Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taking A Look At Stargate Universe 1.0

Stargate SG-U: 1.0 [Blu-ray]There has recently been a DVD release of the first ten episodes of the most recent addition to the Stargate Tome, Stargate Universe. For some reason or another, the SyFy channel has put the show on the shelf for a few months here in North America (although there is talk that the show will be airing across the pond on the U.K.’s Sky channel before we get it over here). But that’s just talk.
Well, if you didn’t catch the first part of the first season and were thinking about getting this new DVD box set here are a few things you should expect.

The Battlestar Galactica Effect: No science fiction show can escape the influence of the 2003 reboot of the BSG miniseries and its subsequent TV show. That being said you can feel BSG in SGU, it’s in the bones of the show, its premises and its characters, even in the manner the show is shot.
The Crews Dynamic: No one is buddy buddy on the Destiny. Unlike the other Stargate series the crew that fills the roster of the Destiny Ship doesn’t get along very well together. There is a distinct separation of classes. There are the soldiers and the civilians and they don’t get along well.
Ancient Stones: The most important part of this show is its ability to take place in two different locations via Ancient Stones. These stones allow you to swap consciousness with another person’s body across the universe.
Good Special Effects: The special effects and locations for away missions look great and seem alien enough. Unlike what happened with both SG-1 and SGA, the former Stargate series, where every alien world looked way too much like British Columbia. How many worlds are full of cold, green and rainy forests?
Lou Diamond Philips: A very good supporting cast member, he is the only truly notable actor other than Richard Dean Anderson in the cast. It is nice that they use both Anderson’s and Philips’ characters sparingly, they make for a nice addition to episodes.

Highlights From SGU 1.0: (I Like To Spoil. So, Big Spoilers In The Following Section!)
The ‘Time’ Episode: The writers of the show did an excellent job with this episode. Time loop episodes are a mainstay for sci-fi shows but the way they make use of their Kino devices and how this episode ties into a previous one well. But by far the best part of the episode that features snakelike creatures that burst through their victims like something out of an Alien movie is the end; which unlike so many other time paradox episodes of sci-fi shows doesn’t complete the final and usually self-explanatory solution to the paradox.
The ‘Light’ Episode: In this episode the Destiny Ship is headed straight for a star in a solar system with no Stargate. This brings about an interesting moral dilemma where the overly altruistic representation of people Stargate usually has pups up and everyone would volunteer to stay behind and in some sweeping act of heroism the commanding officer makes the hard call and avoids any real dilemma over who lives and who dies. Instead, there is a lottery and the results of which are not well received by those left behind on the seemingly doomed Destiny. The reactions of the characters to their inevitable demise, is where the interesting part of this episode occurs. And even the people who were chosen to evacuate the ship aboard one of the ships shuttles were doomed to live out their lives on a rocky inhospitable planet which no real possibility of ever being rescued. There was a bleakness to this episode that really resonated and set the tone for the rest of the show (at least in my mind).
The ‘Justice’ Episode: A lot of the shows story comes to a head in this episode, which does make it an ideal point to break in the show’s shooting. In it there is a suspicious death aboard the ship and the highest ranking military officer on the ship Colonel Young is the main suspect. An expositive hearing is called and conducted by the civilian members of the crew. The climax of the episode and what turned out to be the first part of the series comes when after the cause of the death is revealed and Colonel Young makes a not-so-Stargatie kind of move and maroons an important member of the team on a planet with no supplies and little hope for escape.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Absolute Justice - Smallville Crosses The Line

Did anybody see the two hour special of Smalllville? It was a bit of a letdown, wasn’t it. Some people probably got a little excited when it was announced that Smallville would have a mini movie this season about the Justice League, or the older Justice League (which turned out to be the “Justice Society of America” or the J.S.A. for short). But it was somewhat disappointing in the end. There wasn’t any extra money put into it, so no great fights or special effects. There was probably less happening in this mini movie than in most one hour episodes. And the villain wasn’t exactly inspired. Having just one villain would be fine in a movie about bringing a team of superheroes together, but this guy was insulting to the viewers intelligence even when you don’t take show seriously. When the villain is a not so powerful short guy that throws icicles at people while dropping silly evil villain puns (let’s not forget the face glitter), it’s difficult to buy that he is the guy they can only take out together! This isn’t to say it was bad, just not as it should be.

Their real issue is the line they crossed. If the show does get a 10th season, it would not be good if they keep going in this direction. It had the feel, look and dialogue of a Saturday morning cartoon from 20 years ago. Wow, that’s campy. When they had the terrible idea to bring in Hawkman with his ridiculous costume, they crossed the line from an adult show about superheroes to power ranger territory. Granted, it’s difficult not to make these people look silly, but a guy with giant fake wings walking around is just too much. It’s a bit of a step backwards considering the serious, dark tone the show has been going for lately, which was working for it.

This was probably just a onetime thing, or maybe this is the beginning of a spinoff. Who knows? Smallville is still good though, and it was light on the transgressions and didn’t do anything you wouldn’t expect from the show. It’s still a much better show in its 9th season and better than it’s ever been, so we’ll let this one slide. But we will end with a warning to Smallville: don’t you dare go power ranger on us!