I’ve watched all five episodes of Stargate Universe so far. The show has bad acting, bad characterizations, racist, sexist, & stereotypical characters, and bad writing. So why the hell am I watching? Because it has its moments. Like the scene where they aerobrake against a blue gas giant. The observation deck is one of the most beautiful science fictional renderings I have yet seen on TV. And Eli, the bumbling MIT dropout, though I’ve seen a thousand characters like him before, is redeemed by his on-screen schtick and charm.
The show also borrows heavily from Battlestar Galactica (some might say steal). Both have a British-accented genius of questionable moral character responsible for the fate of everyone on board. Both have a stoic captain forced to make the hard decisions. Both are, incidentally, trying to get back to Earth. And both shows are scored with ethereal and classical music. And this last fact has pushed me in the direction of liking the show, if only because the music combined with the visuals are striking, so that I care less about the characters and more about where they are going. Its like Farscape, but without Muppets (which, incidentally, I liked).
But its flaws are myriad. The pacing is god-awful, which may be a carryover from the other two series, which were so slow moving I never watched them. The characters all seem like cardboard cutouts to me. And how do we get to know them? Through a video-blog Eli is creating as a record of their journey. Maybe the writers thought this would bring in the high-school demographic, the kind that post their daily gripes to Youtube. But it’s a cheap way to build character, and mostly ineffective, as half of these characters we see are never shown again on camera in the first five episodes. How about using some drama to build characters?
And the sexism and racism. Consider that the only main black character we have seen so far, Ronald Greer, also happens to be a criminal who was first introduced to us from jail (he is also seen stealing food in a later episode). There are several black characters on the ship, so why does the only one we meet have to be a criminal? (At one point he says, in Eli’s video blog, that hurtling into the sun would be a great way to die. “Going out in a blaze of glory.” Christ almighty, can someone push the cliche button?) And the heart-throb, Chloe, cries hysterically when her father dies, then inexplicably sleeps with the callow soldier, Matthew Scott. (Wait, they were in a relationship? That must have been happening while Eli was filming his blog.) And then, moments later, when Matthew is sent hurtling away from the ship to another planet to die, she cuddles with Eli. Seriously, you could almost hear her saying, “Hold me, strong man, for I am fragile woman.” Ugh. Eli is the mathematical genius. Chloe is the…sex object? Christ, how hard would it be to give her character some strength, wit, or intelligence? She is the senator’s daughter after all. Instead, she’s the cute one.
Let’s not get started on the captain, who decides, when his crew is in mortal danger, to use a body-swapping device to travel back to Earth, get in a car, drive who knows how far from the military base, to his wife’s house in the suburbs, to tell her he probably won’t be coming home. It’s supposed to make him human, this moment of weakness, but it made me cringe thinking that this man who everyone is supposed to rely on took a personal day in the middle of a crisis. Captain Adama he is not.
But I suspect, that in spite of these flaws, I’ll keep watching, perhaps for the stellar vistas, or the music, or to see if they can inspsire another blog post or two.