the characters in common.
Audio English 5.1 DTS HD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, subtitles English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and French.
On startup, Stargate Atlantis Seasons 1-5 and Stargate SG-1 Seasons 1-10 on DVD.
Destiny SML (Star Map and Log). By using the remote you access Destiny “log entries”. Fourteen production entries: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreria, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ming-Na, David Blue, A Brand New “Universe”, Designing Destiny, Inside Destiny, Stargate 101 presented by Dr. Daniel Jackson (The Stargate, The Goa’Uld, Hyperspace, The Ancients, Ascension, Lucian Alliance), Kawoosh! 2.0, Chatting with the Cast: Shooting on Destiny, Director’s Minutes: Andy Mikita (Air), No Day at the Beach (Air), White Sands, NM (Air).
Kino Video Diaries includes Kino 101 with Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper (explains what Kinos are in the SG:U U as well as how they’re used within both the episodes and the production) and six Kino entries with play all functionality.
Commentary on Air (parts 1&2) by Executive Producer Robert C. Cooper, Director Andy Mikita and VFX Supervisor Mark Savela.
Commentary on Air (extended version), Darkness and Light by Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.
On startup: Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate Continuum and Defying Gravity: The Complete First Season.
Destiny SML: Seventeen featurettes: Alaina Huffman, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, Jamil Walker Smith, Director’s Minutes: William Waring (Water), Falling Through Ice (Water), On the Ice (Water), Setting the [Alien] Mood (Water), Out On The Town (Earth), A Stunt in Tight Places (Earth), Director’s Minutes: Ernest R. Dickerson (Earth), Helmet-Cam 101 (Time), Shooting in the Rain (Time), Let It Rain (Time), Fight! (Justice), Future/Past: The New Stargate, A New Look for SG:U.
Kino Video Diaries: Nine additional Kino-related video diaries.
Commentary on Water by Director William Waring and actors Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith and Elyse Levesque.
Commentary on Earth by Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.
Commentary on Time by Executive Producer Robert C. Cooper and David Blue.
Commentary on Life by Ming Na, Brian J. Smith and Louis Ferreira.
Commentary on Justice by Director William Waring, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque and Jamil Walker Smith.
The concept is straightforward: a ragtag mix of scientists and soldiers fight to stay alive on the outer edges of the universe. The execution, however, is exemplary. The writing and performances probe into the human condition which makes Stargate Universe a lot more than just another Stargate or even science fiction show for that matter.
Final Grade – A