Stargate Universe – Good, Bad, Ugly

For the most part I’ve been a very casual StarGate fan. Claudia Black and Ben Browder going to SG1 made me watch it a little more, but even then I just couldn’t justify the time commitment. Atlantis was entertaining at times, but never really caught my attention. And then there was Universe; if anything was going to get me in to the Gate craze it was a darker, more serialized story with Scalzi as the creative consultant. Recently I finally finished watching both seasons after watching the first half of the first season when it was on and attempting to DVR it and watch it later for the rest of that season…I failed at that time, but Netflix has allowed me to catch up and be a bit confused on my own feelings for the show.

Many of my feeling boil down to practically sound bites:

  • Writing ok, creative ideas decent, sound editing is horrible, pacing is plain bad
  • The more “uptempo” storytelling of the latter half of season 2 is a much needed change.
  • Ending is a bit of a cop out, but a decent season cliffhanger
  • Music Montage much?!
  • When did Rush or Eli have all this time to come up with theories on things?
  • Character roster large, and wasted

The moments where people were acting and not just staring off in the distance, or being framed creatively, actually weren’t that bad! The acting was what it was, but the writing was decent. However, there’s not a lot people can do when the pacing of the show is so off; mostly due to the not talking, dramatic framing, and…wait for it…music montages! It must have been something hip and edgy that year, or just a great nod to Gilmore Girls or The OC. By the end of Season 2 things were finally in place to have some real stories; the bridge was figured out (should have been done early in Season 1 or not at all), no one was trying to dial the gate on the ship anymore that wasn’t supposed to, and they finally had a goal.

The cast was actually quite good, the acting decent, and the premise sound. With all of that, it just felt like they wasted half the cast. Once again the end of Season 2 does a good job of giving everyone time, characterization, and interaction. In scenes more people talk, it’s not just an old school game of telephone anymore. The “assistant” scientists finally got more lines than “yes” or “that’s going to blow the ship up!” and moved on to comments, snarky comments even! And they even acknowledged that there were more soldiers than Greer on the ship; he’s a good character but was focused on a bit too much to the detriment of James and other members of the crew. Even Chloe got wasted a bit, especially with the Lucian Alliance bit of things taking center stage. Speaking of girls, Ginn was super wasted, especially once she became part of the ship. So many possibilities, and yet so much time spent on watching people sit around in despair.

Bringing it all back together, I have a rather fond memory of the show. Could it have been a lot better? Yes. But isn’t that true of most things? The show took a universe that people know and love and showed a different side of it. Taking themes that didn’t quite fit in other sci-fi shows and ran with them in a good way. I wish we could have seen what Season 3 brought (I’m assuming a reduction in crew due to malfunctions) and if it continued to increased tempo and storytelling that carried Season2 so well.