Sneak Peek: Stargate Universe “Twin Destinies”

I’m sad.

For the first time in a long time, there will be no Stargate-inspired series on TV. Stargate Universe (or SGU) has nine more episodes and then it goes off the air. It didn’t attract enough of an audience to stay alive.

Stargate Universe Logo

I’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning. SGU set the entire SG television franchise on its head by focusing on a gritty, dark approach to science fiction instead of the sarcasm-laden scripts of SG-1 and SG: Atlantis. Don’t get me wrong. I loved those shows and miss Richard Dean Anderson on TV (he’s got a guest role on Fairly Legal if anybody watches that on USA). But SGU painted a very different picture of the SG universe (if you’ll pardon the pun) than we’ve seen before.

Now the countdown has begun and we’ll not see how the journey ends for these characters. Some have changed dramatically since the beginning and others are just there for comic relief or as fillers. But I wanted to see where the Destiny would lead them.

Oh well. Guess we may never know. Or maybe they’ll have some surprises in store for us by the end of the season…

The next episode pits Eli vs. Rush in a desperate attempt to get home…

In the next all-new episode of Stargate Universe, Dr. Rush sees the shipmates have assembled without him knowing to discuss what Eli is doing with the communication stones. Rush assures them that Eli is not an astrophysicist and that the mathematics are beyond
comprehension when incorporating the pressures involved within a star. Camile is clearly trying to defend Eli’s abilities while Colonel Telford is proclaiming Rush is just nuts. Rush requests the opportunity to brief the ship on why he says he has no option by to stay aboard while the rest all say they have no option but to leave. Colonel Young gives him the chance and appears to be standing alongside Rush to both Camile’s and Telford’s surprise. Watch the clip and tune in Monday at 10/9c on Syfy to hear how Rush will break down the logistics to the crew.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season

Hi there…

Before I can talk about Stargate Universe, I have to explain a bit of how we got here…

In 1994, a movie titled Stargate opened a whole new universe to movie-goers. Conceived by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the film took the Chariots of the Gods premise from Erich von Daniken that ancient civilizations were given advanced technologies by aliens welcomed as gods, dusted it off, and made it a huge science fiction success to the tune of nearly $200 million at the box office.

In the film, the idea is that ancient Egypt was enslaved by an alien calling himself the god Ra. This alien and his alien friends (other “gods”) flew in pyramid-shaped spacecraft and were able to traverse intergalactic distances through devices known as “Stargates” which used stable, temporary wormholes to instantaneously transport goods and people wherever they needed them. Eventually the natives on Earth grew restless and overthrew their alien masters, burying the gate deep in the sand with a stone inscribed with a warning to future generations not to open it again.

Of course, that’s just the beginning of the story. When it’s uncovered in 1928 by an archaeologist, it takes another nearly 70 years to find someone who can decipher its mysteries. Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader), Egyptologist, figures it out and goes on the adventure of a lifetime with a U.S. Air Force team led by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell). They find themselves on an alien world fighting a battle against an alien race with evil intentions and advanced technology. But never fear, the good guys win in the end!

Three years later, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner created a TV series based on the film that picks up where it left off. Stargate: SG1 (or just SG1 for short) aired for nearly 10 years and 214 episodes, becoming a huge phenomenon with Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks taking over the roles of Russell and Spader. Together, they explore the universe jumping from gate to gate, finding new friends and fighting new enemies every step of the way.

In 2004, Wright and Robert C. Cooper spun off Stargate: Atlantis, opening up a whole new universe for a new team to explore. It aired for nearly five years and 100 episodes and was also quite successful.

Then in October 2009, a new Stargate series began airing on Syfy. Though in the same setting as the previous Stargate series Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe (SGU) took a different path than its predecessors. Where SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis took more of a Buck Rogers or Firefly approach, mixing high adventure with humor, SGU decided to go more for the Battlestar Galactica reboot feel with a dark, gritty, and more intimate approach.

After 15 years of adventure and humor, I think SGU felt a bit “off” for many people in its first season. One review I read said that it’s like “BSG, except without any appealing characters” and that it seemed to focus on the crew’s very many flaws as human beings.

Fortunately for me, I was in love with the show from the first episode. Though I loved SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, they sometimes got a pit campy at times. SGU, though a tad morose and depressing occasionally, was much more of a reality check – something that could happen vs. something that there was no way in heck would happen. Well, it’s “reality” as far as a bunch of human beings joyriding on an ancient spaceship traveling to who knows where is “realistic.”

At the start of SGU, we are introduced to a distant planet with a strange Stargate on it. Unlike all the other gates encountered so far which required eight chevrons (symbols) to dial out (similar to a phone call), this one required a mysterious ninth chevron that nobody had been able to decipher yet. So they created a video game and farmed it out to online gamers to solve. One of the gamers, Eli Wallace (David Blue), solves the mathematical equation and is whisked away on a spaceship. Eli is my hero – a geek in the wrong place at the wrong time doing everything he can to help.

