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DVD Review

DVD cover

Stargate Universe
The Complete First Season


Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Alaina Huffman and Jamil Walker Smith
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 15
Available 05 July 2010

Stargate Universe sees the team discover the mysterious purpose of the “ninth chevron” after being forced through the Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. Upon entering the gate the survivors of the attack find themselves aboard the Destiny which was built millions of years ago by the ancients to seed distant galaxies with Stargates. Locked on an unknown course and unable to turn the ship back to earth, the Stargate crew are forced to explore dangerous new territories and unexplored deserts as they unlock the secrets of Destiny’s Stargate - finding unknown peril and adventure throughout every twist and turn of the journey...

When Stargate Atlantis first appeared on our TV screens we noted the similarity between that show and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (The Atlantis city is not dissimilar to DS9 in construction (especially when you see cross section diagrams which show the city's internal sensor readouts); the city is now a human base but the Atlantis's team have to share their new home with the Athosian families who they are harbouring - a little like DS9 became the home for the Bajorans who the Federation were protecting from the Cardassians; the Atlantis crew are far away from earth and (even though the SGC can dial out to them - they can't dial earth) any rescue operation would be hard - a little like the crew of DS9 being isolated from the Federation; the Stargate is a little like the wormhole from DS9; and finally the puddle jumpers look very similar to Trek's runabouts - especially the way the tail section opens in order to let the crew in and out).

Now, once again, we witness another Star Trek inspired spin-off. The basic idea behind Stargate Universe is very similar to Star Trek: Voyager. Both shows featured two crews (in Universe it's civilians and military - although by the end of the season it looks like it may be the humans and Lucian Alliance that are forced to live together on Destiny) that are forced to coexist on a space ship with no way of returning to Earth. Okay, so they can sort of return home by using the communication stones (which allows the minds of one person on Earth and one person on Destiny to swap bodies). In fact the show's title would have been much more apt if it had been called Stargate Destiny... but they I suppose then the link to Voyager would have been too obvious.

I also couldn't help shaking my head when it was revealed how Eli was chosen to help the military. In a plot device similar to The Last Starfighter, Eli's ability to play through to the end of a computer game (secretly designed by the military) shows he has the intelligence they are seeking. Likewise the Destiny's observation room reminded me of the observation room in Sunshine - just a single bench and a huge window looking out to space.

All 20 episodes of the show's first season are included on this 5 disc box set. Disc one holds the 3-part pilot, which you can watch either as it was originally broadcast, or with additional footage.

As the early episodes progressed I started to get a little worried that it was simply "problem of the week" as the episode titles explain what this week's problem onboard Destiny is. So we have Air (where the crew are running out of air); Darkness (where the power goes down); Water (they realise they are running low on water supplies); Justice (when a crew member is found dead a murder hunt is underway); and... well, you get the idea!

Also I couldn't help feeling that the scripts were incredibly thin for each episode, but on reflection I'm assuming that's in order to shoehorn in the soap opera drama of the ongoing story arc that unfolds throughout this season. The worst example of this is the two-part season conclusion (Incursion). The second part to this really doesn't further the story much at all and could easily have been condensed into a single episode.

And, while I could forgive the slight (possible) continuity issues (like why in the episode Life the crew were shown exercising without it being explained where all the gym clothes came from or why everyone, in a mad rush to jump through the Stargate before their planet blew up, decided to quickly pack a pair of trainers into their luggage), what I couldn't stomach was the constant need to fill the episodes up with video montages, accompanied by pop music, of the crew going about their business.

What I really enjoyed about the series was that you are constantly flipping your opinions about characters. Just about all of the main cast (with the exception of Eli) have attributes that make them unlikable characters. For example, Rush and Wray can't be trusted; Young is unpredictable and not beyond murder; Scott has little respect for women - having slept with at least two members of the crew; Chloe has already lied to Eli, going against his back in order to help Rush; and Greer is a bit of a loose cannon). Personally, I think this makes them a more believable collection of characters.

Then we get, over time, to learn a little of the back story of each character - although I get the feeling there will be little explanation of Young's character... it's never mentioned in the first season (other than he was due to leave the military to be with his wife), whereas we learn a great deal about Rush's past (in the episode Human). And this was another interesting angle. In most shows, once we learn the back story to why a character is so cold, the following episodes see them becoming more human... not so here - as Rush is just as cold and withdrawn as the episodes progress. Initially, in the pilot, I was concerned that Rush's coldness was simply down to that much used plot device, that his wife is dead. We see him crying at a picture of a woman who we later discover is his wife.

It was good to see Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks and Amanda Tapping return for a handful of episodes - a nice little touch for the fans of SG-1.

Extras include audio commentaries for every episode; Destiny SML (these are included on each disc and include a collection of behind the scenes featurettes and interviews); and Kino Video Diaries (again, these are on each disc, and consist of recordings of the characters feelings as well as hidden Kino spy footage and comical goings on onboard Destiny).

While I did enjoy this collection I couldn't help feeling that some of the material was stretched to breaking point - Incursion Parts I & II being the most obvious example.


Darren Rea

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