Stargate Universe: In Memorium

RIP Stargate, dearly missed by your many fans. Your run in its latest guise of Stargate Universe (henceforth SGU) was cruelly cut short by the bunch of numskulls who run that dire and dismal mess of a channel that can’t even spell its own name properly any-more…SyFy…Grrrrr!

SGU was hampered by several poor decisions early on in its short life. Firstly its pilot (a two-hour movie) and initial few episodes were rather poor and this lost it much of the audience it had inherited from previous offerings from within the Stargate franchise. Secondly it was so different in many ways from the rest of the franchise that it was not an easy to accept development for many loyal fans of the franchise. Thirdly the female lads were photogenic enough and acted well enough but the male leads could only offer high-class acting…photogenically challenged to put it kindly. Long (and greasy) haired, ageing and permanently depressed by the death of his late wife Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) was no heart-throb…sadly teenager mathematics prodigy Eli Wallace (David Blue) was a geeky fat-boy who was played by an actor almost in his thirties. Fourthly the pace of the early episodes was dead slow…utterly ponderous.

Plot wise the early episodes of season one pitted the cast against one-another in a way far better suited to melodrama than to good sci-fi and did little to make for an audience that had a liking for characters…these episodes were poor and the audience figures never recovered from them despite a steady improvement in almost every aspect of the show from then on.

In my second point (above) I alluded to the differences in SGU from the rest of the Stargate franchise…I’ll elaborate. Stargate, in all its previous incarnations, had been light and had many comedic moments. Previously, to SGU, Stargate incarnations had been mainly episodic with little in the way of multiple long story arcs (each version had a single long arc but not a mass of them.) SGU had a strong emphasis on the dark and bleak as well as almost every episode clearly focussing on moving forward the many long story arcs of the series. This change in structure has alienated many fans of the franchise although it works very well and there has been a loyal base of fans who actually preferred the SGU plot lines.

Let me be clear though that this was Sci-Fi of a far better quality than that offered by anything else on the SyFy (Grrr…learn to spell) channel and, arguably, better than anything offered by previous Stargate incarnations. It was of a much more adult form and had a willingness to build a story over a long period, to find solutions for problems by hard graft not a quick technological fix that saves the day in the last couple of minutes of an episode. Perhaps this fit so poorly with the lightweight fluff on the rest of that channels offerings that it made SGU a bad fit for the channel and that too didn’t help its ratings.

After those initial slow paced episodes SGU got more into its stride and delivered well thought out scripts and some intense character acting from many of the cast as well as a far better pace…had these attributes been more evident in the initial episodes I am certain that more of the audience it inherited fro the rest of the Stargate franchise would have stayed with SGU.

Moving into its second season SGU moved from being good to being really good but it was too late to gain back the viewers it had lost. At the end of its second season it moved from being really good to being up there with the best Sci-Fi I’ve seen on TV in many a year and even that wasn’t enough to stave off cancellation.

Sadly a series that got so much right and provided adult Sci-Fi on an otherwise dismal channel was not seen by that channel’s management as the drop of rain in a desert that should be cherished and allowed to flourish in the hope that bit might turn into a river of quality programming…instead they’ll give us “Professional Wrestling”…enough said.

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  1. Gerard McGarry

    When I heard that Robert Carlyle was attached to appear in Stargate Universe, I thought it would be an ideal time to jump on board the franchise. Kind of like I did with Caprica having never seen Battlestar Gallactica before. (I know, shoot me.)

    I had the first two episodes/feature length pilot ready to watch, but the rumblings from the internet were too dire to ignore – so I never bothered to watch it. There’s lots of TV shows screaming for attention, nobody wants to waste time on something that’s dismal from the get-go.

    It’s sad to read your retrospective and discover that the series improved over time and became reasonably strong. I had the same frustrations when Caprica got cancelled. A solid franchise that dovetailed (from what I’ve heard) from the original BSG format and suffered for it. I honestly could have watched two more seasons of that show.

    Great post, TrueSatan, a really good look at the reasons the show was killed off and honestly the first time I’ve read kind words about the show.

    1. TrueSatan

      One thing I take from it that fits with other series (think The Event for instance) is that no series can afford a dismal pilot and first few episodes before getting into its stride in this day and age.

      Thank you also for your kind words.

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