The premise of Stargate is simple. A long time ago, a humanoid race (the Ancients) strategically placed gateways in different parts of the universe. The Stargates on Earth are controlled by the United States, and teams are sent to explore other planets. Stargate SG-1 was a spin-off of the movie Stargate, and ran for 10 successful seasons on SyFy. It followed various teams who traveled the galaxy and defended Earth from alien threats.
Syfy decided to try a darker, edgier version of Stargate SG-1 where a crew is stranded in space. The gripping Stargate Universe pilot starts out with a base being attacked. This forces a mix of civilians, scientists and military personnel through a Stargate to save their own lives. They wind up billions of light years from home on a mysterious Ancient spaceship named Destiny. Unable to return to Earth, these people must let Destiny follow its predetermined course while trying to survive.
The first three episodes of SGU are spent frantically trying to fix something on the ship. This immediately grabs you and pulls you into the show. You have no time to process what is happening on the screen. SGU throws you right in the middle of a crisis with no back-story and no explanation. Even so, I managed to follow along just fine with my limited amount of Stargate knowledge. One of the more enjoyable parts of this show is the wildly appropriate soundtrack. The eclectic music choices set the perfect tone for each event. I became enamored with Alexi Murdoch after hearing the song “Breathe” in the third episode.
Unlike the Stargate SG-1 of yesteryear, SGU concentrates more on the characters than on the plotlines. Its predecessor had a habit of getting caught up in overly elaborate plots while paying no attention to the characters. SGU takes its time, but eventually gives you insight into all of the main characters backgrounds. The character development is strong, and dialogues frequently sizzle with emotion. SGU shows us exactly how humans react in life or death situations. Some of them stand strong, while others crack under the pressure. How long would you be able to handle the stress of knowing that you may never see Earth again?
The show is especially riveting thanks to the chemistry between Dr. Nicholas Rush, a genius/scientist, and Eli Wallace, a genius/slacker. I identified Robert Carlyle immediately from his role as the tortured villain in James Bond’s The World is Not Enough. Rush’s intensity is what helps push this show into the fantastic column. The chemistry between these two is witty and entertaining. You will enjoy watching Rush descend further into his own head while trying to save the ship. Simultaneously, Eli actually begins to use his brain, and realizes just how much of a genius he really is.
The most interesting character on the show is the ship itself. Destiny is an empty vessel floating through the stars on a course that no one can understand. She holds many secrets, and reveals them excruciatingly slowly. Although everyone desperately wants to get off of the ship, most of them are still intrigued by the answers it holds.
There have been reactions to the show saying that it’s boring, or that it is hard to identify with the characters. Personally, I enjoyed it so much that I watched every available episode within a week. I suggest viewing the first three episodes in a row to get the full effect of the show. Immerse yourself in this frantic world, and learn what it feels like to be living off of hope.
Fun fact: Destiny is the spitting image of Thor’s hammer, Mjöllnir.
Stargate Universe airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on Syfy.