Stargate Universe (SG-U) – The Complete Final Season (2011)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian Smith, David Blue, Lou Diamond Philips
Studio: Fox/MGM (5-Disc Set – 16 Episodes) [5/31/11]
Video: 1.78 for 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Commentary tracks on every episode by cast & producers, Interview with the cast, Behind the scenes featurettes incl. “Deconstructing Destiny,” “Pitches: A Journey of Friendship and Discovery,” Behind the Season 2 Finale “Gauntlet,” More…
Length: 880 minutes total
Rating: ****(* for geeks of the franchise)
While I saw some of the first season of Stargate Universe, my review of the second and last season was hampered by there being little useful explanatory material here – in spite of the many bonus features. I must therefore open by grousing a bit about this disc set being designed only for thoroughly-informed series geeks, blocking anyone else who may possibly be interested. There’s not even translations of some of the acronymns the cast casually banter about. (Such as FTL – sorry I’m not a video gamer – Wikipedia says it stands for Faster Than Light.)
So let me summarize the whole Stargate franchise quickly. It lasted 17 years and this is the last of the three TV series spun off from it. The Sci-Fi network decided not to continue it and therefore the concluding episodes are somewhat unfinished cliffhangers. The first two were Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Two more feature films followed the original Stargate, which starred James Spader and Kurt Russell and featured the gender-ambiguous Jaye Davidson. They were Stargate: The Ark of Truth, and Stargate: Continuum. (Both made for a fraction of the budget of the original.)
At the bottom of the premise – and the various spinoffs don’t necessarily blend together in their plot lines – are the writings of Erich von Däniken regarding possible alien interference in the distant past on Earth. In the original Stargate feature, the “Goa’uld” race posed as gods in ancient Egypt and used their ring-shaped Stargate devices to create wormholes to transport people and supplies instantly across light years of space. Eventually the Goa’uld left Earth after a rebellion and the Stargate was buried and forgotten until unearthed again in our time. It is used by the U.S. military and kept secret from the population. The storyline mostly concerns sending expeditions, consisting mostly of armed soliders, to various usually pre-industrial extraterrestrial civilizations.
As its title suggests, the Atlantis TV series took the cast to an abandoned alien undersea settlement, and Stargate Universe moves the show into a huge supposedly abandoned spaceship built by advanced aliens: “Destiny.” It was launched millions of years ago by the Ancients from our galaxy to build and then to seed the universe with Stargates. A team of soldiers and scientists from Earth escape an attack on their base by entering the Stargate there and somehow end up on the Destiny. Some of the ship’s systems are damaged and they are unable to control the ship or figure out how return to Earth. However, the ship – on autopilot – occasionally stops at a habitable planet to get food and supplies and make repairs.
The idea of exploration and adventure, a la Star Trek, is strong in the series, but the center of attention is on the people aboard the Destiny and their relationships. There is no strong villain but plenty of variously-flawed characters. The most interesting character is probably Robert Carlyle as Dr. Rush, the Machiavellian Scottish scientist who is driven by the challenges of exploring the galaxy using the ancient alien technology. Though plenty dark and sometimes violent as the crew face various threats to their well-being, there is some occasional humor. An interesting touch is a female Asian civilian leader onboard, who is openly gay. There is an alien technology allowing a person to transport their personality back to Earth in the body of another human there, and she and other characters make use of it. There are also suggestions that one of the women aboard – the young daughter of a U.S. senator who was killed in the transfer to Destiny in the first season – may have been infected with some sort of alien presence. Another interesting character is a teenage computer game-player whiz who is recruited from Earth by the military due to his expertise (shades of the movie The Last Starfighter).
Season Two begins with an on-ship battle between those from Earth and a group of “Lucian Alliance” soldiers from the other side of the universe who attempt to take over Destiny by force. The Earth people win and they are faced with the problem of how to handle the remaining Alliance prisoners. The rest of the episodes follow the general struggle to stay alive and perhaps eventually find a way to get back to Earth. (It was a shame to leave all those folks up there.) There was at least time to bring to fruition many of the story elements first presented during Season One. There’s little use of the 5.1 surround, but the transfer looks good, though the blacks in the many dark scenes could be a bit blacker.
I found viewing a couple episodes at once to be rather gloom-inducing. There are often long shots of patrols casing out portions of the huge ship they evidently hadn’t visited before, but never the sort of shock similar scenes often produced in the Alien series. I found most of the characters rather characterless, expect for that of Dr. Rush, who was always interesting to watch. Some critics commented that Stargate Universe was too similar to the Battlestar Gallactica series, which I had personally tired of. I can’t think of anyone who would want to listen to the entire commentary tracks on every single episode – which logically means viewing each of the 16 episodes twice. But just in case anyone does, they’re there.
— John Sunier