Stargate Battlemeh

by December 27th, 2009 - Culture » Film and TV »

Near the end of the spectacular-but-for-its-ending Battlestar Galactica, panic reasonably began to creep into the cybernetic hearts of its loyal geeks. What to do when its all over…MAN!?

SciFi, the network prior to rebranding as the less logical and only slightly more catchy moniker of SyFy, seemed to be making attempts to preemptively fill your hole with a healthier diet than its normal B-Movie offerings, advertising a few of its interesting upcoming series.

One such advertisement presented a vague, stark clusterfuck of humanity thrust into deepest, deepest space on an alien craft, a nervous Robert Carlyle looking on as a reluctant savior, providing what appeared to be a a very refreshing character dynamic and story.

Stargate Universe…damn did that look good.

I’ve always appreciated the core concept of Stargate, but was unfortunately never a fan of the television series.

The movie was a well-paced romp of action and mystery. Archaeologists find a Stargate, an amazing artifact recovered from Egyptian ruins, that when activated lead to another world similar to Ancient Egypt inhabited by what amounted to slaves…and their Gods. As often happens, the Gods proved troublesome and science and military were forced combine efforts to repel these alien “Gods” so that the protagonists could return to Earth and protect it from their further intrusion.

Done and done and a lot of fun.

While the movie did reveal the evil “Gods” to be an alien race bent on using the gates to more efficiently enslave several worlds, the enemies were still mysterious and foreign.

The television series were somewhat ruined for me because the bad guys and the technology became too well defined with intricacies that were not compelling enough to make up for the magic that they subtracted. There was never anything interesting for my mind to work on between or during episodes and the show simply became a boring battleground.

Another complaint that I had of the previous series was that I couldn’t excitedly key in on any of the characters. They were fine actors and decent characters, but only decent, their potential death and therefore absence from the story neither affecting my emotions nor the story as another random character could be plugged in their place and the story would continue much the same.

Disappointingly, Stargate Universe carries on both of these flaws while also cringe-inducingly mirroring elements and story lines of Battlestar Galactica so poorly that you only realize it and then throw up a half an hour afterward.

SGU started interestingly enough with a rag tag band of characters using an experimental Stargate address as a last ditch effort to escape certain death at the hands of those fuckin’ aliens that tend to do that. The group finds themselves on an ancient starship named Destiny that is auto-piloting deep through the universe with an unknown purpose that is the shows most gripping, but ignored element.

The original crew of the ship long departed, many of the ship’s life support systems are failing or absent, producing an “OH FUCK!” moment similar to the beginning of the Battlestar Galactica saga. However, it’s just not as compelling because as dire as the situation is, the crew of SGU quickly solve it in the matter of an episode. As an audience for both shows, you know that the majority of the characters will not succumb to the peril. However, the emotional beauty of the crew of BSG frantically jumping away from Cylon intrusions was that the audience was forced, as if watching a documentary, to endure the crew’s hardship over several hours, sharing their frustration of the incredible situation rather than watching only semi-patiently as the problem was solved.

While SGU has had some mildly interesting plots, most notably the episode Time, most episodes fail by completely ignoring the mysterious purpose of their ship’s journey and dwelling instead on the same generic variety of characters that populated its predecessors, some whole episodes almost completing ignoring the fact that they’re even in FUCKING space and pretending that anyone actually cares about the character’s personal lives.

Truly, the only somewhat unique characters are that of the eccentric Nicholas Rush played by Carlyle and wunderkind Matthew Scott played by Brian J. Smith, the two scientific officers. Even here, however, Matthew Scott is only a little more than comic relief and Nicholas Rush, rather than taking on the role of reluctant savior hinted at in the original teaser, plays a more typical mad scientist in opposition to the by-the-book operations of the G.I. Joe military force on board.

During an episode that puts forth only a modest effort to recreate the drama and complexity of BSG’s trial, Robert Carlyle’s character quickly mutates into an effective clone of the traitorous Gaius Baltar that serves the plot and direction of SGU, but fails the character and the audience by not establishing anything similar to bubbling complexity that compelled the character of Gaius.

In the end all of these things could be forgiven for what would still be at least a casually entertaining show if the plot allowed for a trail of carrots to be sprinkled through the episodes. Rather than exploring the purpose, past and future, of Destiny, the mysterious ship that they find themselves on, the crew effectively ignores this storyline, providing audience no puzzle pieces and, effectively, no puzzle. Imagine if BSG had mentioned that the identity of the 12th Cylon was unknown yet important and then stopped talking about it for the rest of the series.

As is often the case, my original expectations are at the core of my animosity and in the end it is important to note that Stargate Universe….


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