Monday, March 1, 2010

STARGATE UNIVERSE: The First Time I've Ever Liked STARGATE...

I just started watching STARGATE UNIVERSE, after having seen the first half of the first season on DVD really cheap at BMV, and... it's actually surprisingly good... sort of like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA before they dropped the ball. Lots of hard science and conflicting personalities, plus it's just a gorgeous looking show. The art direction and effects are fantastic. The cast is pretty good too; Robert Carlyle is fucking amazing!

This is the first time I've ever liked anything involving STARGATE. I barely remember the first movie; I watched it when I was in highschool, but I've always sort of found everything involving STARGATE sort of disappointing on some level; like it was lacking something. I think it's the whole thing with the aliens using human bodies... I hate human aliens. It's part of why I can't watch any STAR TREK after the original. There's something so bullshit about cheating the aliens in science fiction to keep the budget down. That's probably not a good reason to not like a show, but it always stuck in my craw and kept me from getting into both the movie and the show that followed... but apparently it didn't affect anyone else enjoyment of the show, because it's been on for 10 FUCKING YEARS. @_@

So I've been avoiding this show for 10 years. I've tried watching it a few times, tried watching different series, such as ATLANTIS (which was even more bullshit to me than before... something about the shows attempt to integrate humor into the premise really felt insincere, out of place, and completely off-putting to me... like it disarmed the seriousness of the show), but it still never caught on with me.

STARGATE UNIVERSE, however, fixed all the problems I've had with the franchise; it's smart, serious, sci-fi drama. The science is hard, and the drama is engaging. Characters are complex and there's conflict. It's all the shit I want in my science fiction entertainment!

STARGATE UNIVERSE starts off fresh; you don't need the 10+ years of continuity to get into it; just a general refresher of the basic premise; Humans find ancient alien technology which allows for instantaneous travel over intergalactic distances. The US military creates a special corp. charged with exploring the gates and uncovering the secrets of the technology, as humanity takes it's first small steps into the greater universe.

UNIVERSE takes place years after the initial discovery of the gates; humans have made first contact with many other species, both hostile and benevolent, and have mastered certain aspects of the technology. Interplanetary travel via conventional means is now a reality, and other planets have been colonized. The SG Project now has one final mystery to solve; the dialing of the Ancients final legacy, a Nine Chevron code, it's destination unknown.

While attempting to dial the code, the SG project is attacked by alien hostiles, and all personnel are forced to evacuate through the Stargate; only to find themselves stranded on a massive alien ship many thousands of light years from Earth, and traveling further away with incredible speed. The ship is heavily damaged, and resources are limited. They have no way home.

You can imagine how this would be a great McGuffin for generating drama. Add into the mix a diverse cast of complex characters; military and civilian personal clashing over control, secrets and intrigue, hidden agendas and relationships, constant pressure and danger... there's always something happening!

I think my favorite character in the show has to be Robert Carlyle's; Doctor Nicolas Rush. Rush is a great character, neither hero nor villian, saint nor sinner, he's a brilliant scientist struggling to wrap his head around technology so advanced even he can barely comprehend it; and this irks him, especially given all the pressure being put on him by his superiors within the project and financiers demanding success. Rush, to me, is like a duck; he attempt to project a calm, cool, and in control, demeanor of knowledge and confidence, but underneath he's furiously thrashing around, just barely able to comprehend the advanced alien technology.

At the same time he's social awkward and isolated by his intelligence; he's constantly frustrated by everyone else relative lack of intelligence, and has no idea how to relate to anyone else on a social level; especially given that most all of the other characters blame him as the cause of their bleak situation. Rush isn't without concern for his fellow man, but he sees everything in terms of logic and probability; he has a stubborn refusal to waste time on anything that he deems as having no chance of success; even if the attempt will at least comfort his fellow exiles. He doesn't believe in the abstract concepts of hope or faith; he's a man of absolutes; scientific fact and quantifiable results. This makes it easy to misjudge his motives; is he only doing things that will ensure his own survival, or does he have genuine concern for the community of the ship?

The clouding of his motives isn't helped by his obsession with the study of the alien technology and the deciphering of it's secrets, which he puts above both social grace and even human life, which leads to a surprise twist in the season finale; and really, the only logical way to end the season; I'm surprised he didn't see it coming.

STARGATE UNIVERSE is a truly pleasant surprise in a TV season otherwise lacking completely in anything of interest for me (part of why I haven't had cable in almost a year...), and coming from a franchise that has never held any interest for me. Don't let the fact that it's another installment in one of the longest running SCI-FI franchises in North American television; they give you all you need to know in the first episode, and by the time everything gets going, all of that is irrelevant anyways; it's a whole new Universe.


SuperWid said...

I found the movie to be "meh" quality but the 1st season of the series is pretty good and it seems to improve overtime, mostly because you grow attached to the characters. It's one of those shows where you can tell the people working on it really enjoyed doing what they do. I have mixed feelings about Atlantis though, mainly because it overwrote the established mythology. Like having Superman beat the biggest, baddest super villain ever, then next issue... BIGGER and BADDER super villain OMG!! You should give the original series a chance. It's spotty at times but I find the premise better than Star Trek. At least the aliens are really alien-looking and they just like using humans as hosts because humans are easy to repair. All the humans in the universe actually came from Earth and was put in colonies all over the universe by advanced aliens so the Stargate explorations feel like those old adventure stories of discovering ancient civilizations. Much better premise than Kirk hanging around Nazis.

Halliday said...

HA HA! That's a bold statement... Kiza, care to challenge?

Wid>I get what you're saying, and on paper, I should like this show... I like the military aspect, the hard science, the themes of exploration, and how overmatched the humans are against a vastly technologically superior foe; and I also like the progression of the mythology with humans quickly adapting the technologies of other species to their purposes, etc etc... but some aspect of the shows execution, up to this point, has always been off-putting to me.

But, the point is, that UNIVERSE fixed all those problems for me, and created a very compelling sci-fi drama, which I hope to GOD will not fuck it up like BATTLESTAR did... they really dropped the ball. One day I'll write a really angry post about the last season.