Intriguing 'Stargate Universe' needs to find its way
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Give "Stargate Universe" credit: It doesn't abandon its premise the way the last lost-in-space show, "Star Trek: Voyager," did soon after its debut.
This latest iteration in the "Stargate" franchise, which debuts with a two-hour premiere Friday at 9 p.m. on Syfy, begins with both promise and some hokey crutches. And then in next week's episode, the show gets lost in the desert -- literally.
"Stargate Universe" begins with an attack on a base that forces its occupants through a Stargate bound for an unknown destination that turns out to be a spaceship light years from home. It's a motley crew of military, scientists and civilians, and they spend the first three hours of the show trying to stay alive and get the ship's life-support systems working.
It's a darker "Stargate," but not too dark. Among those on board is Eli Wallace (David Blue, "Ugly Betty"), a slightly immature video game geek/genius. He provides the show's lighter moments, the comic relief and an entry point for viewers watching at home.
"Give me a break," Eli says. "This is only my second spaceship and my first was yesterday."
And, no, you don't have to be a "Stargate" fan to watch "Universe." I wasn't and I generally followed what was going on.
"Universe" is populated with an intriguing group of characters, but many, including former Pittsburgher Ming-Na's human resources executive, don't have much to do in these early hours. Instead, the focus is on Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle), who becomes the de facto leader aboard the space ship Destiny, and 1st Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith), one of the military leaders.
Like so many sci-fi shows, "Universe" relies too often on a deus ex machina resolution -- the Ancients conveniently put Stargates on uninhabited planets along Destiny's course; talk about thinking ahead! -- and there's a strange technology that allows those on the spaceship to briefly trade bodies with people back on Earth.
Next week, the show allows its newly introduced characters to spend far too much time wandering a desert planet. It does provide an opportunity to reveal some backstory of the Scott character, but that's no excuse for making viewers feel like they're plodding through a barren, predictable plot.
Given time, "Stargate Universe" may become worth watching if it develops its characters and continues to mine its premise for stories. Just hope they avoid more desert planets.
First Published October 1, 2009 7:01 am