Let me start with this: I loved the original Stargate. I saw it in theatres (thus beginning my crush on James Spader). I bought it when it came out on VHS — something I rarely do. I’ll spend far more money than I ought to on books without batting an eyelash, but buy a movie? That’s a rarity. So much did I enjoy the movie that when they released the special edition on DVD, I acquired that, too.
When Stargate: SG-1 started airing on Showtime, I devoured the first few seasons, even though I wasn’t sure about Michael Shanks taking over the part of Daniel (don’t worry, I warmed to him right quick.)
I lost touch with it after a while. Something shifted, not with the show but with me, though I couldn’t tell you what it was precisely. My guess is that it started airing on a different night or time. It first aired in July of 1997, which was the first summer Greg and I were dating. It was also that summer that I started gaming with Greg and his friends. After the bookstore closed, we’d all gather and save the world from Technocs and Nephandi, and I was notoriously bad about setting the VCR to record.
So, y’know, I know I’ve missed a ton of story. I knew SGU was coming, because the awesome John Scalzi was brought on as a creative consultant and has talked it up on his blog. Greg watched the pilot before I did, and to demonstrate just how much story I’ve missed, when he started talking about the characters encoding nine chevrons I asked if he was sure of that. Since we all know from the movie that the Stargate takes seven symbols to create a wormhole.
Yes, he told me, but we’ve learned it can take eight symbols, too. I boggled.
That’s how behind I am on my Stargate lore.
So I’ve queued up the Stargate Universe pilot on Hulu and watched it in bits and pieces over the last week or two and finally finished it today.
I really dug it.
It’s darker so far than SG-1 was in those first few seasons, but I’m fine with that. I’m a fan of dark. The pilot does very well with catching newcomers to the story (and lapsed viewers) up to speed without infodumping all over us.
Gamer geek, Eli, is a perfect choice for a guide: we follow his introduction to the Stargate program and learn the things we need to know right along with him. It’s a nice way to avoid excessive exposition. He asks a question, someone gives him the nutshell-sized answer, and it’s just enough. Late in the pilot, for example, Dr. Rush (who we’ll come back to in a minute) mentions that the Ancients who built the Stargates and the ship they’ve found themselves trapped on had discovered “ascension.” Eli, of course, has no idea what he’s talking about. Rush lays down in about three sentences, even though I’m guessing its reveal must have been the plot point of at least one SG-1 arc.
Dr. Rush is, so far, my favorite character. Shut up, it’s not just the accent. I get the sense he’s going to be a bit Baltar-like, though with less selfishness (or at least, not manifesting in the same way.) I believed his speech to Chloe begging for her trust more than I ever would have believed it coming from the mouth of Gaius Baltar. Is he manipulative? Oh, I’m pretty sure he is, and I know I might be buying into exactly what the writers want me to, but during that plea, I was convinced that he meant every word he said.
There were some bits that felt a bit cookie-cutter for me, but I was engaged enough in the story that I’ll trust the writers to challenge those perceptions before long. Eli’s a perfect example: we meet him playing a video game and solving a puzzle he’s been working at in the game for two months. He’s pudgy, which I’m unsure whether to cheer on (“Hey look! Not everyone on TV has to have perfect abs to be a likeable character!”) or groan about (“LOL gamers are fat! He probably survives on Cheetos and Mountain Dew har har har”). So far, they’ve played up his geekiness as awkward and a bit naive, but he’s not a complete dumbass. I think he’s going to prove one to be of the characters that keeps the others (Dr. Rush, the soldiers) grounded and reminds them that they’re human beings before they’re scientists or military men.
Most of the characters they’ve focused on so far are male, which I’m not terribly happy about, but I’m also willing to give the writers a bit more time on that, too. I’m hoping that Chloe Armstrong and Tamara Johansen play bigger roles in upcoming episdoes. It seems to be where they’re heading with Chloe, at least, and since Tamara’s the only medic they have, she’s going to be needed a lot more before the season’s out.
I won’t go so far as to say it’s my new BSG; that’s going to take a lot to top. However, I admit that I was a bit pouty when my lunch hour ended. I wanted to go straight into the second episode. This has potential.