I liked and enjoyed Stargate Universe more and more as it went on, I was originally snippy about the pilot, but was generally favourable towards the first season as a whole. Maybe it’s the rose tinted glasses of cancellation speaking, but I am dangerously close to gushing about the second season. Everything just seemed to work, from the big things like the stories, characters and acting through to the smaller stuff that you don’t necessarily notice like the very different, but extremely good music choices and the attention to detail in the scripts.
There are some pretty gritty storylines going on, difficult choices for characters to make with impacts that ripple out through the rest of the season. It’s nice to see that continuity, events are not forgotten, people struggle with whether they made the right decision, there’s no instant forgive and forget – it’s all very satisfying for viewers that invest. To be honest one of the most irritating elements of the show was the long repetitive “previously on…” that started each episode – loyal viewers didn’t need reminding of these things, they remembered and by focussing on them it killed the subtlety of the references.
Even more than the first season though, this season really felt like Stargate because it had the easy camaraderie of a team that shows in the Star Trek franchise never quite seemed to manage. These characters really do behave like a bunch of random people who’ve been living together in trying circumstances for some time. After an additional year living and working together the sharp edges and confrontations that caused such trouble in the first season have been battered off in a way that makes perfect sense and doesn’t feel rushed (compare with Star Trek Voyager where everyone was suddenly best friends over night). In the truest traditions of Stargate these relationships are reinforced with occasional mushy speeches about becoming a family, but what really sells it is the way they tease each other, bicker, share knowing looks and finish each other’s sentences. They still disagree, sometimes passionately, but they do so with respect.
This is what Stargate at its best is about, creating a group of characters that (other than their magic scientists and engineers who are seemingly experts in everything) feel like they could have walked off the street. They make the same pop-culture jokes that I would, they’d rather be sarcastic than sit down and talk about feelings, they lose their tempers, forgive but don’t forget, grumble about the food and have a bit of a sulk. It’s normal. Just in space.
It’s impossible to review this season without commenting on the fact that its marking the end of an era. After 14 years, 17 seasons and over 350 episodes there is no Stargate in production. With that knowledge in mind I really did find the last few episodes of the season slightly devastating. The final moments of the series, watching the lights go out across the ship as the crew goes into stasis for who knows how long were beautifully poignant and heartbreaking. How long it will be until there’s another Stargate series, or if we’ll ever see TV movies to wrap up the Universe and Atlantis storylines, I have no idea, but at least it went out on a note that all concerned can be extremely proud of. Universe was a great show and a great instalment to the franchise, the fact that there was no place for it in the television landscape is by far a reflection on the sad state of the television business rather than on the quality of this series.