Monday, November 9, 2009

Stargate: Universe

We're up to the third or fourth episode on this one, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. To recap, this is the third Stargate tv series, and it's supposed to be "Dark" and "Edgy", or in other words, a way to milk an existing franchise, and still try and fulfill the void that Battlestar Galactica left in all of our space opera hearts. In this, it fails. Any attempt to compare it to Battlestar is going to paint this show in a negative light. It... I'm trying to put into words exactly how it's different from BSG, and the best way I can think of to describe it is scale. In the very first episode of BSG, twelve worlds approximately the size of Earth are scoured of all human life, in the first episode of SG:U a group of 40 or so people make an emergency one way trip through a Stargate and end up on a mysterious ship. As for dark and edgy, so far, every episode has pretty much ended with the crew managing to stay alive just in the nick of time without having to make any hard moral choices that cause the viewers to question what exactly survival means, and what would be acceptable losses to our rights in the pursuit of keeping our species alive. Really, SG:U is more what I would expect from a modern version of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Something that's a little suspenseful, has some fun ideas, and has characters that you actually want to know how they make out. That being said, this doesn't appear to be a show for fans of the previous two Stargates series. I was never a fan of either of them, and I am a fan of this series, so draw what you will from that.
Now that we've got those comparison's out of the way, let's talk about what's going on. As I said, the show starts off with a group of people coming through a Stargate, and arriving in what we eventually discover is a very old starship. Through a series of flashbacks we discover that the address for the ship was discovered, but it was so far away, that it required a massive amount of energy to open a portal to it. Conveniently a planet was discovered with a core that had been repurposed as some kind of reactor. Even with said reactor, getting enough juice out of it to actually dial up the ship has so far eluded brilliant, obsessed Dr. Rush (played by Robert Carlisle, who is the reason that I tuned in to begin with), so he embedded the problem into an online game, which is eventually solved by Eli, the MIT dropout with a heart of gold, he left college so that he could look after his ailing mother, but then couldn't find any work to actually help support her. Basically Eli's the computer nerd that anyone who actually knows their ass from a hard drive is going to want to instantly bludgeon to death, but if you can resist those urges through the first episode, I think you might find yourself actually liking him a bit. Eli makes it to the reactor planet, which promptly falls under attack, after being ordered to dial the Stargate back to Earth, Rush gives some BS line about the explosion from the reactor travelling through the portal and destroying Earth, so instead he dial the ship. (Yeah, everyone else seems to think that's a crock as well, basically Rush has a massive hard on for the ship for some reason) but they all run through rather than be blown up, and the end up on a ship that's been travelling away from our galaxy at faster than light speeds for roughyl 20,000 years.
Like any car with a healthy number of miles on it, the ship has some problems. There's no crew, which sidesteps the problem of "what if they're not friendly?" but there are a number of holes in the ship, sealed with emergency energy shields, which are underpowered, and thus bleeding atmosphere, the oxygen scrubbers are just trashed, and the ship is locked into an autopilot mode. Later on we find out that the ship can be instructed to stop for certain supplies, after which it will stop within range of a number Stargates that were sent out in advance, and that might potentially wield the necessary supplies. The ship does not have enough energy to dial back to Earth. But they are able to communicate with Earth by using some conciousness swapping magic stones which are linked up.
That abou sums up the necessaries, in the last episode, we saw the sinister colonel Telford from Earth (Lou Diamond Phillips? Really?) take over command of the ship in an effort to channel the energy the ship harvets by sun diving directly into the Stargate in order to dial home. Rush of course pointedly opposes this idea, on the pretext of it being very dangerous, but implicitly because they might force him to leave the ship, and not allow him to come back. In the end, he manages to use the ship's systems to simulate a number of alarms and make it seem like it's about to fall apart, due to the actions taken by Telford, but really he overrode their designs from the get go. The ranking office on ship, colonel Young orders Eli to review the data, and learn what he needs to, in order to determine if Rush is just screwing with everyone. Also, Telford might just be boffing Young's ex-wife.

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