Fox // 2010 // 880 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 19th, 2011
The Destiny continues its journey.
The Stargate TV shows -- the series based on or spun off of Roland Emmerich's popular 1994 movie Stargate -- seem to progress in half-lives: the original series, Stargate SG-1, ran for 10 seasons; its follow-up, Stargate Atlantis (which I reviewed for DVD Verdict and of which I became a big fan in the process) ran for five. Stargate Universe (or SGU as it is often called), the third and most recent series in the Stargate franchise, had its plug abruptly pulled in 2010 during its sophomore season, making Season Two of the show its last.
Now, the final 20 episodes of SGU arrive on DVD courtesy of Fox.
Here are the 20 episodes that make up SGU: Stargate Universe: The Complete Final Season (assume possible spoilers for elements of Season One):
* "Intervention (Part 3)"
Picking up where Season One left off, the crew of the Destiny continues to fight for control of the ship; T.J. (Alaina Huffman, Smallville) and her baby are returned to a planet they previously visited to be kept safe.
Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle, 28 Weeks Later) sends a shuttle to a planet without a working gate to replenish the dwindling supplies aboard the Destiny; a crew member is lost.
The crew of the Destiny encounters a ship identical to their own, but things are not exactly what they appear to be; Col. Young (Louis Ferreira, Shooter) continues to believe that the Lucian Alliance prisoners are a threat.
Eli (David Blue, The Comebacks) and Camile (Ming-Na, Push) return to Earth, one to tend to his sick mother, the other to visit her partner; Col. Young finally makes a decision regarding the Lucian Alliance; Lt. Scott (Brian J. Scott, Hate Crime)makes a discovery about Chloe (Elyse Levesque, Journey to the Center of the Earth).
Lt. Scott begins going through changes after being infected by a plant and has an elaborate dream about a kind of alternative-universe Destiny crew.
* "Trial and Error"
Col. Young receives some bad news on his most recent visit to Earth, beginning a series of dreams he interprets as visions; Eli makes a connection with a member of the Lucian Alliance.
* "The Greater Good"
Young and Dr. Rush find themselves stranded aboard an abandoned ship after boarding it to investigate; the truth about Dr. Rush's relationship with the Destiny is revealed.
An angry Dr. Rush sets off after the person who murdered a crew member aboard the Destiny.
The Destiny discovers one of its shuttles populated by passengers who had chosen to settle on a planet in the past, but no one has any memory of their time on that planet; Chloe's condition continues to get worse.
The Destiny investigates what might be signs of life, only to discover the wreckage of a battle -- but there's more there than they expect to find.
The Destiny comes under attack.
* "Twin Destinies"
With the Destiny in bad shape, Eli theorizes that he can dial Earth, much to the objections of Dr. Rush. However, the appearance of a mystery figure may provide the answers the crew needs.
Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker Smith, Halfway Decent) and Camile are stranded on Earth following an Alliance attack; Senator Michaels (Kathleen Quinlan, Event Horizon) and Dr. Covel (French Stewart, Love Stinks) arrive on the Destiny to determine the future of the ship's mission.
The Destiny remains in wait regarding the fate of Washington, having been cut off from Earth; Ginn (Julie McNiven, Supernatural) makes an unexpected return.
Dr. Rush becomes trapped in a virtual space while trying to spend time with Amanda Perry (Kathleen Munroe, Survival of the Dead); Homeworld Command attempts to negotiate the use of a gate with the Langarans. Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett, Splice) of Stargate Atlantis makes an appearance.
* "The Hunt"
The crew lands on a planet thinking they have found possible food, but find themselves being hunted by some sort of alien predator.
* "Common Descent"
The ship is attacked again; the crew encounters a group of people claiming to be the descendants of an alternate Destiny.
A Destiny shuttle lands on the planet Novus and finds a library detailing every bit of the alternate crew's history.
The ship is running dangerously low on fuel but can't come out of hyperspace for fear of another attack; most of the Destiny is evacuated to a nearby planet, where they find evidence of a past civilization.
The series concludes as Eli and Rush continue to try and find a way to defeat the drones that won't stop attacking; their solution may involve another three-year journey.
Poor Stargate Universe. It never really got off the ground. After a first season which drew a number of unfavorable comparisons to Battlestar Galactica (including from myself in a review of Season One), the show fumbled and struggled to find a distinctive voice and distinguish itself not just from previous Stargate series (which I would suggest it did), but from other science fiction series on TV (at which it was less successful). I was willing to cut the first season some slack; it was a growing period, and very few series nail it right out of the gate. By Season Two, though, the show needed to settle into something consistent and develop itself in a single direction, rather than continuing to try out a bunch of different stuff in the hopes that something would work.
