Stargate Universe (often abbreviated as SGU) is a Canadian - American military science fiction television series and part of MGM's Stargate franchise. It follows the adventures of a present-day, multinational exploration team unable to return to Earth after an evacuation to the Ancient spaceship Destiny, which is traveling in a distant corner of the universe. The series, created by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, premiered in the United States on Syfy on October 2, 2009.
The series features an ensemble cast and is primarily filmed in and around Vancouver, BC, Canada. A second season of 20 episodes was announced by Syfy in December 2009. The first 10 episodes were aired in the United States beginning on September 28, 2010; the remaining 10 beginning on March 7, 2011. Syfy announced on December 16, 2010 that it would not be picking Stargate Universe up for a third season and that the Spring 2011 season would be the last to air on its channel.
The second season (and last) of SGU is planned to end as a cliffhanger. To resolve this a movie was being planned; however, due to timing constraints on April 17, 2011, Stargate writer and executive producer Brad Wright announced that the SGU movie was not going to happen.
The Stargate program has founded Icarus base on a remote planet whose Stargate is powered by large naquadria deposits throughout the core. The team, led by Dr. Nicholas Rush, postulate that the power from that core could allow them to use a 9-chevron code to "dial" into the Stargate, allowing them access to locations far remote from their galaxy, but lack the means to translate the writing of the Ancients to understand how to dial this properly.
Dr. Rush designs a video game used across Earth to find brilliant minds to interpret the puzzle, which Eli Wallace, a young mathematics genius, is able to solve. Eli is reluctantly brought to Icarus base along with a contingent of guests of honor aboard the Hammond, a Daedalus-class space-faring battlecruiser; the guests include Senator Armstrong, who funds the Icarus Project, and his daughter Chloe. They are introduced to the base's military staff, led by Colonel Everett Young, Colonel David Telford, First Lieutenants Matthew Scott and Tamara Johansen, and Master Sergeant Ronald Greer.
Dr. Rush and Eli work together to discover the means to dial the ninth chevron, just as the base is attacked by members of the Lucian Alliance. Colonel Telford aids in an aerial assault of the ships with the Hammond, while the base starts dialing earth into the Stargate, finding that the planet's power core is about to explode. Dr. Rush realizes that the explosion would follow them through the base back to Earth, and instead redials the Stargate with the ninth chevron, successfully opening a wormhole. The surviving Icarus Base members flee through the wormhole before the planet explodes. They find themselves aboard an old abandoned spacecraft made by the Ancients, which Dr. Rush finds was named Destiny. The eighty-some survivors begin to assure the safety of their team, during which Senator Armstrong sacrifices himself to seal an air leak in one of Destiny's shuttles.
As the rest of the team works to make the ship hospitable, Dr. Rush, Eli, and other scientific members of Icarus Base start to understand the function of Destiny; they are not able to directly control the ship, and find that it will drop out of faster-than-light travel to allow its Stargate to connect to a number of nearby worlds for a fixed period of time before it continues; it fuels itself by diving into the outermost layer of a nearby star and collecting energy from it; the first time the Destiny did that, the crew feared the worst, until they saw why it happened. The crew is able to remain in contact with Earth via a set of Ancient communication stones that Colonel Young brought, and are told to continue the Stargate mission of exploring the galaxy, while searching for a way to return home.
Premise & themes:
Stargate Universe is set on the spaceship Destiny, which was launched by the race known as the Ancients from our galaxy several million years ago. Several ships were sent ahead of it to seed the universe with Stargates. The Ancients had planned on using the Stargate aboard Destiny to board that ship when it was far enough out into the universe, but they eventually abandoned the project after looking into ascension amongst other things. In order to reach this ship, an address would have to be dialed consisting of nine chevrons, a possibility that had been unknown in the previous Stargate series, due to energy constraints.
