The Stargate Universe screen logo
|Genre||Military science fiction|
|Created by||Brad Wright|
Robert C. Cooper
Brian J. Smith
Jamil Walker Smith
|Theme music composer||Joel Goldsmith|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||40|
|List of episodes|
|Executive producer(s)||Brad Wright (1-2)|
Robert C. Cooper (1-2)
Joseph Mallozzi (2)
Paul Mullie (2)
Carl Binder (1-2)
|Running time||43 minutes|
|Production company(s)||MGM Television|
|Picture format||16:9 (TV, DVD, Blu-ray)|
|Original run||October 2, 2009 – May 9, 2011|
|Related shows||Stargate SG-1|
Stargate Universe (often abbreviated as SGU) is a Canadian-American military science fiction television series and part of MGM's Stargate franchise. It follows the adventures of a present-day, multinational exploration team traveling on the Ancient spaceship Destiny many millions of light years distant from the Milky Way Galaxy. They evacuated there and are now trying to figure out a way to return to Earth, while simultaneously trying to explore and to survive in their unknown area of the universe. The series, created by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, premiered in the United States on Syfy on October 2, 2009. The series featured an ensemble cast and was primarily filmed in and around Vancouver, BC, Canada. A second season of 20 episodes was announced by Syfy in December 2009. The first 10 episodes of the second season were aired in the United States beginning on September 28, 2010, and the final 10 were shown beginning on March 7, 2011. Syfy announced on December 16, 2010 that it would not be picking up Stargate Universe for a third season. The second season of SGU ended as a semi-cliffhanger. To resolve this, a movie was planned; however, due to timing constraints, Stargate writer and executive producer Brad Wright announced on April 17, 2011 that the SGU movie had been cancelled.
- Robert Carlyle as Nicholas Rush – The "ship's brilliant Machiavellian scientist" whom producer Joseph Mallozzi had first mentioned in his blog in mid-November 2008 as Dr. David Rush. The ship's crew believe Rush to be losing his mind, but he does things for a reason. Carlyle explained in an interview that after Rush lost his wife to cancer, he became driven by the opportunity to explore the galaxy. Mallozzi rectified casting reports in mid-December 2008 that Rush "is not the leader of the unplanned expedition. That honor falls to Colonel Everett Young. For now. But things could have a way of changing on board a ship manned by a disparate group with very different agendas...". Although a confirmed main character, Rush was not included in the initial casting character breakdowns. Wright and Cooper intended the character to be very different from any previous main characters in the Stargate franchise, "somebody who is not the hero, not the villain, and more of a very flawed and complex person". About a year before being cast, Scottish actor Robert Carlyle wanted to try something new in his career and approached television companies in Los Angeles. They offered him several parts, but Stargate Universe had the greatest appeal to him as "suddenly a drama [was] opening up in space, [and] in the past that was something that was slightly missing from the genre". He was aware of the success of the Stargate franchise and had seen "quite a bit of SG-1, plus a bunch of Atlantis". Carlyle accepted the role because of Wright and Cooper's take on the drama and direction of the show, and he was "more than prepared" to play the character for possibly many years. Carlyle kept his Scottish accent for the role.
- Louis Ferreira as Everett Young – Described in the initial character breakdown as a "handsome, capable, former SG team leader" in his 40s who holds the rank of Colonel. He is "like the Jack O'Neill of ten years ago" yet has sharper edges. At the beginning of Stargate Universe, he has been married for approximately five years and is the temporary commander of a secret off-world base. Young is Rush's nemesis on the ship.
- Brian J. Smith as Matthew Scott – A 26-year-old skilled and well-trained Airman and junior SGC member holding the rank of First Lieutenant. He is "mentally unprepared for the urgency of the situation" aboard the ship. He was named Jared Nash in the initial casting call. Before being cast, Brian J. Smith had been working as a stage actor in New York for a year and a half. Smith taped his Stargate Universe audition and was invited to a screen test in Los Angeles. He received the news of being cast a few days after the screen test. He prepared for the role by doing military research. He had not seen the Stargate TV series before being cast, but caught up with much of SG-1 afterwards.
