And Now For Something Completely Different…

What follows is a detailed review of the new show, Stargate Universe. If you do not want to be spoiled, stop reading and come back next week.

My thoughts on SGU’s premier, all three parts. I am lucky enough to live close to Leiasky who was lucky enough to obtain a screener copy of the episode. So I took the night off from studying and have seen it in hi-def. Let me say before I begin that having two writers of similar personality sit and watch a screener is an experience. We paused and dissected so many times that it took us a little over four hours to get through the two hour first part (which is really part 1 and part 2 combined). That was great.

Next thing. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED FOR THE SGU PREMIER. SERIOUSLY. I MEAN IT.

REALLY.

I AM GOING TO DISCUSS, IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL, SEVERAL PLOT POINTS THAT WILL SPOIL YOU.

HONEST.

STILL WANT TO READ?

YOU. HAVE. BEEN. WARNED.

No bitching about being spoiled now . . .

First things first. I’m sorry to say that my speculation about the adornment on Sam’s finger was wrong. There’s a clear shot of her left hand in the scene of her on the ship evacuating Icarus – you have to pause the DVD to see it – but . . . no ring. Sorry. I must have seen an exploding sparkle behind her in the low res trailer. Which leads me to a discussion of the ‘ship (as opposed to the Ship (Destiny), which comes later). After lengthy and repeated reviewing of the pics on O’Neill’s credenza, I am left with the conclusion that the prominent pic we see is of Sara and Charlie (or, left to right, Charlie and Sara). Now . . . having said that, that picture sits alone in one spot over O’Neill’s right shoulder (our left as we face him). On the right (O’Neill’s left) is a shelf with – as best as Leia and I can make out – four framed photos, one of which is distinctly green and leafy in coloring (again . . . as best as I can tell). I maintain that this is significant. The pic of Charlie (and Sara) stands alone, separate. Jack’s new life and the life he made with SG1 and Sam is prominently displayed as a group. Together. So . . . let’s put that puppy to bed. Sara’s there because she is part of the past . . . alone with Charlie. Jack’s new life, and the people in it, are together, just as Jack was with them . . .

Now . . . the rest. I’m going to go character by character here.

Ely . . . like Leia, I loved him. Start to finish. Don’t know where they found the kid to play him, but his comic timing is perfect. Just perfect. Nothing he said or did rang false or contrived, and he lends a clear sense of believability to the show. Really good guy. I could write his character, I get him. His character has a lot of room to grow, but he’s not naïve, nor is he an idiot.

Scott. Hmmm. Him I liked. His backstory? Not so much. Well, just one part. We first meet him as he his having wild sex in a supply room on Icarus. First, who names a base for the kid who ignored his father’s warnings, flew too close to the sun, fell from the sky and died? Really. Anyway, Matthew Scott. We meet him quite literally screwing the brains out of a colleague (female soldier) in a supply closet. Okay, so we’ve established that he’s a hot-blooded youngster (Lieutenant) who takes risks. Fine. Then for the next two hours Scott proceeds to do a bang-up job leading the base in the absence of the injured commander. Let’s leave out the fact that somewhere between the commander (a Colonel) and Scott (a Lieutenant) there should have been, oh, I don’t know, at least one Captain or Major . . . but . . . I digress. As has been stated by a show producer, since SGU is set so far from Earth, the US Air Force has stepped back. It’s obvious. So, back to Scott. He steps up, takes command, leads the way and does a pretty nifty job of it. So much so that you can almost forget the whole boffing a colleague in the supply closet. There’s the awkward “do I know you” scene where he pretends (for the sake of his colleagues who aren’t fooled for a minute) that he doesn’t know the name of supply-room-girl, but . . . okay. It’s fiction.

