Published on November 12th, 2010 | by admin1
Love the Universe! #2: LOST in Space: Stargate Universe
When I talk about Stargate, there are always a lot of mixed reactions. As a series with a fifteen plus year history, most science fiction buffs have had ample time to form an opinion about the franchise in general based on Stargate SG 1 and Atlantis – which makes sense. But something fundamental has changed with Stargate Universe (SGU) that makes it more akin, at least in my mind, to one other show in particular: LOST. Blending science fiction and character-driven drama is a clearly winning combination, and I applaud the writers for taking SGU to a place that I never thought it would go as well as telling the story in a way I never would have expected. If you didn’t catch the first season of SGU (now available) let me give you a taste of what this series is all about…
Fleeing an attack, a group of survivors end up on the Destiny – an unmanned Ancient ship that they have absolutely no control over. Though the ship makes short stops allowing the crew to explore planets for much needed resources, every time a crew member leaves the relative safety of Destiny they risk being left behind. Long gone are the days of well-equipped SG teams, MALPs, UAVs and Jumpers to scout new planets. The personnel aboard Destiny have only limited weapons and flying cameras dubbed ‘Kenos’ to inform them of any impending danger or inhospitable conditions on these distant planets.
If you’ve never watched a Stargate series, the chaos and tension aboard Destiny is obvious. If you’re a Stargate fan, the chaos and tension aboard Destiny is almost unbearable. Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and other longtime Stargate writers have always been great at what they do, but with the science and mythology of the Stargate world already established they have been able to do something totally unique with SGU. They have also succeded in taking longtime fans like myself out of our comfort zone and forcing us to leave all expectations of what a Stargate series ‘should be’ at the door. LOST forced television in general out of this comfort zone by being the most daring, intelligent and downright cinematic series to date. SGU, particularly now in it’s second season, has proven it is also willing to take huge risks and trust its audiences’ intelligence such as LOST did.
Though I do not intend to draw direct parallels between two shows which are obviously miles apart, watching SGU has been a similar experience to that of watching LOST – and even surpasses it in some ways. I say this because SGU has struck a far better balance between character development and plot advancement – something that in hindsight is one of the few weaknesses of the first season of LOST, especially when compared to later seasons.
Partially, this was due to the ambitious nature of LOST, but in most part it was due to the fact that LOST was a new show, with new rules as well as characters to be established. Stargate, as I mentioned earlier, has had ample time to hash out these rules. Herein lies the magic of SGU for longtime Stargate fans: right from the first episode SGU is jam packed with references, callbacks and appearances by some of the most notable Stargate characters including Jack O’Neill, Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson. It has also been confirmed that there will be an Atlantis/SGU crossover episode later in season two featuring Richard Woolsey, played by Robert Picardo and Dr. Rodney “Difficult? Seconds. Impossible? Minutes.” McKay, one of my favorite Stargate characters of all time.
The newly introduced SGU characters are something different altogether, bringing me back to the LOST paralell. Unlike their heroic predecessors, the vast majority of this crew is far from qualified to be in the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in – just like our beloved Oceanic 815 survivors. Everybody is flawed in some way, and quite a few characters have pretty severe daddy issues – but even the least likeable characters have redeeming qualities.
The ship itself is absolutely stunning, and for me the Destiny has already taken a spot next to the U.S.S Enterprise, Serenity and the Millenium Falcon as one of the greatest spaceships ever featured in popular culture. All of these ships are instantly recognizable, and are characters in their own right – especially when they start venting atmosphere or change course for no apparent reason.
Everything about the way SGU is filmed adds to the tension and drama – most notably the unique, and impressive, filming style. Very few fixed shots are used on SGU, a major feat when you consider the amount of visual effects that go into just one episode. The lighting is fabulous, the acting is fantastic, and the sets are divine.This is top-notch science fiction, people…and great drama is great drama no matter where it takes place.
Season two of Stargate Universe is currently airing, go check it out! For the web-inclined, it is also available on iTunes.
– Mary Hoffman