- Elyse Levesque as Chloe Armstrong – She is a "stunning and sexy" daughter of a US Senator, 23 years old, whose character is tested "after her father's tragic death and the dire circumstances of being trapped on a spaceship". Her father (played by Christopher McDonald) had political oversight over the Stargate project trying to dial the ninth chevron. Before the producers settled on the final name, the character was named Chloe Carpenter and Chloe Walker. Levesque's "wonderfully nuanced audition" convinced the producers to cast her, as she demonstrated an "impressive range in two very different [and] demanding scenes."
- David Blue as Eli Wallace – Named Eli Hitchcock in the casting call, Eli Wallace is a "total slacker" in his early twenties and an "utter genius" in mathematics, computers and other fields. He is a social outcast with an "acerbic sense of humor", and lacks confidence in his intelligence. The character breakdown compares him to "Matt Damon's character from Good Will Hunting with a little Jack Black thrown in". He was the main source of comic relief in the show. David Blue, a self-declared fan of the science fiction series, has seen all SG-1 and Atlantis episodes.
- Alaina Huffman as Tamara Johansen – Named Tamara Jon in the character breakdown, she is an SGC medic in her mid-twenties with off-world experience and the rank of First Lieutenant. Friends call her "T.J." She finds herself the most medically experienced person aboard the ship after the death of the Icarus Base doctor in the pilot episode "Air" (according to co-creator Robert C. Cooper). She has a modest background, yet is "beautiful, tough, smart and capable", but also has a secretive past with another member of the Destiny's new crew. At the beginning of the series, she is overwhelmed by the lack of medical knowledge, experience, medicines, and supplies aboard the ship. Mallozzi considered Huffman's audition in December 2008 "so good that, quite frankly, we would've been crazy not to cast her".
- Jamil Walker Smith as Ronald Greer – In early casting documents named Ron "Psycho" Stasiak, Ronald Greer is a "big, strong, silent" Marine with a mysterious past who lacks control over his temper in non-combat situations. The character breakdown compares him to Eric Bana's character "Hoot" in Black Hawk Down. His rank is Master Sergeant.
- Ming-Na as Camile Wray – Camile Wray is the first openly gay character in the Stargate franchise. She is the IOA representative on Destiny and supports civilian leadership on the ship. Ming-Na was credited as a regular character in the first two episodes. She was downgraded to a recurring character from then on until the episode "Justice", in which she returned and continued as a regular character.
Stargate producers Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper conceived Stargate Universe as "a completely separate, third entity" in the live-action Stargate franchise – as opposed to Stargate Atlantis, which was created as a spin-off from the first series Stargate SG-1. They wanted to produce a stylistically and totally different TV series with a more mature and fresh story approach so as not to get too repetitive. Wright and Cooper originally planned to write the pilot script for Stargate Universe during the summer of 2007, making a 2008 premiere possible. Since their ambitions with the previous live-action Stargate series were often restricted by the low budget and risked coming across as silly, they pitched the show as "an expensive series" to the Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) in the last quarter of 2007. Although the pitch was well-received, the project was put on hold because of the on-going work on Stargate Atlantis and Stargate: Continuum, and the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. The series was given the official greenlight for a 2009 debut by Syfy on August 22, 2008, shortly after the cancellation of Stargate Atlantis had been announced. Joseph Mallozzi explained that a new series would have lower salaries and licensing fees than a new sixth season of Atlantis would have had. MGM co-funded the project. According to co-star Robert Carlyle, each episode had a budget of $2 million US dollars.