They (the writers) seem to want to bring him (Scott) closer to Chloe (Armstrong, the senator’s daughter), but . . . more on that in a moment. As we learn in Air Part 3, Scott’s folks were killed when he was 4. He was raised by a priest and seemed to want to go into the priesthood. There’s this flashback scene where we learn that he impregnated a 16-year-old girl who is going to have an abortion. Now, I’m pretty sure in the flashback scene Scott’s supposed to be 15 or 16 himself because the priest with whom he’s talking appears to be the one who raised him (and we find out the priest died when Scott was 16). BUT . . . the scene where Scott tells the priest the girl is pregnant and he’s agonizing of having to give up his vocation (why? dunno) they use . . . him. The actor who is Scott NOW. Which made me think . . . holy crap! This guy was in seminary, had sex with a 16-year-old girl (can you say statutory rape?) and now has to leave seminary so joins the Air Force (and miraculously either goes through OTS or the Academy and is an officer – riiiiiiight). HOW WRONG IS THAT? Why on God’s green Earth (or Icarus) would I want to like this guy? I’m pretty sure they were trying to portray the actor as younger, but really . . . hire a young guy to play the teenaged Scott. I was really turned off thinking this guy had raped a young girl.

Moving on from that, as I said, Scott begins to build a rapport with Chloe. All well and good, I guess. My problem is that the hot-sex-in-the-closet scene was discordant with the rest of his character. Let’s say this kid (when he was a kid) got a girl pregant and he had to give up his dream of the Church. So instead he (and he still wears a crucifix) joins the Air Force to do a greater good. I’m pretty sure he’d not be boffing anyone in a supply closet. Especially since he, as he said in the show, went straight to the SGC out of “training” (I can only assume that was the Academy – which, for all those not familiar and not able to look it up, is not just a place where you get military training. And you don’t go there after college. You go TO college at the AFA and exit with a Bachelor of Science in . . . something. It’s a four year accredited institution. Look it up. Sorry, pet peeve of mine in fanfic that’s so often grossly wrong.)

All in all, I liked Scott (as long as the church scene was a flashback to his teen years).

Greer. Liked him and didn’t catch too much backstory on him. He was in “detention” when Icarus was attacked. I’m sure we’ll learn more . . . but he is a bit . . . unstable.

Chloe – she was portrayed very differently from her sides, so I wonder if that’s a case of the actor’s skills and charisma changing an original character sketch. I think she’s got something if written right. I liked her interaction with Ely at the beginning and was sorry to see that dropped later.

Young – hmmm. Don’t have a lot to say other than he moved remarkably well for a man with a massive head trauma and possible spinal cord damage. I will say that when Telford inhabited his body (ugh, more on that in a minute), LDP’s acting was . . . well, there was a lot of acting going on.

Telford – too bad he wasn’t killed on Icarus. ‘Nuff said.

TJ. I like her. I think she’s got potential too. We don’t see much of her at all, but it’s apparent that Scott knows her because in the opening scene he shouts for “TJ!” and not by grade or last name.

Rush. Hmm. As I said to Leia, “long hair and scruffy is gonna get old after a few episodes.” Call it my inherent prejudice against long hair, but . . . it’s not great on him. And, as much as I love the actor who portrays Rush, I just don’t get that . . . thing. Okay, yes. I’m a lesbian, but really . . . I could stare at Richard Dean Anderson’s eyes for ages. Lovely, lovely eyes. And he does scruffy beautifully. And ruffly hair. RC just . . . doesn’t have that for me. As a character he’s rather universally despised by everyong on Icarus and now on Destiny. In the show the setup is that they’ve been on Icarus for the past six months, but we have no backstory on just why he’s so despised (maybe it’s ‘cause he has long hair and is scruffy?).

Now . . . the show. It begins with a cold open and we learn more through flashbacks. I think the transitions to the flashbacks will be clearer with the televised commercial breaks put in, they were a bit confusing as simple jump cuts.

Icarus. Leia and I figure . . . or maybe she was just agreeing with me to be nice, but I figure that the Icarus base Stargate is the SGC’s old gate. I think that the SGC sent this gate to Icarus to serve as an outpost. They make some comment (I think it’s Ely) that maybe this gate wasn’t meant to dial from here. Other things make me believe it’s “our” gate. A, it looks like our gate and ramp, etc . . . ; B) dialogue hints about only being able to dial out from the gate and not in from Earth; and C) Earth would still have a viable gate in Atlantis which, as we last saw in Enemy at the Gate (truly the only SGA episode I enjoyed), is currently floating in the San Francisco bay, just under the Golden Gate bridge. (Hmmm, does Atlantis have to be on water? Maybe that could become the moon base? Oh, that’s a plot for a different movie, isn’t it? Oh, and we could beam to and from Atlantis on the moon by . . . okay, I’m digressing again, but it’d make a great plot, wouldn’t it?)