As has always been the case with SGU, its best moments belong to the contentious relationship between Robert Carlyle's Dr. Rush (standing in for Lost in Space's Dr. Smith, it would seem) and Louis Ferreira's Colonel Young. There isn't necessarily a lot to the dynamic that we haven't already seen in countless other sci-fi movies and series -- even the Man of Science/Man of Faith dichotomy isn't really in play, because Dr. Rush somehow manages to be both -- but theirs are the two best performances on the show, and their characters the most well-drawn. Most of the supporting cast remains too stiff or, in the case of Eli, too one-note, and the writing staff doesn't appear to know what to do with a lot of them (in particular the females: Chloe, T.J. and Camile). There are developments that would be unforgivable if we were more invested in the characters; instead, they play more like tangents designed to test our patience. My favorite moments of Season Two were when David Hewlett made a guest appearance as Rodney McKay, mostly because it reminded me of how much I liked Stargate Atlantis. That show had terrific characters, a whole lot of humor and a sense of fun and adventure. Stargate Universe has none of that.
Like so many TV series -- especially the ones as flawed as this one -- watching Stargate Universe on DVD can actually help improve the quality of the show. It moves fairly quickly, with each episode leading into the next in a satisfying way (for the most part). More than that, though, is that while a number of individual shows are pretty lackluster, consuming them in large chunks helps you overcome much of the badness and leaves you with more of an overall picture of the show. If nothing else, a bad outing can quickly be forgotten by moving on the next episode to hopefully get the taste out.
First, the bad news. Fox has chosen not to release a Blu-ray of SGU: Stargate Universe -- The Complete Final Season in conjunction with this DVD; though the possibility exists for one in the future, it seems highly unlikely that we'll ever get the final 20 episodes of SGU in HD (this is especially problematic for those of us that own Season One on Blu-ray and also suffer from OCD, as it means many sleepless nights in the future, lying awake and obsessing over the fact that the two seasons of a show we're not even particularly crazy about don't match formats on our shelves). On a positive note, the DVDs are solid and ought to please any fans of the show that don't require medication. The 20 episodes are spread out over five discs, all presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The show is fairly drab by design, but the color palette is well represented and blacks are solid throughout. Things are a bit softer than they ought to be at times and some compression is visible, but there aren't any major issues to be found. It's a good-looking set.
The 5.1 surround audio track is equally serviceable, though hardly revolutionary. The dialogue is mostly audible in the front and center channel (though it requires cranking up the volume at times), and the action effects are lively and bass-heavy when needed. It lacks the immersiveness of the better audio tracks -- it never really feels like we're on board the Destiny with the rest of the crew -- but for a show that's already D.O.A., it's not bad. Speaking of being canceled already, I have to applaud the producers of this DVD set for not skimping on the special features, which would have been all too easy to do considering there aren't going to be any more episodes of the series. Every single one of the 20 shows comes with a commentary track from a revolving selection of cast and crew, offering production background, behind-the-scenes tidbits and a whole lot of enthusiasm for the finished product. At times, the tracks can be a little tedious (as is so often the case when large groups sit down to record a commentary together), but fans will likely want to savor everything that's said on all 20 commentaries. Also included are a whopping 20 featurettes, which break down various aspects of the production and, perhaps too often, focus on one-off scenes and trivia that don't really apply to the series as a whole. You'll get: "Robert Carlyle Directs," "Andy Mikita Directs," "Brian J. Smith's First Flight," "The Seed Ship with Joe Mallozzi," "Saying Goodbye to Sgt. Riley," "Lou Diamond Phillips on Guest Stars," "A Day in the Life of Jamil Walker Smith," "Louis Ferreira vs. Colonel Young," "Sitting Down with Mike Dopud," "Lt. Scott Gets Hit by a Car," "Inside Cloverdale with Brad Wright," "Eli's Mom Comes on Board," "Crashing a Shuttle," "How to Get Sucked Into Space," "SGU Welcomes You to New Mexico's Bisti Badlands," "Deconstructing Destiny," "Transplant Day," "Bringing the Bridge to Life," "Pitches: A Journey of Friendship and Discovery" and, finally, "Behind the Season Two Finale: 'Gauntlet'." Phew.
With Stargate Universe already off the air, it's difficult to recommend The Complete Final Season to anyone other than those that already started watching the show and want to see how things play out (though you shouldn't expect a definitive conclusion). I wish the second season had been more satisfying overall -- many of the pieces were in place -- but SGU never really decides just what kind of show it wants to be. The tone is pretty consistent -- it's all grim and moody and dark (another of the series' problems, if you ask me) -- but it keeps failing to commit to any strong central idea. It's as though the only idea for making a new Stargate series in the first place was to capitalize on the popularity of Battlestar Galactica; when that bluff was called fairly on, the show never figured out a new place to go. It's hard to say whether or not the series would have found its way eventually (there are indications that it could), but SGU is proof positive that you can only tread water for so long before sinking.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 880 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Official Site