I started rewatching SGU and actually found it to be a good show. When I first started watching it when it came out, I was finishing off the last season of SGA and so I was in the mood for more and was disappointed as hell. Especially with the Scottish actor who played Rush (mainly because I was CONVINCED he was american trying to replicate a british accent but then I saw him in some other movies and shows and was corrected).
But a few years later, I find the show positively refreshing. If I just remember that this is not a regular SG show, and take it on its own, it's pretty neat actually. It has a Dead Space-y feeling to it, slightly horror with a very dark feel. The struggle between military and non-military is VERY pronounced and now in less political ways and the absence of an overseeing authority just makes the conflicts that much more pronounced.
The show differs the other SG seasons drastically in that:
- it's less of a "one episode per story" and more of a mini-series
- you can definitely see an increase in budget, the sets, and everything else is better quality
- the show is DARKER, much darker than the others. Death is something you constantly deal with. You never know which of the characters you know will be permanently gone. In that, it's more of a survivalist show than a regular "star trekkian series" of exploration and a team of people we're familiar with.
- the interactions are no longer "team + alien" or "team + bureaucracy" but "people vs people" and "people vs environment". The relative close quarters creates interesting tension.
- there is never a "cavalry" that comes to the rescue.
- aliens play a lesser role, especially in the beginning.
- character archetypes present in the other series are gone.
We've already the entire setting of the show, and for those that have seen the entire series of SGA and SG, you'll notice SOME similarities but the "Ancients" technology is significantly different and has a darker, less refined feel to it to show how old it is. The great thing about this for new comers is that they can jump in right away and watch without having 15 seasons worth of background (10 seasons of SG and 5 of SGA).
So what are the BIGGEST downfalls to the show? In my eyes? The following:
- the absence of an all-likeable character. As much of a positive as that is, you end up hating everyone for one reason or another
- characters are not well explained, especially their background. When I first watched the series, I hated Rush, from the first episode, and so did everyone else. Watching it again made me realize that he's the only character you can trust to be a survivalist. I saw Eli originally as naive and socially stupid but watching it again, I've come to realize that rather than being "stupid", he's actually as ostracized as Rush, for no good reason other than "you're different than me". The rest of the characters (on second look) make more sense too. One character that I wanted to hit in the face at all times was Sgt. Greer but after second look, his violence is welcome and you find him to be another dependable character. Again, hard to like ANYONE on the show but on second look, you do start to like them.
- with a "stargate" in the title, people came to expect one thing. And they got something completely different. I think it's well possible the show would have been a greater success had it been a show of its own. However, with the prepend of "stargate", the stargate technology allowed the show to exist. Anyways, the show focused little to not at all on "stargates" and travel as was done before so this threw a lot of people off. The absence of the stereotypical SG team and the "hot-headed" leader, the "geeky" cowardly scientist, the hot strong woman, and an alien dude, was jarring at first. The characters are still there just less clear cut and more human.
From what I've read, the show mainly failed due to its air time move and the second season (I still haven't gotten there!).
The BIGGEST Upsides
Now, I feel like I've discussed just about everything so let me just summarize what I've come to LOVE about the show:
- a more realistic portrayal of survival. In past SG series and just about any sci-fi series, we're used to characters being half-dead and getting out okay. In SGU, people die. There's also no "backup". In SGA, SGC would sometimes send reinforcements or a ZPM out of nowhere. SGU lacks this. People are always at the brink of death.
- a more realistic character modeling. Instead of flat characters that don't really advance, you're met with a more realistic portrayal of human interaction. People that hate each other may share a meal, or help out because of necessity. You love and hate everyone from the minor characters to the major ones. They feel like REAL people.
- it's not a typical "stargate" show, nor is it a typical "sci-fi" show. Stargate was always a new version of "star trek" to me with some changes (namely Goa'uld) but the premise was the same. You explore, you have some major enemies, you make friends, you discover new tech etc. I loved the hell out of it. SGU dropped everything and came out with a unique story. Some said it's similar to Battlestar Galactica, and you could say that but the show feels still darker.
- the far re-movement from civilization and glimpse into the Ancients tech. I loved the whole mythology of stargate and I like this new aspect of it. We see how stargates were seeded first, and what the ancients were originally intending: having a big-ass network of stargates and travel everywhere and explore. It's a "what if the ancients did not ascend?" timeline and humans replace ancients. We also meet a new enemy. The ancients were pretty much a done topic in SGA and SG. They ascended, big whoop. That's it. Now, we see what COULD have happened. There's a hope within me of seeing humans extending that far and taking this endeavor as their own. And it makes me wonder how far the mythos can extend and what happened to the seeder ships!
- new cast. The old characters are kind of there, and whenever you see them, you feel like you're back in SG or SGA but when you come back to the ship, you're back in "reality" and it's no picnic. You still get the fresh Lt O'neill (as general) with his "do it, I don't care what it takes" archetype but then he's met with the new cast of "it's not that simple". And that's SGU. "It's not that simple", that's their answer to everything. We're no longer dealing with "blow it up!" and that works, or "it takes 5 hours? you have 5 minutes!" and a geologist all of a sudden cracks into a high-security computer. We're dealing with "It'll take 5 hours. May be more." and you know that's a normal estimate and they keep with it. A "blow it up!" mindset will get you into deeper shit.
I'm done with my rant.