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Featured TV on DVD Review: Stargate Universe SG-U: 1.0

October 3rd, 2010

Stargate Universe SG-U: 1.0 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Stargate Universe SG-U is the latest in the long running Stargate franchise. This review is for the first DVD release of the latest series, which first came out back in February. However, this week the Complete First Season is being released on DVD and Blu-ray. But, instead of sending me that release, I got 1.0. (I don't really understand the logic, nor do I want to at this point.) However, since I previously reviewed the 1.5 release, this isn't too much of a problem.

The Show

First a very brief history of the Stargate setting.

Millions upon millions of years ago, there was an ancient race called the Alterans that developed the technology to create stable wormholes capable of traveling vast distances. These wormholes are created by devices called Stargates, which were first discovered on Earth in 1928 in Egypt, while they figured out how to activate them during the events of the film. Each Stargate has nine levels of symbols called Chevrons, seven are used to lock to another gate within the same galaxy, the eighth is used for intergalactic travel, while for much of the franchise's history, the secret of the ninth chevron was unknown.

Stargate Universe SG-U begins with the Icarus project, that was setup to help crack the mystery of the ninth chevron. Actually, it begins with dozens of people jumping through stargate to an unknown location. We then flashback and forth to the main characters and how they are connected to Icarus. For instance, Eli Wallace is a slacker and a video game enthusiast that solves a problem in a MMORPG, only to be contacted by two men, Dr. Rush and Jack O'Neill, who inform him that by solving the problem he's proven he's worthy of joining the Icarus team on an alien planet. They also don't given him much choice in the matter. Eli represents what the average viewer's reaction would be to the situation if they were involved in this.

The others involved in the Icarus project include the aforementioned Dr. Rush, who could be described as lacking the social grace Dr. Rodney McKay possessed. He's obsessed with cracking the secret of the ninth chevron, so much so that when the Lucian Alliance attacks and the team from Icarus project needs to evacuate back to Earth, he instead chooses to try one last time to dial the ninth chevron, using the last minute tweaks he and Eli work out. It works, mostly, but in the process the power drain causes the already unstable core of the planet to explode.

Fortunately, the survivors of the attack make it through the gate to its destination, a starship called Destiny. Unfortunately, they don't know where the ship is, who built it, why, where it is going, how to control it, and how to get back to Earth. To make matters worse, this is clearly a very, very old ship and it is not working to full capacity. Unless they can get vital systems, like life support, back online, none of the rest of the questions they have will matter.

Stargate Universe SG-U is something very different from what we've seen in the Stargate franchise. It is not so much about exploration as it is about survival. The main conflict throughout most of the first season, especially the first 10 episodes found here, is not between humans and some alien race, but between groups of humans that don't exactly trust each other. Much of the Icarus project is composed of scientists and civilians, but since it is under the purview of Stargate Command, there are many military personnel there as well, under the leadership of Colonel Everett Young. Colonel Young takes command of the situation, which doesn't sit well with the civilian leadership (Camile Wray, Dr. Rush, and others).

Because there's a major change in tone from the previous shows, Stargate Universe SG-U has been praised by some fans and assailed by others. Personally, I fall under the former camp and think the survival sci-fi theme is something that should help the show remain fresh. After more than 300 episodes, plus a couple direct-to-DVD movies, there needed to be a change here and after watching the first season in full, the changes to the format were successful.

Granted, like most shows, it might take a bit longer to really hit its grove, but this is a good start.

The Extras

I only have the DVD to review, but there are plenty of extras starting with audio commentary tracks on all ten episodes with various members of the cast and creative team. There are also Kino Video Diaries on all three discs, which are basically in-character interviews. Destiny SML are real-life interviews with the cast.

The Blu-ray costs 33% than the DVD, which is an acceptable price, but at this point, I wouldn't buy either format, but instead...

The Verdict

Stargate Universe SG-U got off to a great start and now that The Complete First Season is available, it is worth picking up. The Blu-ray is only about 20% than the DVD, which makes it the far better deal and a contender for Pick of the Week.

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