As suspected in discussions, Sam confirms that she thinks the initial attack on Icarus was the Lucien Alliance. I love the fact that travel to Icarus was via the Hammond, and truthfully, I like that we only know that ‘cause Rush says something once to Ely “Welcome to the Hammond.” That’s it. I like that we don’t have Sam thrown in our faces as HEY, WE’RE ON THE HAMMOND, AND YOU KNOW THIS ‘CAUSE SAM’S HERE. It’s subtly done. She’s obviously off doing ship commander things when the kid is beamed on board. We see her later competently handling the crisis of the attack.

Which leads me to Jack O’Neill’s appearance. Brief, but worth it. Not as horrifically brief as in Continuum (and really, if you want to fix that, read Merkaba’s brilliant Continuum Interrupted at sjalways-forever) but still brief. Oh, there’s an over the shoulder shot of Jack talking with the body-swapped Young/Telford and you can see the screen of his MacBook (yay Mac!). He’s playing chess on it! I think he’s playing interactive chess w/Sam. Or that’s what my fanfic will say, I’m sure.

The Sam/Jack interaction is limited to video feed between the two (and a glimpse of intergalactic online chess <g>), and I will say that at the beginning of that scene we see Walter and we both cheered. Gotta love Walter. He’s kind of like the character Wedge in the Star Wars movies. The guy you like to see make it to the end. Anyway, no ‘ship at all, but . . . well, I’m just sayin’ . . . it’ll happen. I just know it.

Other things that stick out for me. The person whom Jack has escort the body-swapped Chloe to her mother’s house should have been Davis. He’s Jack’s aide at the Pentagon, therefore . . . but, whatever. Oh, and if they’re at the Pentagon (as the establishing shot showed), then A) why is Jack in the black combat uniform of the SGC; and B) why is Telford in desert BDU?

Now . . . the body swapping. Like Leia, this was confusing as hell for me. Seriously.  It’s too early in the show for us to have them swap and know that the consciousness of person A is in person B by mannersm (a la SG1’s Holiday when you knew Teal’c was in Jack by his intonation and behavior). We don’t know the SGU characters that well . . . so I can see why they didn’t do it that way. What they did do was have the actor who portrays Chloe just . . . be . . . Chloe on Earth – and we’re supposed to know that everyone around her sees “Barb” (or whatever the woman’s name was). However . . . since we don’t have the old Quantum Leap mirror trick going on (where Chloe-who-is-inside-of-Barb looks in a mirror and sees Barb) we’re left with this oddity: Chloe’s consciousness (inside of Barb) exits the limo to greet her mother. The mother stops in shock and Chloe-who-is-inside-of-Barb says “It’s me, Mom. I know I don’t look like me, but I’m in here.” The problem is, WE CAN ONLY SEE CHLOE, so at first it’s like . . . wait, isn’t Chloe on the spaceship in (wait for it…) a galaxy far, far away? (You know I had to do that, right?)

All of the body swapping was like that. I imagine they feel they have to do the body swapping to say goodbyes to people (as they hint in the script) but . . . nah. Didn’t like it. Didn’t buy it. Not a bit. Just wasn’t handled well at all, I think.

The kino’s. Those are the little floating ball thingies. Reminded me of the little training remote that Luke gets zapped by in Star Wars. In fact, the minute I saw it I said to Leia, “Use the force, Ely.” He (Ely) names them kino’s but his explanation of why is interruped (something about “you know, the Russian . . .”) Whatever. They’re nifty. I’ve renamed them MiniMALPS. They give all the nitty gritty: temperature, atmostphere makeup, gravity, yada yada. Ely controls it with essentally a PSP, which I thought was pretty funny. I did wonder, since they used it on the planet to look for “the lake bed” (more later) why they didn’t just shoot the thing up in the air to look around instead of arbitrarily picking a direction and traipsing off across the screaming hot desert. :::shrug::: that would have made the most sense (but an admittedly much shorter episode.) Maybe something like:

“Ely, send that thing up like a weather balloon.”

“Okay”

Kino zips up and Ely studies the readout . . . spots a clear formation of a lake bed. “Looks like the lake bed is about nine miles . . . uh . . . that way. Let’s call that east.”

