The first half of Stargate Universe
showed a lot of promise. The show was
having a bit of trouble finding
its own voice and style, but there was a lot of potential there to
franchise in new and exciting ways. The
Syfy Channel (I hate that name) aired the first ten episodes of the
season in 2009
and then took a four month break before returning with an additional 10
episodes in 2010. This second half of
the season, released as Stargate
Universe 1.5, shows that the writers are still struggling with
concept. While they make some missteps,
there is some movement in the right direction.
If you've never seen any of the previous Stargate series or the
you might be a little lost at first but if you're vaguely familiar with
franchise you won't have any trouble following the story. As you
recall from the movie and SG-1, a Stargate uses a seven 'chevron'
dial other Stargates in the Milky Way. It was discovered that the
would accept an 8 chevron address, but to dial it would take an
of energy only an ancient 'zero-point module' could generate. A
hooked up, and it dialed an address in another galaxy. (Those
are chronicled in Stargate Atlantis.) A nine chevron
discovered, but to generate the unimaginable power needed to dial such
address would entail tapping the core of a special type of
problem has just about been solved as this current series opens.
Yes, Earth scientists lead by Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) and
gamer geek Eli Wallace (David Blue) have broken the codes, solved the
engineering problems, and just about overcome the final hurdles to
nine symbol address. Unfortunately the base is attacked before
dial and 60 or so people are trapped in the gate room when a corridor
collapses. Realizing that it's a now-or-never situation, Dr. Rush
in the nine chevron code instead of dialing Earth and saving
The gate opens, and left with no choice the 60 or so trapped people
many supplies as they can and walk through.
No one expected what they would find. Instead of landing on a
they emerged onto a huge space ship. The ship, unbelievably old,
built by the Ancients, the race that built the Stargates. Given
Destiny, it's been traveling across the Cosmos for hundreds of
years or more and it's now a billion light years from Earth.
power to dial back to Earth, the survivors, half military personnel and
civilians, have to discover how to live on this gigantic ship that, due
ravages of time, is falling apart.
While the people on Destiny can't dial home, they aren't
totally cut off. Communication with
Earth has been established via an Ancient artifact. While that is
a good thing, as they now have access to Earth's experts and
meddling from various military and civilian organizations only serve to
strife on the ship.
In addition to Dr. Rush and Eli, the crew of the Destiny, as they
ship has been named, include the ranking military officer Col. Everet
(Louis Ferreira) who has a even temper but isn't sure if he's up for
his right hand man First Lieutenant Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith), and
officer Camile Wray (Ming-Na) who is often caught in between the
The first set of episodes ended with a surprising
development. Col. Young had been framed
for murder by Dr. Rush and while the two were on a desert planet along
knocked Rush out and left him to die along while Destiny jumped to FTL
immobilizing the stargate. It was a
gutsy move, to kill off a major character, and at the time I thought
they really had removed him from the show I would have been impressed. Well, with Robert Carlyle's face boldly
planted on the front cover it will come as no surprise that Dr. Rush is
dead. That was a disappointing, though
not unexpected development, but he was brought back in a creative way
cheap and silly (like when Starbuck was stranded on an alien planet in
the first season of Battlestar
Part of the problem in the first half was the constant
bickering between the civilians and the military leadership with each
vying for control. That's carried over
to the beginning of this set too, unfortunately, with Dr. Rush and Ms.
instigating a mutiny. This subplot drags
the action to a halt every time it rears its ugly head and consists of
characters spouting their ideas about who should be in charge (with the
points often repeated between episodes).
Hopefully we've seen the last of those dull ennui inducing
I wouldn't bet on it.
They do make some improvements to the show luckily.
With the addition of an alien race that has
been tracking, and trying to capture, Destiny since long before the new
inhabitants arrived the series finally has an external enemy to make
interesting. They haven't given these
aliens a name, which is a mistake, but they are advanced and make
foes. There's also an earth-born threat
that crops up in the latter episodes.
When the stories feature either of these two forces the show is
On the down side the program features a lot of amazing
coincidences and some hand-waving explanations for some of the dues ex
machina rescues. What even worse is that
some of the amazing
feats that occur aren't even explained.
