Shiny Shelf

Stargate Universe

By Mark Clapham on 07 October 2009

The only reason I saw the ‘Stargate’ movie is that it started earlier than ‘Timecop’, our other cinematic option that evening. The movie was OK, good visuals but a dumb script. I think I saw one episode of the original ‘Stargate SG1′ spin-off series, and never went back as I found the whole business ploddy and generic.

In short: I’m not a major fan of the franchise.

This latest instalment pulls a lot of the tricks that other attempts to revive space shows have pulled in the past – lower the lights, pay some credible actors to be in it instead of the usual no-mark former models, sprinkle with shakeycam, and take the whole lot very seriously. This worked well for the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ remake, less so for ‘Enterprise’.

The concept is simple enough: a disparate group of characters have to jump through a Stargate to survive an emergency, and end up stranded on an ancient (with a capital ‘A’), mysterious spaceship touring a distant part of the universe. They have limited resources, and the ship keeps threatening to fail and suffocate them all.

The first episode starts with the characters jumping through the Stargate after a disaster, and gradually flashes back to show how they got there. If this sounds like ‘Lost’ in space, well it is a bit, although the flashbacks are fairly straightforward and recent rather than the complex jigsaw pieces of the island show.

If this also sounds like ‘Lost in Space’, the crappy old 60s series that became a middling William Hurt/Joey from ‘Friends’ blockbuster, then you won’t be surprised when Robert Carlyle turns up as an amoral scientist figure with a British accent. There’s no robot so far, but Carlyle is buddied up with a child. OK, a chubby manchild in a hoodie, but it’s kind of similar.

The writers seem to be setting up resource issues for the characters to deal with, a la ‘Lost’, but at least in that show those were real problems with real solutions, used to reveal things about the characters – how is that going to work with made-up space problems with made-up space fixes? There’s a bit of mystery and tension around the characters, but it’s not very nuanced and seems to be of the ‘is so-and-so a bastard or nice?’ variety. A big deal is made about the ship and the ‘ninth chevron’ on the Stargates, but so far there’s little indication this will turn out to be anything other than the usual Von Daniken recycling.

Two episodes in, ‘Stargate Universe’ is inoffensive, visually impressive and has the odd funny line and interesting idea kicking around. However, it hasn’t particularly gripped or set out its stall. My main concern is that, under the flashbacks and the shakeycam and the oily sets, this is just a generic spaceship show with no underlying arc or anything much to say. I’m willing to stick it out and be proven wrong, of course…

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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