Thank you…Pol takes a bow. <grin>

Which brings me to the “lake bed search.” WTF? The gate’s in the middle of a freakin’ desert and the blonde scientist lady (hair down and all blowy) says “well, there must be a lake bed somewhere.” Really? ‘Cause I’m sure if I were plonked down in the middle of the Sahara I’d look around and think . . . ‘oh yeah . . . lake bed nearby,’ lick my finger and hold it up to pick a direction and then just start walking. NOT.

I truly loved Ely’s line here, which I said aloud just as he said it, “We’re in a desert!” So . . . do they send up the MiniMALP for a little aerial recon? No. They had to do the long, arduous trek (a la Ark of Truth) across the scary white desert. Awesome imagery, but . . . really long. It was weird. At one point Rush sat down and said “Take my water bottle and leave me.” And I thought, “Huh?” Why? I can’t really get a handle on him. They did some brief character building where he goes into his Icarus quarter, turns on some opera (okay, now where have I seen a scruffy, stoic older guy character who likes opera . . . hmmmm . . . where . . . oh, it’ll come to me, I’m sure), opens a drawer and pulls out a picture of him and a woman and he cries. Oh. Okay. He’s sad. I’m sure she’s dead. He (Rush) is really the O’Neil of Stargate (the movie). The nothing-left-to-live-for guy, I think. Unlike the O’Neil (one “l”) of the movie, however, he seems rather willing to bring everyone else along on his suicide mission. Selfish bastard.

The ship itself. I’m left wondering something really, really basic now. I thought it from the first moment they opened on the ship and began turning stuff on. If the ship is Ancient, then HOW THE HELL ARE THEY TURNING THINGS ON? TPTB worked really hard to establish that Jack (and later Shepherd and a few others) had the ATA gene that could activate Ancient tech. Does everyone who was on Icarus and now Destiny have this gene? Really? I thought it was kind of rare. This was a big jarring note for me. Rush just bopped around reading Ancient (including the Ancient countdown clock (oh, how I miss MacGuyver) and punching buttons.

Another thing about the ship is that Rush pops out with “this ship was built to be an unmanned ship that . . .” Really? So . . . why are there crew quarters with beds? And silky purple pillows? And lights? And corridors. And oxygen scrubbers? And windows? Just wondering. Oh, and a shuttle craft.

I was intrigued by the ending teaser and . . . as much as I’ve spoiled the episode I’m leaving that free. I liked it and it made me wonder.

I am sure more thoughts will occur to me when I see the show again, but for now I’m winding down. Overall . . . I’d give it a C, C+. Some parts were a definite A. On the SG1 (original cast side) Amanda’s performance was top notch, for the brief time we saw her. Perfect. (Hair a nice dark honey blonde, for those wondering). RDA is looking good, I think. I know he’s working to get fit again for SG1-3 and I thought he looked better here (tighter) than he did in Continuum. I wish to hell Major (why is he not a LtCol by now???) Davis was in the episode, and it was lovely to see Walter. Oh, and Shanks was in it too, but only as a video feed, so . . . eh. The new crew . . . we’ll see. Didn’t get to see much of Ming-Na, so I’ve not comment on her. There are some obvious redshirts who’ll be buying it soon and some who did so already.

I am looking forward to seeing more.

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2 Comments on “And Now For Something Completely Different…”

  1. Tammy says:

    Wonderful, wonderful review.

    -episode. So I took the night off from studying and have seen it in hi-def. Let me say before I begin that having two writers of similar personality sit and watch a screener is an experience.

    A damn amazing fun experience! I’ve not had that much fun critiquing an episode or three of anything ever:)

  2. Cags says:

    Oh Damn you POl. I was so trying not to spoil myself but the lure of someone like you writing a review… meh to staying surpised! (That and the fact I’d already read Tammy’s so a bit pointless trying to keep myself spoiler free and, in all honesty, I don’t care enough about staying spoiler free for this to not do it).

    *sigh*

    Yes, it’s true. I am a spoiler whore.

    Anyhoo, great review, thanks. Always good to see your thoughts. And Tammy’s too. I never expected any Sam Jackness in this so I’m not bothered or disapointed by that. Would have been lovely but oh well. In fact, by the sounds of it I am quite glad they don’t appeared to have overegged the “star cameo from previous series” pudding. IMO this is the new guy’s series and they deserve to have a chance to showcase what they can do.

    Thanks for taking time out of your busy life to do this.