Judge Patrick Bromley can't wait for them to make Stargate: Des Moines.
Our reviews of Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season (published December 27th, 2010), Stargate Universe: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray) (published October 21st, 2010), Stargate Universe 1.0 (Blu-Ray) (published February 26th, 2010), and Stargate Universe 1.5 (Blu-Ray) (published August 5th, 2010) are also available.
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.
Facts of the Case
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)"
• "Trial and Error"
• "The Greater Good"
• "Twin Destinies"
• "The Hunt"
• "Common Descent"
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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