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October 13, 2009

Stargate Universe First Impressions

I have never been a huge fan of the Stargate franchise.

The film was mildly entertaining with that whole Pyramid Egyptian alien thing.

SG-1 I watched if I just happened to be in front of the TV and it was on. It was a bit cheesey, and did the whole Sliders / Otherworld trope in a less interesting manner (and usually in a forest in Vancouver). Somehow it kept going and eventually I lost track of the adhoc organic Mythos. I now have no idea what’s going on if I see an episode.

Atlantis I watched one episode of and thought it was awful so never watched another. Bad acting, bad story.

Stargate Universe however, I have some hope for, mainly due to the inclusion of Robert Carlyle but it’s also nice to see that they have a consultant SF writer on the team (John Scalzi).

The first two episodes set up the story, and it’s not terribly bad. Here’s the good and bad:


  • Eli. The young slacker who plays computer games and then gets beamed up to a starship. Like The Last Starfighter, but not as good. He’s clearly the show’s comic character. But why? Why does it need a comic character. I found him intensely annoying.
  • The derivative styling of the SF trappings: the spaceship, the FTL travel effect, the corridors, panels… All the scenery basically. Nothing is new or even has a slight twist.
  • The handheld shaky camera shots feel gratuitous.
  • The plot. It’s not going to be too radical is it? Aboard a spaceship, far from home, visiting alien planets. Hmmm.



  • Robert Carlyle is great. His character Dr. Rush is clearly looking after his own interests, but manages to do it in a way that’s not clichéd evil scientist. He’s trying to win people onto his side, whilst doing exactly what he wants. I’m also holding out hope that Carlyle is after more than a regular pay check and has seen something good in the upcoming story.
  • The style shows promise. They’ve clearly tried to create a modern feeling show, hopefully the grittiness will stay.

In the end the story must create a good programme. If the plot can somehow transcend the standard exploration trope, somehow give us characters we care about and somehow add a little bit more than you’d expect from Stargate, then maybe it will be good.


Fascinating. I didn't know John was involved. That may help. :)

I have the opposite reaction. Eli is the only character on the show I like at all, and--while Carlyle is very good--Rush is so arrogant and nasty that I really despise the character.

I am willing to give it more time (but then, we have the first 5 seasons of SG-1 on disc...) So far, this jury is still out.

I think your review fails in that you are judging the two prequels without really having watched them. SG-1 had ten seasons, of which you appear to have only watched less than a season's worth. SGA had five seasons, and you're judging it based on only one episode.

That said, I enjoyed the first part of the show (the "three" parts of the first arc, "Air"), and I'm looking forward to more. I don't really like Dr. Rush, but I don't think he's intended to be a likable character. Eli was annoying at first, but got better by the end of "Air". The US Senator was annoying at first, but turned out to be a decent sort, doing something for everyone else when he knew he wasn't going to live anyway.

Overall, I'm seeing a lot of promise, and I'm looking forward to the new episodes.

Is James being critical, or just admitting his bias? All he said was the first two shows didn't really draw him in, which is perfectly fair. It took me like five years to get in to SG1, and SGA really was terrible its first year. I don't think he's being critical at all, really.

Given that this show is attempting to bring in new viewers who aren't versed in the incredibly elaborate lore of SG1 and SGA, I thought this was a good review, and a good place to come on board. In fact, I agree with pretty much everything he said about the first 2 eps of SGU, and I felt the same way. The 3rd ep made most of that all better for me, though.

My hunch is that the show isn't just about survival or trying to get home. I'm sure there's some larger, more important arc that will show up shortly, or maybe already has.

I guess this is a show non-Stargate fans can like, because, as a Stargate fan (liked SG1, LOVED Atlantis) I find nothing about it likeable at all.
There is not a single character there that I like, it seems depressingly teen-angsty, sexually explicit and just downright depressing.
UGG. I'll be watching my SGA DVDs thank you.

I don't get that. From the moment SGA got canned to make room for this show, a lot of people have been screaming about how they'll never watch it, how it's Stargate: One Tree Hill, a teen soap, blah blah blah. I don't pretend to understand the hate, I mean (A) It's made by the same team who made SGA and (B) the SGA producers VOLUNTEERED to end SGA a year early so they could start this show. That suggests that they're really excited about SGU, and weren't all that excited about Atlantis. That, to me, makes the new show interesting.

The idea that it's teen-angsty makes no sense, as there's not a teen nor even a pretend-teen on the cast, it's just slightly-less thirty-something than the previous shows were.

There's a lot of derivative stuff in the show that concerns me and might be its downfall, but the "I hate it because the cast is younger and it's not my favorite show" certainly isn't a valid one.

Holy crap! They had actual science on SGU this week! Science! In Stargate! I never would have seen that coming! (Episode 4 just aired here)

3 episodes in and I have not decided whether I like this series or not.

The original film is ace.

SG1 was OK until I got bored of the ooh another planet scenario (preferred sliders :-O).

SGA. Meh.

I will give it another few episodes before making my final decision.

I *hated* the Stargate movie. Hated it. I despise that whole "Ancient Astronauts" nonsense. As a result, it took me a long time to warm up to SG1, but once I kind of 'got it', I loved it. Still can't stand that original movie, though.

For instance? What bugs you about it?

The thing that's striking me about it is that they're deliberately, repeatedly hitting on two things that have been taboo in previous iterations of the franchise: real-world religion, and something akin to actual science.