Blu-Ray Review: ‘SG-U Stargate Universe: 1.0’ Offers Lots of Conflict, Little Adventure

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CHICAGO – Some franchises are best left undiscovered. “Stargate” originally began as a terrible 1994 film from B-movie maestro Roland Emmerich. It took a potentially interesting premise, and used it as an excuse for a lot of uninspired sci-fi warfare. The film, bad as it was, inexplicably spawned two long-running TV shows: “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis.”

Fearing that their franchise had become outdated, producers Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper set their sights on creating a dark, edgy show more apt to connect with modern audiences. Thus, we have “SG-U Stargate Universe” or as I like to call it, “Stargate: The J.J. Abrams Rip-Off.” It does a great job of being like everything else on television, without ever developing a compelling vision of its own. The show is sure to disappoint longtime “Stargate” fans, while failing to interest viewers who have no idea what “dialing the ninth Chevron” means. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

Without delving into the mythological gobbledegook, here’s the basic premise of “SG-U”: an exploration crew of Earthlings evacuate their ship by escaping through a “stargate,” the ancient wormhole-generating device that links all the various shows and direct-to-video films. Once the crew steps through the stargate, they find themselves stranded on an Ancient spaceship named “Destiny,” positioned seven billion light years from earth. Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) observes the chaos of the confused passengers from an elevated perch, as the ghost of a smile crosses his face. Carlyle, a superb actor, keeps Rush’s motives shrouded in ambiguity, allowing his character to be the show’s sole source of genuine intrigue. The instantly forgettable ensemble includes a standard Tom Cruise type (Brian J. Smith), a weepy girl (Elyse Levesque), a guy for Carlyle to butt heads with (Louis Ferreira), and a pop culture-spewing comic relief (David Blue) who gets beamed up to the ship after solving a math problem in a video game. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a riot!

Brian J. Smith, Robert Carlyle and David Blue star in the latest Stargate series, SG-U Stargate Universe.
Brian J. Smith, Robert Carlyle and David Blue star in the latest Stargate series, SG-U Stargate Universe.
Photo credit: MGM Home Entertainment

There isn’t a whole lot of time for adventure, since most of the episodes are devoted to various problems on the ship: air loss, power loss, water loss and idea loss. The few planets visited by the crew are thoroughly derivative, such as an ice planet that Blue jokingly refers to as “the Hoth system.” One of the worst conceits of the show is its use of flying cameras called Kinos, which allow characters to keep Reality TV-style video diaries, as well as record alien attacks with all the handheld jitteriness of “Cloverfield.”

SG-U Stargate Universe: 1.0 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 9th, 2010.
SG-U Stargate Universe: 1.0 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 9th, 2010.
Photo credit: MGM Home Home Entertainment

As in “Lost,” there’s a gimmick that allows characters to be in two places at once: visiting family members at home while remaining on the ship. There’s also lots of unintentional cheesiness, such as when an approaching star provides the perfect lighting for a sexy love scene, or when the episode about air loss concludes with Alexi Murdoch’s “Breathe.”

SG-U Stargate Universe: 1.0” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio), which brings much-needed clarity to the murky visuals. The overpriced set includes commentaries on all ten episodes from Season 1.0, including an extended version of the three-part pilot. While most of the commentaries are of the jokey and tedious variety, the broadcast version of the pilot includes an enlightening audio track featuring insights from co-creator Robert C. Cooper, visual effects supervisor Mark Savela and director Andy Mikita. The filmmakers discuss the freedom they felt by taking a more improvisational, documentary-style approach to the material, while reassuring fans that their intent was not to improve on the original shows, but rather take the franchise in a different direction. They clearly admit how they were influenced by “Cloverfield,” as well as shows like “The Shield,” and even recruited “Shield” cinematographer Ronn Schmidt to shoot the first episode. There’s also 25 minutes of additional Kino footage, cast interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes content, none of which generate much excitement for Season 2.0.

SG-U Stargate Universe: 1.0’ is released by MGM Home Entertainment and stars Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Alaina Huffman, Jamil Walker Smith, Ming-Na and Lou Diamond Phillips. It was written by Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Alan McCollough, Carl Binder and Martin Gero and directed by Andy Mikita, William Waring, Peter DeLuise, Ernest Dickerson, Alex Chapple and Robert C. Cooper. It was released on February 9th, 2010. It is not rated. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

Carbon Copy's picture

not for me

I actually enjoyed SG1 and loved SGA, but this show has been a big turn-off for me.
I think even those who do like the show would find it difficult to pay this much for half a season, even with the extras.

Eternal Density's picture

Thanks for the laugh.

There’s no way I can possibly take this review seriously, especially given the initial paragraph. No one who liked either the original movie or the two past series is going to care what you wrote about SGU so you might as well have stopped after the first sentence as that makes your point pretty clear.

Anonymous's picture

While I agree with your

While I agree with your comments about SGU I’m not sure why you need to bring in your thoughts on the movie. I do wonder why you bother to critique something you clearly have no interst in. Stargate may not have been your cup of tea but it couldnt really have been all that bad if it spawned a series that lasted 15 years. SGU bares no resemblance to the origninal series whether you liked them or hated them. But that’s not really the issue for me, SGU is just bad. It has copied too much from other shows and lost its own identity and turned into a boring mess that completely lacks any originality. I agree that the cast are forgettable and that includes the character of Rush for me.

suse's picture


He bothered critiquing something he has no interest in because he tried it… and didn’t like it. It happens. I don’t recall Matt saying anything rude about SG-1 or SGA. Just the movie (which I also found boring) and SGU. He stuck to the point.

Personally, I liked the kinos. Somewhat. Despised the stones though. I also liked TJ and Greer. Thought I’d like… Young, that’s the name. That lasted 2 eps.

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