The series begins when a team of soldiers and scientists from present-day Earth escape through the Stargate and arrive on the Destiny after their base is attacked. Many of its primary systems are damaged or failing, and they are unable to return to Earth or even maneuver the ship. However, the Destiny periodically stops to dial the Stargate to planets with necessary supplies to repair the ship, and sustain human life. The writers have discussed the possibility that each season represents a voyage of the Destiny through a different galaxy.
Stargate Universe is intended to appeal to both veteran fans and newcomers, being firmly entrenched in established Stargate mythology without relying on it too often. It retains the familiar Stargate themes of adventure and exploration, but focuses mostly on the people aboard the ship. SGU is also more serialized than its predecessors, although the writers attempted to resolve each character story within the episode. There was a conscious effort to avoid making SGU too serialized, with the serialization stemming mainly from character development. The industry described the show with the buzzwords "dark and edgy".
According to Robert C. Cooper, the essence of the story is "that sort of fear and terror of a tragedy combined with the sense that there is hope for us in the basic ways in which human beings survive". The planned increased levels of drama are balanced with humor to avoid pretentiousness. The differences between good and evil are meant to be less apparent, as the ship is populated with flawed and unprepared characters who are not supposed to go there. According to Brad Wright, the show should "hopefully explor[e] the truly alien, and [avoid] the rubber faced English-speaking one[s]". There are aliens, but not a single dominant villain race like SG-1's Goa'uld and Atlantis' Wraith.
Metacritic summarizes the response as "generally favorable reviews" for SGU's first season, but with several critics showing reservation.
Stargate Universe was well received by several major media publishers upon airing of the pilot episode. Mike Hale from The New York Times was generally positive towards the pilot episodes, saying the Stargate franchise was "catching up" with the long-running Star Trek franchise. Hale also agreed with Syfy's promotion of it being an "edgier" Stargate. The Boston Globe reviewer Joanna Weiss also reacted positively towards the pilot episodes, saying it felt like "early Lost", while the story arc followed the patterns of Battlestar Galactica.
Mark Wilson from About.com gave the episode four-and-a-half stars out of 5, saying Universe accomplishes what Stargate Atlantis was not able to, and said it was "exceptionally well made" compared to other shows. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both praised the show, calling it "intriguing", for not abandoning its premise as Star Trek: Voyager did and criticized it by pointing out that the characters spend "far too much time wandering a desert planet" in "Air (Part 3)". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette summarized their review by saying that, "given time, Stargate Universe may become worth watching if it develops its characters and continues to mine its premise for stories." David Hinckley, a reviewer from The New York Daily News gave the episodes four out of five stars, saying that "Eli's not the only one playing a high-stakes game here."
Among reviewers who were negative towards the new installments was Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune. The reviewer wrote that the "gloomy, underwhelming Universe seems to have ditched many of the elements that the previous "Stargate" shows had, notably camaraderie and a sense of adventure, without adding much in the way of narrative suspense or complexity." The only characters she felt were "worth following" were Eli Wallace and Nicholas Rush. Vince Horiuchi from The Salt Lake Tribune, while not overall positive to the series, said the cast and characters were a "little more likable and interesting" than previous entries in the Stargate franchise. Reviewer Laura Freis from Variety concluded her review with "Sure, SGU is grittier, darker and psychologically deeper than previous versions.
But so far, it's also a lot less fun." While negative towards the show, she called Robert Carlyle an "excellent" actor. The Hollywood Reporter noted a lack of "intelligent" and "surprising stories" and was overall negative towards Stargate Universe, and even more so on the previous Stargate franchise releases. The show has also been criticized for its similarities to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
In its second season, SGU had declined in viewership ratings. This decline was attributed to its change in timeslot (from Friday night to Tuesday night, and then again to Monday night) and by what series co-creator, Brad Wright, claims:
"I don’t think if we, for any reason, go away, it is an issue necessarily of the quality of the product that we’ve been making. I think getting moved on the schedule has hurt us. And the fact that some of the fans that liked SG-1 and Atlantis were so angry that they have deliberately hurt us, which is unfortunate."