MGM // 2009 // 874 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // December 27th, 2010
"You put ordinary people under enough stress, I think you'll find they're capable of just about anything." -- Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty)
The Stargate franchise resurfaced again in 2009 with the premiere of Stargate Universe, the third spin-off from the original film. How many times can you go back to the well with the same concept that involves a relatively boring wormhole donut?
An unlikely group of people enter a stargate as their only means of surviving an alien attack. On the other side of the gate, they find themselves aboard an ancient alien spaceship with a pre-set and unknown course. With relatively little idea of where they are and tensions mounting between military and civilian personnel, how long can this little band of castaways keep it together?
All 20 episodes of Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season are included with this release, spread over six discs as follows:
* "Air, Part 1"
* "Air, Part 2"
* "Air, Part 3"
* "Air...Extended Version"
* "Incursion, Part 1"
* "Incursion, Part 2"
True confession time: aside from the 1994 MGM/Carolco film created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, I've seen maybe 10 minutes of anything else Stargate until now. You may think that instantly disqualifies me for this review, but I'd argue that my untainted perspective just might be the perfect fit to explore a new story that has very little to do with either of its predecessors, Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis. There are a lot of critics of the original film out there, but I'm not ashamed to say that I really enjoy it and have watched it many times since its debut. It may have been the relatively fresh take the film made on Swiss author Erich von Däniken's ideas that aliens visited our ancient ancestors and helped them develop wonders such as the Egyptian pyramids, or the fact that it was just a cool sci-fi romp. Whatever the reason, Stargate worked, and was welcomed with open arms by me and other geeks around the world.
It's a tribute to the staying power of a concept that it can go on to inspire so many other incarnations, including three TV spin-offs. I'm not sure why I never got into either of the other two series, but for some reason Stargate Universe caught my attention. As I recall, it may have been the fact that Robert Carlyle and Ming Na (Mulan), two of my favorite actors, were announced as key members of the cast early on. There are a lot of familiar story elements with SGU, aside from the nods to characters and elements of the original film and the two other series that preceded it: a group of strangers thrown together in unsure circumstances (Lost or Gilligan's Island anyone?) and a spaceship thrown to the far reaches of the universe with a nearly incomprehensible distance to travel to get home (does Star Trek: Voyager sound familiar?) just to name two. But even though some of the plot and concept elements are familiar, and some of the characters seem to be stereotypes at first glance, it only took a few episodes for me to begin to really enjoy Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season and feel compelled to watch episode after episode.
SGU features a strong ensemble cast that, while anchored by familiar names like Robert Carlyle, Ming Na and Canadian actor Louis Ferreira (Missing), boasts other actors who pull their weight and hold their own nicely. Strong actors are fine and dandy, but without skilled writers behind them to generate meaningful scenes, create memorable dialog and compelling drama, it's all for naught. Fortunately the producers seem to understand that good writing is the foundation of all compelling television, and is vital for a series to build any momentum, and SGU has that in spades. SGU is a fantastic blend of drama and conflict, romance and sex appeal, action and humor, with just a dash of familiar pop culture references here and there to sweeten the flavor. Almost immediately, it became clear with SGU that this series wasn't just about the stargate again; this was a new series with a whole new perspective on a familiar concept. To add to the familiarity factor, composer Joel Goldmsith, who created the themes and score for both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, brings his ample skills to bear on SGU as well.
Originally released in the half-season versions we've seen before with other series, Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season makes it way to DVD as a solid full-season package. It's hard to rate the visual presentation as the hand-held and stylized nature of much of the footage makes that difficult. Suffice it to say that what you'll get with this release is likely very similar to what you saw on TV when the episodes originally aired. The audio mix is solid and well-balanced, making good use of the surround channels and lower register when appropriate, without distracting from the score, music and dialog.
MGM has done an admirable job compiling a solid assortment of extra features on this release that should please both hardcore franchise fans and newcomers alike. First off, commentaries are included for every episode; yes, every one. The tracks are mostly entertaining, but tend to focus more on fluffier content and screen-specific chatter than anything really substantial. A series of featurettes called "Kino Video Diaries" are included on all six discs and another group called "Destiny SML (Star Map and Log)" are included on discs two through six. Between the two, they cover everything from visual effects to actor interviews, behind-the-scenes snippets and a decent amount of other content that will keep viewers occupied for a few additional hours.
Here we go again! No sooner do I invest in a new series, than I find out some pencil-pusher has decided to cancel it! Yes folks, it was recently announced that Stargate Universe will fade into the sunset after the show wraps its second season. With that in mind, enjoy the series while you can.
Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season is an engaging introduction to an intriguing new sci-fi series that remains faithful to its franchise, without leaning too heavily on what has come before.
SGU: Not guilty. MGM? Get me a rope!
Review content copyright © 2010 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 874 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Episode
* Official Site