01/05/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
DVD region 2: pub: 20th Century Fox 4992601000. 5 DVDs 882 minutes 21 * 43 minutes episodes with extras. Price: about GBP15.00 (UK) if you know where to look). cast: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Jamil Walker Smith, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Alaina Huffman, Ming-Na and Lou Diamond Phillips.
check out websites: www.mgm.com/dvd and www.stargate.mgm.com
When ‘Stargate: Universe’ was going into production, I couldn’t help but see parallels to ‘Babylon 5’s ‘Crusade’ in having a rogue scientist on-board a starship stepping away from the continuity of the mother series. The only difference is this one managed to survive to two seasons before getting the chop. The same could be said for ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ in being lost in space and wanting to find a way home. In many respects, the plot is a runaway train only you can jump off and explore the scenery from time to time. You just can’t avoid such parallels, although typical of the Stargate production team, they did actually bring some new twists to the formula and aimed more for dramatics than pure adventure.
Much of the opening stories are getting the starship Destiny up to speed, so to speak. Left alone for a millennia, it has been severely damaged and with low resources. However, the escaping humans from the destructing Icarus Base find that they cannot control the flight and have to depend on Destiny to realise their dilemmas and provide sources for water food and fuel. They aren’t completely cut off from home, the alien tech thought stones can switch consciousnesses with people near the stone counter-parts on Earth, allowing a sort of ‘Quantum Leap’ brief time at home and no doubt conserved the budget as well as giving some variety from the Destiny itself.
What is most odd is how much of the ‘Stargate’ mythos is lost. Granted they probably wanted to avoid having token aliens in the crew as with ‘SG-1’ and ‘Atlantis’ and who would probably have had key roles had any been placed but the only real connection is the stargates to get down to planets. Without that and guest appearances by General Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), this could essentially be a new SF show and a bigger dose of drama in a SF trapping. If the original ‘Stargate SG-1’ or ‘Atlantis’ series had started off this way, I suspect it would have been less jarring to its fan base. As it is, I suspect many of them wondered what was going on when there wasn’t a weekly dose of aliens. The series might be called ‘Stargate: Universe’ but you don’t really see much of it. I did wonder if the series would have been better off being called ‘Stargate: Cosmos’, but the initials would probably have incited people to think ‘Stargate: Command’, the original title change for when actor Ben Browder joined the SG-1 cast.
Much of the stories rotate between the tension between Colonel Everertt Young (actor Louis Ferreira) and Doctor Nicholas Rush (actor Robert Carlyle) is interesting but on some levels they are as bad as each other. After Young marooned Rush, allegedly seeing him dying in a rockfall, and the scientist’s return care of an alien race who captured him, there ends up being an uneasy truce. This accumulates initially in a fight between the civilians and military before they finally have to unite against an even bigger menace with the Lucian Alliance find a way to get on-board.
I should point out that I’ve glossed over a lot of stories here and even the previous paragraph has given some big reveals and the final one needs you to ensure you have season two boxset to hand so you can see what happens next.
In many respects, the Destiny is a typical Science Fiction big dumb object, doing the necessary without explanation and although I haven’t gone more than one episode into Season Two yet as I type this, one could almost believe that one of the Ancients ascendant beings is manipulating things because otherwise, there is too much convenience plotting in the starship stopping off for the crew to collect water and food. Then again, it could also have been programmed to do such things but considering that its main purpose is to follow the advance vessels delivery stargates in the galaxy, it’s either convenient or very lucky to have arrived when they did, not to mention being so far behind them. There is also a puzzle as to when there was a discovery that to stop the Destiny continuing its faster-than-light travels after a set time, all you had to do was dip your arm into the stargate puddle that it is then suddenly forgotten in other stories. Mind you, showing that it was possible to follow the Destiny by stargates, providing you knew which direction to go but it also indicates that there is a limitation to distance with these older models.
One thing that was forever a problem was outside of some key members of the cast, many of them became nameless characters. You remembered their faces and such, but ask me their names and I have to confess that rarely did that sink in. With minor cast you do expect such things but with key cast then there is a problem that only the repetition of some names actually sunk in. An odd state of affairs when you have a character-driven series.
In answer to Doctor Rush’s importance of the number 46 relating to genetics, he also forgot that half that, 23 which is a prime number!
The extras are in multitude. There is an audio commentary for each episode, split between mostly cast and production, giving more indication of Canada’s weather and how they got on while working. A lot of the time, it felt like being invited to a joyous party. There was also interviews with creators and cast and insert scene clip scenes giving insight to the cast.
For the record, actors Brian J. Smith and Patrick Gilmore in the audio commentary with the episode ‘Pain’, regarding ‘Stargate: Universe’ viewing in the UK probably wouldn’t know that as we only pick up complete seasons, it would have automatically been shown after our British watershed for adult content rather than have anything cut.
Despite the criticisms above, ‘Stargate: Universe’ does have a lot to offer but not if you want more of the same from the other two series. There has always been arguments pro and con on this. It made the ‘Star Trek’ franchise a bit repetitive and with nowhere to go. Yet, when ‘Stargate’ tries to move too far from its original process, it ultimately ended with the franchise ending. There’s definitely a no-win situation in this. If you do like character dramas then you will definitely like what is presented here.
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