Monday, December 7, 2009

TV Review, Stargate Universe: Clearly Cylon In Its Design

Stargate Universe, highly anticipated and eagerly awaited, did not disappoint in its first episode full of gate-dialing, alien attacks, artistic jumps in time to keep suspense, cameos by its predecessor's more famous members, and the obligatory newcomer who got to experience the awe of the Stargate for the first time. The characters were each given brief outlines - a flittering suggestion of their problems - and that's okay, because a first episode should tease and not over-saturate. The hectic mayhem, liberal use of shaky-cam, and moral dilemmas of a people trapped on the run relate easily to the need to seduce those mourning Battlestar Galatica fans.

On a whole, these aren't bad things. However, ten episodes in and this sequel series seems to be missing some sci to its fi. There's been, arguably, two to three alien encounters and very little visible dialing of the gate - because of the ship suffering from power failures. Destiny, itself, is gorgeous but also underused. There's one man (well, not anymore) who knows how to function it in the slightest, and he spends most of the time in front of the same console battling a language we don't get to read. The premise is not terrible, but the lack of exploration and discovery is beginning to wear against its panic-of-the-week. Or, as some say, "What Are We Out of This Time". The argument isn't that people in this situation wouldn't butt heads as much as they are on SGU, merely that sucking the camp out of the show makes it lose the flavor of its namesake.

Of course, this isn't the same show, and it's battling bringing in people who have never wanted to watch the previous Stargates. The turmoil is real, the relationships thick and interesting; there's just an itch to know more and more about the alien part of the universe. On the flip side, the fact that every episode isn't treated as stand-alone is appreciated. Older Stargate episodes started to feel like nobody ever learned from what had happened previously-- Oh my, why is Daniel Jackson acting so crazy? Could it be.. because he's been infected by an alien parasite like has happened to us numerous times before? Naah, he must just be crazy! -- yeah, it happened.

Concerns aside, SGU is visually wonderful to watch, emotionally stressing (mostly in the good way!), and full of brimming possibilities that will hopefully get cracked out further in January after a very game-making move in this mid-season finale. Its return is definitely greatly anticipated.

Stand-Out Character: Dr. Nicholas Rush

There are many who would disagree with this purely on the standpoint that Rush is a nasty, underhanded man only out for his own intellectual gain, damn anyone in the way. This is only complimentary. Dr. Nicholas Rush is a fully-actualized, living, breathing, decision-making force on SGU - which is not just a little credit, of course, to his portrayer, Robert Carlyle. As the antithesis to Col. Young's straight-up, leave no man behind bravado, Rush must represent a perhaps less likable but occasionally more practical viewpoint. He is very much the "for the greater good" believer, calculating his every move not to cause harm to others but merely to nudge them in the right direction - his direction.

An argument once went that Rush's distasteful behavior in the opening episode made him a presence to dislike. And it's true, it'd be easy to hate him. But that doesn't make him a bad character. Even the first episode pointed to several moments of emotional vulnerability, making him instantly the most fleshed out, and potentially the most interesting simply for his suggested depth. Current episodes seem to be aiming towards his animosity with Young growing into something potentially more dangerous for both of them... however, there is some glimmer of chance that this much antagonism in the beginning could point towards an epic redeeming act further down the line. The deeper one digs himself, the more sacrificial the twist later on.

Only continued watching will unlock this dastardly doctor's true potential, as long as SGU keeps aiming true.

Struggling Character: It's a toss-up.

They conveniently took a photo-shoot of just the people I was looking for. It's almost like someone knew. The fact that several characters are listed as "struggling" is not a testament to the show being bad, itself, but just that it's suffering slowly under more characters than it seems to want to deal with. Then again, this is only mid-season. The show hasn't even reached its whole creative peak yet - so these concerns are vented with caution, and understanding that they could be blown out of the water by even the next episode.

Greer (far right) suffers in that he hasn't had an episode focusing on himself yet, but each episode should be able to reveal at least one new thing about its cast, and so far he hasn't done anything to really bring him out of his stereotype. Scott (pictured far left) is the least in danger, but his dizzying-ly fast hook-up with Chloe (just right of him) has relegated her to mere make-out status when her emotional issues over her father and career should have given her so much more to do than lip-lock. As for Tamara (second from the right)... well, who is she? Besides patching up people and feeling bad, she has very little to contribute so far. It hasn't been yet that anyone of them are badly written, only that they haven't been exposed enough; the characters are all primed. Excited to see when they get to put their best foot forward again.

Eli Wallace (pictured middle) is, naturally, supposed to be the viewer's "in", as the youngest, most clueless member who gets to ask the obvious questions so people who don't know the world can get some idea. He's also a math whiz. Mostly, we see him as Kino-Operating Expert - which gets him in trouble with people more often than not. (Kinos are like floating video-cameras, allowing him to constantly vlog about his depressing circumstances for posterity) As a character, he isn't terrible. He isn't even bad; it's just a sort of "waiting in the wings" thing. He cracks jokes and makes lol references to sci-fi movies that none of the hardcore military elite understand; he's the everyman.

Except.. he's got more to do. He's supposed to be an intellectual and moral baseline for 1) the aforementioned military elite who do everything their way, and 2) the uppity and questionably sane Dr. Rush. But he's been frequently left out of the scientific debates now, and his relationship with Rush seems to have stalemated for the purposes of pitting Rush against Young instead. It's this viewer's opinion that he could be better utilized than just as a punchline, and there's hope to see him come into his own in the future. Him turning to the older intellectual and spouting "... Well, you are [crazy]"? More moments like that, please. (Although recent episodes may make that slightly more difficult...)

So far, no one seems to be a lost cause - it helps that all of the actors are splendid, making the most of the melodrama, and that SGU is really just gearing up and could easily jump every one of these hurdles with the rest of its season. More power to it!

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