Saturday, October 3, 2009

TV Review: Stargate Galactica: Voyager

I've always liked Stargate. Sure, the storyline might not be as dense as some modern audiences like, but it's fun, the characters are great and the shows did a wonderful job of remembering and using concepts they'd introduced in the past. Understandably, the arrival of a new Stargate (called Stargate: Universe) show carried with it both excitement and a certain amount of concern on my part. I love me my Stargate and my science fiction, but promises of dark and gritty had me worried. Mind, I can actually appreciate dark and gritty in my fiction, but it needs a balance, and all too often old franchises that try and go that direction end up in some murky middle between dark and gritty and what they were good at. On the other hand, a dark and gritty spin on an old franchise can sometimes result in the  best of the best. Deep Space Nine was, in my opinion, the best Star Trek had to offer. 

The overarching plot of SGU is nothing new - a group finds itself far from home and must find its way back. If I'm not mistaken this idea is as old as the Odyssey, but was more recently told in Star Trek: Voyager, and the spin-off nature of SGU couldn't help but start comparisons with Voyager in my mind. Well, it turns out this was the wrong comparison.

Last night I got myself over to my best friend's house (I don't have cable) and we sat down to watch.I enjoyed it, but my concern is not entirely lifted. The plot was interesting, and definitely more about character and environment than previous shows, and it had nothing in common stylistically. Indeed, SGU is spot on Battlestar Galactica in style and tone. The color pallet, the cinematography, even the music were all taken straight out of the BSG book. More importantly than the look, SGU has that dark heavy feel, punctuated with moments of terror and chaos. They've even set up for the military/civilian tensions of early BSG (though on a smaller scale). Also, there's selfish scientist character with a British Isles accent who has definite shades of Baltar, but with more balls. 

I'm not really the biggest fan of Battlestar Galactica, finding it far too dark and gritty. Certainly, the show was pretty and had a cool story, but the almost total lack of likable characters, the absence of any sort of nobility (outside of Helo) and the dearth of humor meant I found the show to be something of a headache. Watching BSG felt a bit like what I imagine being clinically depressed feels like. Also, as Will over at Secure Immaturity  pointed on in his review of Caprica, BSG was really just as preachy as Star Trek, just with a darker hammer. Naturally then, the similarity gives me some concern, but I'm not too worried. I don't think SGU is going to sink to the depths of dispair that BSG did - we've already seen genuine compassion, nobility and humor in this show, and it certainly doesn't seem like it's going to be preachy. So, I'm going to stay tuned in to Stargate: Universe, and I think you should do the same. 

P.S. One of the things I found refreshing about Stargate was the lack of gratuitous sex. SGU has already blown it on this account. 


  1. Hmmmm. I tried getting into Stargate SG-1 (after the show had ended, that's what I do) but found it not to my liking. I tried before I judged! I kind of liked Atlantis (I watched it before BSG back in the day) and I was thinking of trying the new show so I could maybe catch the phenomenon from the beginning. But I definetly don't want a BSG clone because I can't take that stress every week anymore (haha). You are right on about BSG and its darkness.

    I think Atlantis tried to be a Trek/Firefly hybrid. I remember the 'captain' character being all rebellious and witty. Now it seems SGU is Trek/BSG hybrid and that worries me. Maybe I'll catch up on what I missed of SGU and come back for an addendum!

  2. I should note that the rebellious and witty captain character was also present in SG-1 in the person of Colonel O'Neil.

    Anyway, it's hard to tell at this point just how much of the darkness of BSG that SGU will pick up on. I'll let you know how eternally dark and heavy it remains. I for one won't be likely to stick around if it stays as brutally oppressive as BSG, especially considering how long Stargate shows tend to stick around.