At one point it's been established that a planet is too far away
reach by stargate, but the gate opens anyway and people are rescued. Someone asked how it happened and no one has
an explanation. Hopefully they'll
address that in a future episode, but I doubt it.
Another down side to this character-driven show is that
unlike Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis,
most of the main
characters are jerks. Dr. Rush brash and
elitists (but not in a humorous way like Rodney on Atlantis)
and framed Col. Young for murder because they didn't see
eye-to-eye. Young is no better,
basically acting as judge, jury, and executioner once he discovered
framed him (not to mention that he was unfaithful to his wife before he
Earth), and the civilian leader, Wray, is duplicitous and conniving. Some of the secondary characters are better,
including Lt. Scott who has been regulated to second banana, but
the stars. Who wants to watch a bunch of
Like the first half, this set of shows has a claustrophobic
and oppressive feel. Because of the
darker tone, much of the humor that marked the two earlier series (I
acknowledge the cartoon) is missing. Even Eli has stopped being
relief. They still throw in a reference to
other SF movies and shows now and again, always very obvious ones that
will get, but these aren't funny and don't lighten the show at all.
The last ten episodes of the first season are presented on two Blu-ray
that arrive in a single width case.
The show comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that
really outstanding. The whole soundstage is used to get effect,
in the action sequences, but in the more mundane parts of the show
The directionality is excellent with sounds moving around the room with
It holds up well during the more sonically actives scenes too.
various sounds never merge into a wall of noise, but rather stay as
pieces that really places the viewer in the middle of the action.
dialog is clean and clear and very muddled.
The 1.78:1 AVC encoded disc looked very good too. The show was
HD, which means that they had to redo a lot of the stock special
especially the "whoosh" as a Stargate opens. These look very
in HD, especially when compared to their SD counterparts. The
the ship is darkly lit, so the image doesn't jump off the screen like
Blu-rays, but once they leave the ship and travel to a well lit planet,
the desert world in an early episode, the image really comes alive.
The colors are nice, with fleshtones being realistic and blacks being
not compressed. The level of detail is fine but not exceptional
for a HD
disc. Overall this is a nice looking show that should please
I was hoping for a bit more in the extras department, but what's there
First off there are commentary tracks on every episode by various
the cast and crew. As happened with the first set, I didn't have
listen to all of them (damned deadlines!) but I did spot-check several
I heard seemed about average for a commentary track. They joke
tell anecdotes about filming without just describing the on-screen
action. (I hate when they do that.)
There's also a Destiny Starmap Log on each disc, which is a
make this bonus feature look more impressive than it really is.
of a galaxy has several stars circled. Highlighting any one of
reveals a short clip. These include interviews with the actors
costume naturally) about their roles, directors discussing their
tidbits about the special effects etc. Luckily there is a 'play
option, which makes these much more fun to watch.
All three discs also feature a set of Kino Video Diaries, a
messages that people aboard the Destiny recorded on small flying camera
are aboard the ship. Some of these are humorous short pieces,
expand on footage shown in the show. It's a nice addition.
Remember when DVDs first arrived and they promised to have
video games on the discs too? Remember
how lame all those games were? Well
included on with this set, SGU:
Survival Instinct. Basically you
watch a video clip from an
episode included on the previous set, and at random points you have to
decision on what to do with your remote.
There are only two choices, and there is no logic involved. You're basically guessing.
Who do you send for water, Chole or Eli? The
right answer sends you to the next clip,
while the wrong one sends you back to an earlier point.
This was so dull I couldn't play it for more
than a couple of minutes.
Wrapped with the Blu-ray disc, at least with the initial
shipments, is a cool extra that I was happy to see:
a folded slipcase that holds both halves of
season one. That's a nice thing to give
to fans that supported the initial release.
It's a mixed bag so far. While I loved the other Stargate
series I'm not 100% sold on this series yet.
The lead characters aren't nearly as appealing as those in the
shows, and the writing is a little sloppy.
The series is darker and has lost the humor that previously ran
Stargate shows too. I'm still recommending
this one, there are some
spots that are really good and the show does have a lot of potential,
a light recommendation.