Stargate Universe 1X01 and 1X02 — “Air, I & II”


I like to think of Stargate as a lovable, wayward child.

You know, the kind who have mussed hair and chubby cheeks and cracker crumbs all over their faces, and then they paint you a picture and it’s pretty bad in comparison to what all the other kids are painting, but they are just so darn CUTE that all you can do is sigh, pat them on the head, and hang the painting on the refrigerator. Then that kid grows up a little and starts bringing you something new. He’s still a little out of touch with reality, but every new try gets him closer and closer to being just a little better. He might be slower than the other kids, but he’s getting there, and gosh darn it, he’s just so EXCITED about what he does. That kind of thing matters, you know. Okay, one final step. Now imagine that your little cracker crumb kid is a teenager. All of a sudden he’s got muscles, and hair is sprouting everywhere, and maybe he’s starting to experiment with some stuff he might have been scared of before, if you know what I mean. I mean, gosh! It’s a scary new world for little crumbface, so cut him a break won’t you?

Teenager Crumbface, of course, is Stargate Universe, the third incarnation of the Stargate franchise, which premiered tonight on SyFy not four hours ago. I can’t speak for other viewers who aren’t familiar with Stargate SG-1 or Atlantis, but for those of us who are, watching SGU is something akin to watching your child go through puberty and step out the other side. I wasn’t around for the debuts of the other two shows so I have no way of knowing what was being said about SG-1 or Atlantis when they premiered, but I do know that now, a bunch of TV critics who are largely unfamiliar with (read: disliked) the first two incarnations are taking notice. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s their job to write about the show, and it’s good that they are bringing interest to the project, however, I also think they might not be looking at it in the most fair angle.

I have written extensively, perhaps exhaustively, on the subject of Stargate, and while I can acknowledge the franchise’s flaws (many, many flaws), I can also appreciate it for what it is. A lot of critics are so focused on touting the show as an improvement on its predecessors that they are failing to acknowledge that what came before was not without value. I think that’s a problem a lot of us suffer from, and not just when it comes to television watching. We assume that because we place no value in something that it therefore has no value at all. On the other side of the coin, we have the critics who think the show is a mess and that it will never live up to the shows its creators look up to. I think it’s a mistake to put so much pressure on this show right from the start, to expect it to be something it’s not, when it is so obviously different from what came before, and I think it’s a mistake to want the show to completely transcend it’s youthful and naive past. Honestly, I was a little disconcerted while watching the episode, but not for the same reasons that others seem to be having. It didn’t feel like Stargate, and that is also both good and bad. It’s good because it is the smart direction for this creative team to go, and it’s bad because that means the show has the possibility of being stuck in creative limbo that it might not be able to worm its way out of.

On the positive side, creativity stagnates when things don’t change. It’s the same reason SG-1 got better in its later years (or, at least more sophisticated), because Atlantis going simultaneously had forced the writers to expand their boundaries. It’s also the same reason that Atlantis itself became more sophisticated, as the writers stepped away from their formulas more and more (if not their happy-ending philosophies). The writers are also science fiction fans themselves, and I know for a fact that Firefly and Battlestar Galactica were regular viewing in their households. This is an active effort on their part to do things differently, to change up that fifteen year formula and grow as artists (yeah, I said it). The bad part about this is that by stepping up their game and effectively putting themselves in the same league as those shows (and Babylon 5 and Farscape and DS9, etc, before them), they are also in a place to be judged by a group of people who hold those shows to be almost sacred, and I think that’s a mistake. Instead of slamming this show right out of the gate (pun!), critics and fans should be encouraging it, giving it helpful criticism. Slamming this show as amateurish and derivative is missing the point, and furthermore, is akin to slamming a novice piano player’s under the piano lid because he couldn’t play like Mozart after only two or three lessons. It’s impatient and kind of inconsiderate, plus, you’ve made some kid cry, so: asshole.

Anyway, all that is to say that I liked the episode, once I started watching it on its own terms. I had been comparing it to its past, which it has already . . . well . . . passed, and to its future (all those other shows that I love), when what I should have done was just shut up and enjoy. We’re in for a whole season, folks, and I really think it might be going somewhere awesome. I’m certainly not going to let anybody ruin my fun.

10 Responses to “Stargate Universe 1X01 and 1X02 — “Air, I & II””
  1. Dan says:

    I know a lot of people were calling SGU out for ripping off BSG. Why? Because it’s “dark”? The goldfish memory of society really bugs me. BSG didn’t invent dark, it just so happened to be the latest dark sci-fi show.

    I wasn’t totally bowled over by the premiere, like I was when I saw the pilot of SG-1 all those years ago on Showtime. But, I was more intrigued than I was by the pilot of Atlantis. Sure, most of the first two episodes was taken up by establishing the characters and situation–although most of the two hours was devoted to resident science guys Dr. Rush and Eli–but, by the three-quarter mark, once you started to see what the bulk of the series was going to be about, I was drawn in.

    Also, Chloe’s hot.

    • Ashley says:

      Have you seen the recut pilot of SG-1? I really liked it.

    • Carl says:

      I think that the reason that people are drawing the BSG connection is that it’s a bunch of people that apparently will be wandering through space trying to reach Earth. And it’s dark. And it premiered on SyFy the season right after BSG concluded. I don’t think it’s 100% correct, but I think it’s fair. I honestly think it rips off Star Trek Voyager more than BSG though.

      • Ashley says:

        I totally get WHY they are making the connections, especially to Voyager, but the whole “Lost in Space” thing is a science fiction cliche for a reason: it’s compelling. It also doesn’t feel like a rip off of those other shows if you’re a Stargate fan. It feels organic to the world the writers have been creating for 15 years.

        • Carl says:

          Well, the whole “lost in a foreign land” thing has been a standard plot point even before we knew space was space. See Homer’s Odyssey ;) I mean, I know you know about Odyssey. Just saying though lol

  2. Carl says:

    So, I just watched SGU. I will continue to watch it. It was nice to see some cameos from some of the OGs (Original Gaters). It’s kind of interesting that they have kind of the reserve squad. No more super geniuses that can rebuild an ancient ship in a couple hours and then fly that ship in to defeat the baddie of the Season. Actually, it seems so far that there might not be just one group of bad guys making life hell for this “crew.” Seems like they are perfectly capable of doing it to themselves.

    I think that the show seem to borrow (note borrow not steal) a lot from about 4 shows.

    1. Last Starfighter – I was waiting for Harold Hill to hope out of a pimped out space car and recruit Eli to fight “Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.”

    2. BSG – Look at previous comments for details.

    3. Star Trek Voyager – Star Fleet B-team gets blown into unknown space and has to slowly make their way back to Earth. If the cast had started in a ship, this would be nearly the same basic plot so far.

    4. Lost – The inter-personal issues & flashback story telling seems to borrow a page from Lost’s “How to form a narrative” book. There are worse ways to tell a story though.

    Overall, a lot of standard Science fiction stuff with some surprisingly good actors in what might turn out to be a rather fun and original show. BTW, this is all coming from a guy who’s family subscribed to Showtime *just* to watch SG-1 when it premiered lol Day 1 fan of the movie and the shows.

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