The Stargate franchise has been around for many years. Stargate: SG1 has over 200 episodes and holds the title for the longest running science fiction series. Pretty good bragging rights for a sci-fi series that is considered by many fans as sci-fi fluff! It was of course followed by Stargate: Atlantis, which didn’t have quite the same success as its parent show but still went a respectable five seasons, and has a legion of fans all its own.
In a somewhat bizarre move, the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) decided to cancel the series (though further movies are planned) and instead a new series set in the Stargate universe was greenlit, aptly titled Stargate Universe. The series follows a team of soldiers and scientists who are trapped aboard an Ancient ship called the Destiny, unable to get back to Earth, but able to visit other planets when the ship comes into range of other stargates. The show was pitched as being a more mature show, which would also be “more expensive.”
What is known about the series and what we can see from the previews is that this is a vastly different series from the previous two shows. In fact, with its gritty set pieces and adult themes, not to mention the handheld, documentary style filming, many have speculated that the series will be less Stargate and more Battlestar Galactica; never mind the obvious comparisons to Star Trek: Voyager!
Is this such a good thing? On the up side, while the characters in the previous two series were endearing, there were more than a few episodes that were light on plot. The good guys always seemed to win and there were more than a few situations, which got easily resolved within the 42 minute storytelling format. Then there was the sci-fi clichés such as the parallel universe, or the one where they turn into old people. Stargate always had good story arcs but maybe this new format will also show us stronger, tighter stories. A grittier series will also hopefully translate into more believable alien worlds, instead of each world conveniently looking like Vancouver.
The downside to me is that I’ll miss the characters. I don’t know that you could realistically have an O’Neill or a McKay in a BSG environment without seriously taking away their humour. Moreover, their humour (particularly in the face of danger) is a big reason why these characters are important to me.
On a different note, I also have to wonder whether the world needs another BSG. Creating another successful series like the reimagned BSG is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. While I am not the massive fan of BSG that many are, I recognize that a big part of the success of the series lay in the timing. From September 11 to waterboarding, the writers of BSG tapped into the psyche of a nation. Given that aside from Stargate, BSG was SyFy’s most successful series, I can understand the desire to create another series like that. However, in this post-George Bush world, I find myself wondering whether the themes in BSG are still relevant, and even if they are, can Stargate Universe grab hold of that lightning? I guess only time will tell…