Eli arrives on this distant planet along with a group of delegates including Senator Armstrong (Christopher McDonald), his daughter and aide Chloe (Elyse Levesque), and IOC representative Camile Wray (Ming-Na). Already present are Colonel Young (Justin Louis), Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle), Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith), and others. While celebrating the impending success of the mission beyond the mysterious Stargate, the planet is attacked and all heck breaks loose.

Instead of dialing Earth, Dr. Rush dials the ninth chevron and opens a wormhole to the unknown – and the only safe way off the planet before they are all killed by their attackers or by the planet itself, which seems to be on the verge of exploding. As the group of civilians and soldiers dive through the gate, they have no idea what may be on the other side…

Immediately you have a group of strangers thrust into a situation far beyond their control where every minute may be their last… And it’s that sense of danger and drama that really drew me into SGU. Yes, you still have the offworld exploration as the ship – called Destiny – stops briefly between galaxies. But for the most part, you have a microcosm of scientists, civilians, and military personnel in a confined space with no idea when or even how they might get home again.

Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season pulls together all twenty episodes of the first season on a set of six DVDs. Each episode is included in its entirety plus a few cool extras…

  • An extended version of the pilot – “Air”
  • Commentaries on each episode by the actors
  • The “kino” diary entries made by crew members after they came on board as “messages in a bottle” should they ever be discovered
  • A “SML” – Star Map and Log – featuring interviews with each actor

For me, the chance to see all of the SGU episodes – especially the first five, which are still my favorites – is awesome. The quality of the transfer is great and to have the extras such as commentaries and cast interviews provides some depth that you don’t get from the show by itself. Each episode reveals a new piece of the puzzle and I’m still watching even as season two has started on Syfy!

If you’re a fan of the show, I’d encourage you to check out Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-ray at your favorite rental or retail counter!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up the SGU DVD or Blu-ray and other great Stargate DVDs below!

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DVD Review: Sanctuary: The Complete First Season

Hey all…

Back in 2007, Sanctuary began life as a series of eight webisodes released one at a time over the Internet. I was among those who purchased the hi-def versions of these 15-20 minute shows and was drawn into the world of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis), a seemingly ageless scientist and researcher investigating the monsters or “Abnormals” in the real world and helping them survive and learn to live somewhat normal lives or capturing and studying them if they’re too violent to help.

[amazon-product]B002CLKP00[/amazon-product]The success of the webisodes led Syfy (formerly the SciFi Channel) to give the series’ producers the green light to create a 13-episode season to air in 2008. These episodes expanded on the world of the webisodes in some significant ways, but kept fans entertained (including myself) and intrigued that a second season will begin airing in October 2009. And from the sneak peek, it looks like there are some serious changes afoot for the Sanctuary team.

The world of Sanctuary is definitely a dark one, with Magnus’ actual Sanctuaries providing homes for many different strange, wonderful, and often bizarre species. In some ways, the series is like the BBC’s Torchwood, with a slightly different bent. Where the Torchwood group protects the world against alien invasions, the Sanctuary team provides a buffer between the regular world where we live and the realm of abnormals. Sometimes they help people against the Abnormals, but they always have the best interests of this other world at heart.

Among the crew helping Magnus are Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensic psychiatrist with a sense for detail similar to Sherlock Holmes; Magnus daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), a monster hunter extraordinaire with a knack for finding trouble; Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins), the group’s computer and weapons geek who also happens to be an abnormal himself; Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), Magnus’ butler, chauffeur, and bodyguard; and John Druitt (also Heyerdahl), Magnus’ former love interest who can teleport across time and space and may have been Jack the Ripper in an earlier time…

Towards the end of the first season, the Sanctuary team discovered that they are not the only group to have an interest in the world of the Abnormals. Whereas Sanctuary tries to do what’s best for the Abnormals, The Cabal is only interested in learning how better to destroy them so they can save mankind. We also met a few more members of the original five brilliant minds who have survived the last 150 years – including Nikola Tesla and Dr. James Watson (of Sherlock Holmes fame).

Though the 13 episodes of this first televised season of Sanctuary provided some amazing stories and it’s great to catch up, I have to say it’s the extras on this four DVD set that really made it worthwhile. I was hooked on the webisodes when they were released on the Internet – but I hadn’t seen them in 2007. So when you go back to the beginning, you can see the difference in quality between the initial mini-episodes to where they ended the season is impressive.

Beyond the webisodes, there are episode audio commentaries from cast and crew, bloopers, and a sneak peek at season two. But it was the behind the scenes featurettes – “Welcome to the Sanctuary,” “Sanctuary Residents,” and “Sanctuary Visual Effects” – that really showed the dedication of these talented people. Tapping, Dunne, Ullerup, Heyerdahl, Robbins are the faces we know through the episodes, but behind the scenes are others we never see. Damian Kindler created the show many years before he showed the script around and it spawned one of the most intriguing fantasy worlds on televison today.

With season two of Sanctuary on the horizon in October 2009, this is a great time to catch up on what happened in season one with the Sanctuary: The Complete First Season set. Start at the beginning and work your way to the cliffhanger at the end, for we can only hope some answers are forthcoming in the season premiere! Check out Sanctuary: The Complete First Season at your favorite retailer when it’s released on September 15, 2009.

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to pick up Sanctuary: The Complete First Season and these other great TV series on DVD at Amazon!

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