Brad Wright pitched the series and its first five episodes to the Stargate Atlantis writers and producers in mid-September 2008. Wright, Cooper, and Carl Binder produce the show, while Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie serve as writers and consultant producers. Stargate Atlantis writers Martin Gero and Alan McCullough contribute scripts, but are not part of the regular writer staff. New writers were initially sought for freelance scripts and possible staff positions. Author John Scalzi was hired as a creative consultant, "a background rather than foreground sort of job". Most of the Stargate Atlantis crew, such as stunt coordinator James Bamford and composer Joel Goldsmith, have moved over to Universe.
Short character breakdowns for the series regulars (created for casting calls) leaked on the internet on September 17, 2008. Joseph Mallozzi explained the largely negative initial fan reaction as a passionate response to the preceding cancellation announcement of Atlantis. Brad Wright dismissed negative comments as a sole reaction to the wording of the network; character breakdowns are written to aid casting directors and agents in the selection process, and "always sound shallow, and if they're written to appear 'deep' it's just ridiculous". Robert C. Cooper replied to concerns of young age that the SG-1 cast was also quite young in their first season. The producers were "looking for people who are a little more identifiable and contemporary," with an "everyman on the street point of view" after being challenged by the situation. Martin Gero considered Stargate Universe as an ensemble show, more than the previous two Stargate live-action series were.
Auditions were held in Los Angeles. The producers were looking for well-known names for the lead roles, but intended to mostly cast "either new faces, or people you've seen in other stuff but maybe aren't as aware of". BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor Robert Carlyle was the first announced series regular in mid-December 2008. The casting of Louis Ferreira, David Blue, Brian J. Smith, and Jamil Walker Smith as series regulars was announced in mid-January 2009. The casting of Alaina Huffman and Elyse Levesque was announced in late February 2009, along with other actors whose status as regular or recurring cast has not been established. The cast is American (Blue, B. Smith, J. Smith, Ming-Na), Canadian (Ferreira, Levesque, and Huffman) and Scottish (Carlyle).
Writing and filming
The writers started drafting stories for the first season in mid-November 2008. The United States Air Force and Marine Corps reviewed the scripts. The projected film start of Stargate Universe was initially slated for February 4, 2009, but was moved to February 18, 2009. The show is filmed on stages 2, 4 (Destiny set) and 5 (Icarus Base set) at The Bridge Studios  (SG-1 and Atlantis had been filmed at stages 5 and 6)  and on location in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. "Air (Part 3)" was filmed in and around Alamogordo, New Mexico from late April through early May 2009. Stargate Universe will show computer-generated worlds filmed in digital sets. Stargate Universe will have a markedly different shooting style for more reality and immediacy with inspiration from Cloverfield, as if "a documentary crew were to ride along on this adventure to outer space".
Sci Fi Wire published concept art of the Destiny in October 2008. The first promotional picture of the cast (out of costume and in casual clothing) was released on March 20, 2009. The same day, Syfy began airing thirty-second trailers of Universe, showing various clips of the Universe team aboard the ship and the SG·U Stargate with the first visual effects. MGM revealed its revamped Stargate Universe website on July 8 with an interactive virtual set tour of the Destiny, interviews with the cast, character profiles and videos. Joseph Mallozzi began posting concept art and behind-the-scenes photos of the SGU set on his blog afterwards. Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and most members of the main cast appeared at an SGU panel at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 24, 2009. Behind-the-scenes material is shot for future online and DVD use.
Premise and themes
Stargate Universe is set on the spaceship Destiny, which was launched by the race known as the Ancients from our galaxy several hundred thousand years ago. Several ships were sent ahead of it to seed the universe with Stargates. The Ancients had planned on using its Stargate to board Destiny when it was far enough out into the universe, but they eventually abandoned the project after looking into ascension among other things. In order to reach this ship, an address would have to be dialed consisting of nine chevrons, a possibility that had been unknown in the previous Stargate series, due to energy constraints.
