Friday, October 9, 2009

First Thoughts on Stargate Universe

Hello, internet! In honor of the premier of the latest series in one of my favorite sci-fi franchises, I shall start my ramblings with Stargate Universe. I'm sorry this is so long, but I've had a week to think about the pilot.

I have to admit, I approached it with extreme skepticism. All I had read and seen about it previously had made it look like Star Trek: Voyager with Battlestar Galactica flavor and a Stargate setting. I have nothing against BSG, but I love the light-heartedness of Stargate and the sneak peaks of SGU made it look ever so grim and unwilling to laugh at itself and the press releases declared the attempt to be darker and more gritty than the previous shows.

I approached the two-hour pilot with caution, and noticed some interesting things they did to make the show "darker":
  1. The Stargate's event horizon is grey in SGU instead of the cheerier shade of blue it's been in the previous series. Whether this is supposed to be a special property of the Destiny gate or not, it definitely adds visually to the darker tone of the series. (side thought: Would Sam eat grey jello in SGU? What flavor would that be?)
  2. The Ancient technology on board the Destiny is rougher and alien-seeming or streamlined than the other examples of Ancient tech we've seen. It feels far more like a Daedalus-class Earth ship than like the Ancient city of Atlantis, except in scale. This is probably because the ship is older than Atlantis, but it still adds to the gritty feel of the show.
  3. The characters lack the optimistic attitude the characters of previous shows had in even the most dire of situations. I mean, they're in pretty much the same situation as the crew from Atlantis was at first, minus the threat of Wraith attack, but where Atlantis characters would tackle puzzles and crack jokes, the Destiny's passengers freak-out and argue.
  4. The lighting is done at such angles as to increase the sharpness and to make everything feel darker. The quarters in Icarus base are decorated pretty much the same way as quarters in Stargate Command if you pay attention, but the way they use lighting makes them feel darker and more oppressive.
  5. There is already signs of intrigue and power struggle. Usually, it takes a few episodes (or seasons) for that to come along.
  6. They are definitely willing to use content the previous series wouldn't touch (except for SG-1's original pilot, but we don't like to talk about that...). Call it daring if you want, I did not need to see that scene...
So those are the major differences I've noticed from SG-1 and Atlantis. The show comes to a dark, serious start. SGU has not completely departed the beloved (by me, at least) grounds of it's predecessors. The character Eli is definitely showing more of the lighter attitude of the Stargate-verse. Even his back story for why he joined the program is light-hearted (and strangely reminiscent of The Last Starfighter). Also refreshing: the end of the pilot has them start exploring through the gate. That made me feel warm and fuzzy...

All in all, I found the pilot intriguing, though different. There was already evident character growth and I found myself wanting to know more about (some of) the characters. While I still feel that it can never take the place of light-hearted and never too serious SG-1, and it still seems like Voyager with a BSG color scheme, I look forward to the next episode and I plan on watching at least the first season to see how it develops.

Now, if only Hulu had the next episode up! Curse my lack of the SyFy channel!

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