A group of soldiers, scientists and civilians, fleeing an attack, is stranded billions of miles from Earth on an Ancient ship known as the Destiny. Locked on an unknown course, they must fight to survive and find a way home. The danger, adventure and hope they find on board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.
If it isn''t already apparent that
Stargate Universe (a.k.a.
SGU) is not your big brother''s
Stargate, all doubt disappears when a Nick Drake sound-alike song called "Don''t Forget to Breathe" makes its way onto the soundtrack near the end of "Air," the three-episode pilot that unveils this new series. The stargate itself--an artificially created "wormhole" through which one can instantly travel to different worlds light-years away--is still around, but much else has changed. Gone, for the most part, are the rough-and-tumble adventures that were the specialty of
SGU''s popular predecessors. Gone, too, are insouciant but charismatic and intrepid leaders like
SG-1''s Col. Jack O''Neill (Richard Dean Anderson does make several cameo appearances in that role in the course of these 20 episodes, offered here on six discs) and
Atlantis''s Col. John Sheppard, along with such memorable and monstrous alien nemeses as the Goa''uld, the Wraith, and the Replicators. In their places, in addition to a new ongoing story line, is a rather less conventional approach, featuring a more minimalist vibe and an entirely fresh cast of earnest, intense, mostly youthful characters battling personal demons and complex interpersonal relationships (including some involving, gasp, gay couples), along with a myriad of technical issues more typical of sci-fi shows. Sprinkle in a few more sensitive tunes of the kind you''d encounter on a nighttime soap opera, and you''ve got what might be called the emo
If this all sounds very serious, well, these folks have a lot to be serious about. Very early on, the "Icarus Base" is under alien attack, forcing military and civilian personnel alike to escape through the stargate. They end up aboard Destiny, a massive ship that''s millions of years old and was once the property of the omniscient master race known as the Ancients. Not only do our characters barely know how to operate the ship, they also have no idea where they are, except that it''s billions of light-years from Earth. It''s the responsibility of the two main men, Col. Everett Young (Justin Louis) and scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle), to figure out how to get everyone home safely, a task that dominates the series'' overall arc. That dicey proposition is complicated considerably by ceaseless internecine conflict on the ship, much of it between soldiers and civilians (typified by Young and Rush, both of whom are self-righteous, utterly humorless, and not especially likable). Much of the action takes place on Destiny, but there are occasional excursions to various planets in search of water and other supplies; there are also trips to Earth made possible by magical "communication stones" that allow users to exchange bodies with folks on the other end. As is the case with many new programs, SGU takes a while to hit its stride, but when that happens about a third of the way into the season, the results are often quite exciting; SGU may not be as much fun as the earlier shows, but it''s still well written and entertaining, with excellent production values, good special effects, and some two hours'' worth of bonus material. --Sam Graham