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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stargate Universe, We Really Need To Talk

So I thought "Darkness" was a slow but at least moderately interesting thanks largely to watching a couple of characters breakdown, especially Rush. The Eli Factor was less annoying, because at least Eli was as surprised as I was that everyone expects him to know everything or solve anything.

But "Light"? Painful. Just painful.

Spoilers abound, this is critique and not review ... so if you haven't watched it, well, you're warned.

A few of the finer points:

Don't expect a sensible viewer to really buy into "everyone is going to die" scenarios five episodes into a new show.

Especially when that scenario includes flying to a massive energy source, and everyone was originally going to die because the ship had no energy and your resident smarty smart keeps talking about how the ship came here "for a reason".

Also five episodes in - the whole "stranded on a hideously boring planet" scenario isn't really going to sell easily. The whole "this planet is full of sand" scenario was kinda dull enough.

So instead of plot or conflict, we're bombarded by video confessionals, in the form of one liners spoken into an alien handycam, a sex scene, a lot of moping around, some background music, and some really fairly nice views of the impending sun.

What we lack is any emotional connection to these characters. Eli gets the most airtime, and he's just annoying as hell. Rush is the most developed, but tuned to be unlikable. Our fearless commander is probably the closest thing to a character I might care about and we know he's destined for martyrdom.

Did any of the characters freak out and try to mutiny? Not really, not in any real way. I half expected Eli and Cute Chick to hook up in their supposed last few minutes - which might have made for some interesting dialogue later ... but no such luck. Maybe the shuttle could have gotten stranded? Oh no, we get an incredibly implausible landing instead.

Right now the show is centered around putting everyone into a horribly doomed scenario that everyone survives. Well, OK, Cute Chick's dad bit it - which is sadly the show's best moment to date, even though Cute Chick seems to have rebounded pretty well. The frame of the show is like a disaster movie, which is awesome, except that if you watched a disaster movie and five hours into the movie you only had one real tragedy - you would want your money back.

Finally, the ending of "Light" was just bizarre. Hey, I'm trying to give you a compliment here - but then I'm going to accuse you of being an evil son of a bitch with pretty much nothing to show for it. Felt to me like someone ran the tape and realized there was 40 minutes of essentially a slow ballad music video and decided to toss a bit of infighting for good measure.

Hopefully in the next couple of episodes, it will be less of the Rush and Eli show and we can finally get some real depth into the secondary characters other than lame quips that would barely pass on an actual reality show. Hopefully the conflict will get more complicated than the "big thing we can't solve, oh my we are all dead, oh wait there's the thing we need" style of arc. Because I'm not buying this show has the chops to kill any character off at the moment.

But if the next five episodes follow the same vein as the last five episodes, I'm going to wish the ship had flown into the sun ... and stayed there.


Jeffool said...

I'm curious if this is your first Stargate series? It is mine, having only seen the film before, but I'm tentatively "okay," with it thus far.

While I have to agree that this episode was a "gimme" insofar as the solution was evident, I wasn't as convinced that they wouldn't strand several characters on that planet. Obviously I'm less inclined to think they'll take that kind of risk in the future now, but I wasn't positive, to be honest. Seemed like the kind of risky maneuver that could've paid off in spades had the had the nerve to do it.

And as for the rest of the show, I'm just hoping they're taking a "slow build-up" approach as opposed to jumping straight to a "stargate of the week" style show, though admittedly five weeks in I figured they'd have jaunted through more than just one...

Character-wise I actually find myself liking Rush, which I suppose says something about me. And I think that the 'end' of episode five was fine; I mean, it was fairly evident that he knew, I felt. Not only was it evident, I actually wish they would've had Eli mention it as a possibility to put it on the table and have it quashed. Speaking of Eli, he's definitely annoying, but not unwatchably so. Yet. He's just... He gripes me in the way that he seems to gripe the military people, who are usually stereotypically cast as the annoying characters. Oh, and I have to sadly agree with you that the leader's middle name might as well be "Sacrificial Lamb." White GI Joe is so prepped to take over for him it's almost crazy.

Black GI Joe however, seems to have some major screws loose, while at the same time making sense every now and then. I like him. But I still heartily agree about the need to get to know the rest of the cast better. You'd think with nothing to do than sit around on the ship and talk, they'd do that more often. I mean, what is everyone else even doing? Make Eli an impromptu game designer and give them something to huddle around and talk during.

Also, am I the only one who is largely uninterested in the jumps back to Earth through the stones? They seem far less interested than they should be to me, and I'm hoping Lou Diamond Phillips' sole purpose isn't to lead a mutiny. His indignation is getting old quick, and they just need to talk to their boss about it and have it done with.

... Wow, I've rambled. I think I'll crosspost this elsewhere... But, despite all this, I'm sticking with it for a few more. I'm not near the point of quitting just yet.

Josh said...

No, I think I've managed to see every thing Stargate ever put to video :) Well, not the cartoons I guess...

I do like that the entire slant of this show is different from SG1. I enjoyed Atlantis, think it could have had been allowed a better ending, but it really was just rehashing the first series.

SGU has its heart in the right place, but no head to speak of right now. It's all gravitas without the gravity.

I do like Rush, because I think he's currently the most realistic character on board and Carlyle is amazing with him. I can barely remember the rest of the characters' names much less why I'd care if they were engulfed in flames, though.

The stone communicators ... yeah, I'm mixed. I thought it was a pretty brilliant thing to include as it fits with the franchise. But I think there is a lot of missed opportunity there.

And I guess that's the core of my issue with the show. It's like the show isn't even very interested in itself, barely taking any time to probe what it could do. If I was stuck on that spaceship, I'd be trying to figure out a way to use those stones and hijack myself a body back home.

Which would be way more interesting to watch than Cute Girl and Eli hold hands while watching the sun for like ten whole minutes.

But I'm not done with the show just yet, it is merely on probation.

sterno said...

Don't expect a sensible viewer to really buy into "everyone is going to die" scenarios five episodes into a new show.

And if they did kill them all off, would we really care at that point? :)

The show just doesn't have the same knack for creating tension that BSG had. I mean, on the very first episode of BSG you had a very intense and real sense that they were going to die even though we knew it was the first freaking episode. They were repeatedly able to create a real sense of peril even though, being a TV show, we knew on some level they probably weren't going to kill too many people off.

It seems to me that for all that the wandering ghost ship concept has potential, the show can ultimately play out almost identically to the other Stargate shows. Every episode they show up at some new random planet, explore it and experience terrible peril. Then they move on to the next place. They are just a bit more resource deprived than the entirety of earth.

In the end it could work really well if they are willing to be a bit brutal. I mean what happens when they show up on the planet that has the resources they need that's populated by an aggressive alien spieces? Scary, right? Well what happens in that same situation when you ran out of ammo for your guns three planets back?

I suspect in the end though they won't push the limits like that. The stargate series has always been a bit on the fluffy side, and mostly did well because there were a couple well written and wonderfully snarky characters (Colonel "MacGyver without Mullet" O'neil abybody?). I recall being similarly doubtful about Atlantis but it developed well, so I'll give it some time.

Josh said...

I think I'd mostly mourn the Kino.

Yeah, by comparison - BSG started out with the near genocide of the entire human race. With that as the kickoff, I'd be much more willing to believe the writers might off half the cast in the first season.