The series begins when a team of soldiers and scientists from present-day Earth escape through the Stargate and arrive on the Destiny after their base is attacked. Many of its primary systems are damaged or failing, and they are unable to return to Earth or even maneuver the ship. However, the Destiny periodically stops to dial the Stargate to planets with necessary supplies to repair the ship, and sustain human life. The writers have discussed the possibility that each season represents a voyage of the Destiny through a different galaxy.
Stargate Universe is intended to appeal to both veteran fans and newcomers, being firmly entrenched in established Stargate mythology without relying on it too often. It retains the familiar Stargate themes of adventure and exploration, but focuses mostly on the people aboard the ship. SGU is also more serialized than its predecessors, although the writers attempted to resolve each character story within the episode. There was a conscious effort to avoid making SGU too serialized, with the serialization stemming mainly from character development. The industry described the show with the buzzwords "dark and edgy". According to Robert C. Cooper, the essence of the story is "that sort of fear and terror of a tragedy combined with the sense that there is hope for us in the basic ways in which human beings survive". The planned increased levels of drama are balanced with humor to avoid pretentiousness. The differences between good and evil are meant to be less apparent, as the ship is populated with flawed and unprepared characters who are not supposed to go there. According to Brad Wright, the show should "hopefully explor[e] the truly alien, and [avoid] the rubber faced English-speaking one[s]". There are aliens, but not a single dominant villain race like SG-1's Goa'uld and Atlantis' Wraith.
Awards and nominations
The episode "Time" won a Writers Guild of Canada Award for best one-hour TV series and both "Air" and "Space" were nominated for Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Series at the 2010 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Metacritic summarizes the response as "generally favorable reviews" for SGU's first season, but with several critics showing reservation.
Stargate Universe was well received by several major media publishers upon airing of the pilot episode. Mike Hale from The New York Times was generally positive towards the pilot episodes, saying the Stargate franchise was "catching up" with the long-running Star Trek franchise. Hale also agreed with Syfy's promotion of it being an "edgier" Stargate. The Boston Globe reviewer Joanna Weiss also reacted positively towards the pilot episodes, saying it felt like "early Lost", while the story arc followed the patterns of Battlestar Galactica. Mark Wilson from About.com gave the episode four-and-a-half stars out of 5, saying Universe accomplishes what Stargate Atlantis was not able to, and said it was "exceptionally well made" compared to other shows. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both praised the show, calling it "intriguing", for not abandoning its premise as Star Trek: Voyager did and criticized it by pointing out that the characters spend "far too much time wandering a desert planet" in "Air (Part 3)". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette summarized their review by saying that, "given time, Stargate Universe may become worth watching if it develops its characters and continues to mine its premise for stories." David Hinckley, a reviewer from The New York Daily News gave the episodes four out of five stars, saying that "Eli's not the only one playing a high-stakes game here."
Among reviewers who were negative towards the new installments was Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune. The reviewer wrote that the "gloomy, underwhelming Universe seems to have ditched many of the elements that the previous "Stargate" shows had, notably camaraderie and a sense of adventure, without adding much in the way of narrative suspense or complexity." The only characters she felt were "worth following" were Eli Wallace and Nicholas Rush. Vince Horiuchi from The Salt Lake Tribune, while not overall positive to the series, said the cast and characters were a "little more likable and interesting" than previous entries in the Stargate franchise. Reviewer Laura Freis from Variety concluded her review with "Sure, SGU is grittier, darker and psychologically deeper than previous versions. But so far, it's also a lot less fun." While negative towards the show, she called Robert Carlyle an "excellent" actor. The Hollywood Reporter noted a lack of "intelligent" and "surprising stories" and was overall negative towards Stargate Universe, and even more so on the previous Stargate franchise releases. The show has also been criticized for its similarities to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
In its second season, SGU had declined in viewership ratings. This decline was attributed to its change in timeslot (from Friday night to Tuesday night, and then again to Monday night) and by what series co-creator, Brad Wright, claims: Template:Quotation
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