Has potential to be the “DS9” of the “Stargate” franchise
Early on in the three-hour “Stargate: Universe” pilot, it becomes apparent this isn’t your daddy’s “Stargate” series. The greatest threat isn’t from an external threat like the Wraith or the G’ould but instead comes from the question of who you can and should trust among a rag-tag group of humans thrown together on a distant starship, trying to find a way to survive and, possibly a way to get back home.
With the arrival of “Stargate: Universe,” the franchise takes a turn for a darker look into the universe of the Gate and also offers a series that could be more character driven than the previous two installments. It still has elements of that won over a legion of loyal “Stargate” fans, but it so far it appears that this entry isn’t willing to play it safe with the viewers or the characters.
And with that, “Stargate: Universe” has the potential to be the “DS9” of the “Stargate” franchise.
The three-hour pilot (shown over the course of two Fridays) wisely doesn’t try to give us the background on every single character in the cast. Instead, the pilot borrows a page from “Lost,” setting the audience up with the scenario and then slowly sketching in a few details about some of the characters while leaving us with a lot of questions to be answered over the next 18 episodes in season one.
The lions’ share of the pilot focuses on Robert Carlyle as Dr. Nicholas Rush, David Blue as Eli Wallace and Elyse Levesque as Chloe Robinson. Eli is the viewer’s entry into this new universe and his sense of wonder and excitement at being made part of this mission spills over into much of the early sections of the pilot. Thankfully, as the situation slowly becomes more and more bleak, Eli doesn’t lose his sense of wonder or his sense of humor (though they are severely tested).
After unlocking the secret of the ninth Chevron by playing an on-line video game, Eli is recruited to be part of a taskforce sent to the farthest known Stargate to see if it works. When the base comes under attack, Rush decides that he can’t reveal the coordinates of Earth to the attackers and dials up the ninth Chevron instead. A taskforce goes through the Gate to find themselves on an Ancients ship called the Destiny, which is billions of light years from Earth and appears headed in the opposite direction.
But before they can even think of trying to find a way home, they have to overcome a ship with structural issues and a faulty life support system. They can still communicate with Earth via an Ancients’ communications system that allows two people to switch consciousnesses for a limited period of time.
Over the course of the first three hours, we’ll find that not all these characters are the squeaky clean people with came to know and love in ‘SG1.” And they’re not all on the same page about decisions and the command structure aboard the Destiny. “Air” seems to be setting up some potentially fascinating and complex character dynamics and conflict that could have some great payoff as the series goes.
And while it’s a darker version, there are still enough elements of “Stargate” here to keep long-time fans satisfied. But the biggest strength is that, aside from a few familiar cameos, the pilot is accessible enough that fans who have little or no background in the previous two series can watch, enjoy and embrace this latest installment.
And if the coming installments prove as fascinating and compelling as “Air,” “Stargate: Universe” could prove to be the best entry we’ve had so far in this long-running franchise.
Stargate: Universe — “Air”, Parts 1, 2 & 3
Written by: Robert C. Cooper & Bradley Wright
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ming Na
Airdates: Friday, October 2 (Part 1 & 2), October 9 (Part 3)
Slice of SciFi Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0