Stargate Universe (SGU) is a really great show, coming to the end of its mid-second season. For those of you who have never heard of the Stargate franchise, or do not know what it’s all about, the premise is described in Reason #10.
1. Dancing With the Stars is finished for the season. To all the bajillion people who watched the most popular show on TV: your favorite person won. All the Bristol Palin haters won too. It’s a win, win, win all around, and now you can win again by watching what will become your favorite new show when the second half of the SGU season premieres in Spring!
2.SGU is to the Stargate franchise what the latest Star Trek movie was to the Star Trek franchise. SGU has something for everyone. The other Stargate series were great for what they were, with their geeky humor and fun, if unrealistic, characters. SGU is a whole different animal. It’s not better or worse, it’s much different. The characters are more realistic, the acting is incredible, and you can totally get into the storyline and imagine being part of it.
3. Eli (played by David Blue): Many of the SGU characters are almost too realistic. They are regular people with flaws, and when you see how most regular people would react to being stuck on a ship in the middle of nowhere, not knowing if they could ever get back home, it doesn’t really bring out the best in them. Eli is also a regular kind of guy, but more likeable. He’s the most likeable character on the show, and the kind of person we would all hope to be if we were stuck on that ship.
4. Kino: Kino actually has its own character profile on the MGM website, despite the fact that it’s just a flying camera with a remote control. The cool thing about the Kino is that much of the series is shot as though it were a reality show, thanks to the fact that the Eli character is creating something akin to just that. He is shooting a documentary (which he downloads to his Macbook and edits with iMovie, no less). Some of the footage can be seen on the Kino profile in a series of great little webisodes. Two of my personal favorites are Kino 15 and Kino 21.
5. Destiny: The ship (Destiny) on which the characters are trapped is almost a character itself. Destiny is the reason they are trapped in the middle of nowhere, and the reason they have been unable to return. Destiny has its own mission, which the crew has only begun to understand. It’s also what you might call a “smartship,” which, unlike your smartphone or smartcar, means that it can sense all the personalities of everyone on board. It can also run simulations that affect the dreams of certain people on the ship (possibly as a test of their worth to the ship and its mission), and perhaps help protect some of the crew members. We do not yet know the extent of the ship’s powers, although we have begun to learn much more over the course of the second season.
6. Realistic characters and character development: I’ve mentioned this in Reason #4, but it deserves its own spot on the list. When watching most shows, I find myself yelling at the TV, wondering why the characters do such stupid things, and why they can’t figure out a simple problem until the end. On SGU, the characters actually figure out those simple problems the way normal intelligent human beings would. The characters are supposed to be doctors and geniuses, after all. So although some of the less intelligent characters may not catch on to a concept right away, the others will explain it to them, and the plot often unfolds before you can figure out the ending.
7. Excellent acting: This is a surprising one, given that there are so many characters on the show, but there is a great actor behind every single one of them. Even the characters that are not as well developed are well acted. In fact, even one of the (former) extras has a small fan club (Balding Asian Guy).
8. Set in the present: One of the reasons the show so accessible to anyone who is not a die-hard Stargate fan (or even a sci-fi fan) is the fact that it is set in the present. At least one of the civilians who were brought on board to research a more advanced use of the stargate did not even know that this “ancient” technology existed. They are just regular people (albeit, geniuses) like you and me. This makes it easier for anyone to get into the story and follow along, since most of the references to things happening on Earth can be understood by anyone.
9. The show improves with every episode. Although I have always liked the premise, the show was only so-so for the first half of Season 1. By the second half of Season 1, I had become hooked. Now, towards the end of the first half of Season 2, I already can’t wait for the second half of the season and beyond. I’m already hoping for a Season 3!
10. The basic premise is just cool. The premise carried over from the Stargate franchise, and the premise of the SGU series combine to make one of the coolest shows on TV.
For those of you who never saw the original Stargate movie, or any of the other series, here is a quick primer: The U.S. military uncovered a device they called a stargate, which had been brought to Egypt during ancient times by aliens that were much more advanced than humans are today. The stargate allowed them to create wormholes that could transport people from one stargate to another, within moments.
The aliens posed as Gods (the reason for Egyptian beliefs at the time), and used the stargate to transport humans to other planets and enslave them. The people of Egypt eventually revolted and buried the stargate until the present-day U.S. military found and uncovered it. Over the course of the movie and two other Stargate series (now cancelled), the military used the stargate without the public’s knowledge to learn more about all the other humans that have lived on other planets (in some cases saving them), and other aliens and their technology.
The SGU series continues basically from the movie (you do not need to have seen the other series to follow along). The military brought some civilians to help them research the stargate, after finding that it could reach greater distances. Before they could get very far, the military base where they were working was attacked, and they had to use the stargate they were researching to escape, having no idea where they would end up.
They ended up on a ship they called Destiny. They figure out the ship (and several ships like it) were created by aliens to seed various planets around the universe with more stargates. Once they escaped to the ship, it took off on its own, trapping the civilians and military crew in the middle of a far-off galaxy with no way that they knew to get back.
The ship seems to have its own mission, which the crew was only recently (towards the end of the first half of the second season) able to begin figuring out. They also had no idea how to control the ship, until the last few episodes. Fortunately, the ship has its own stargate, which allows the crew to gather food and supplies from habitable planets that have stargates before taking off again. The ship also has its own way of recharging its power by flying into a star’s field to absorb the star’s energy. So the ship basically takes care of the crew, but the crew, until recently, had no way to control the ship.
Stargate Universe airs Tuesdays on SyFy. In some areas, you may be able to catch repeats from Season 1 on other channels. It is also available at Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes.