Before the now rebranded SyFy channel (what does that even mean? Answers on a postcard) got the world to sit up and take notice over the majestically remodeled Battlestar Galactica, the network effectively kept the lights on through re-runs of various incarnations of the seemingly inexhaustable Stargate universe. Born out of a pulpy, military tech-trash movie from the nineties (starring James Spader!), this little-franchise-that-could went on to spawn four DTV sequels, countless novels and comics, two video games, and a slew of small-screen spin-offs. At the end of it's tenth and final season, Stargate SG-1 (starring MacGyver!) surpassed The X-Files as the longest running sci-fi show in the United States.

The latest chip-off-the-old-chevron is Stargate Universe, the pilot of which followed a group of scientists, military types, and bureaucrats fleeing through a Stargate from an alien attack. On the other side was The Destiny, a gigantic leviathan hurtling through space at faster-than-light, designed by the Ancients as a way of depositing Stargates throughout the universe. Trapped with limited resources on a ship they are unable to effectively control, the rag-tag crew must work together to survive, and, hopefully, find a way to dial home.

Our vessel of vicarious wish-fulfillment on this glorious, interstellar exercise in low-lit problem-solving is Eli (David Blue), the first nerd in space, plucked from obscurity by the Air force having bested a sophisticated entrance exam disguised as a video game. Literally making your target audience the hero is perhaps a little shameless, but Blue imbues Eli with a certain affability, although his constant sci-fi movie references need to be jettisoned out the nearest airlock. Other characters of note include Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith), a square-jawed airman with a penchant for skirt chasing, and Col. Young (Louis Ferreira), who each week confronts the obligatory moral dilemma with a decent amount of earnest endeavor. Best of all is Robert Carlyle, an actor better than his resume suggests, who flits from light to dark in an instant as the brilliant but mercurial scientist, Dr. Rush.

This Blu-ray set contains the first 10m episodes of the series, set to resume in April. The setting of a galaxy hopping spaceship the size of a small town, capable of dialing out to any habitable planet in range, presents nothing if not possibility. But thus far we're yet to merely move beyond the thing-that's-going-to-kill-us of the week, be it the power running out, or the water disappearing, or the fixed heading into the center of a star. Meanwhile the show still hasn't managed to effectively bring the supporting ensemble, consisting of at least a dozen minor characters, into the foreground in any meaningful way. One episode that dwelled inordinately on the decision of just which of the survivors would board an escape shuttle to escape incineration was decided by a lottery, the winners of which effectively amounted to anyone who had a line of dialogue up to that point, with the parade of blank, anonymous faces left behind.

The few characters that have been developed are suitably engaging, and the lack of any easily identifiable 'company man' is refreshing. What antagonism there is comes from Earth, where communication is maintained through ancient stones that allow the user to switch bodies with a person on the other end. This somewhat convenient plotpoint pits Col. Young against the shifty Col. Telford (Lou Diamond Philips) for effective command of The Destiny, and of the lives and fortunes of its people. Telford is genuinely unpleasant, and is a welcome foil for Young, as Stargate Universe perhaps has a tendency to scurry behind the old clich� of the impossibly noble US military a tad too often. At one point Lt. Scott even feels the need to remark to Col. Young that "This is the second time in a week you've offered to sacrifice yourself to save everyone." What the returning series will need to do, much like the makeshift crew of The Destiny themselves, is figure out how to turn the damn autopilot off and point us in a definitive direction.

Blu-ray Special Features:

Impressive extras for a half-season edition include a chat track by the cast and crew on each and every episode. Also included in a special extended edition of the series pilot, Air. Michael Shanks also pops up, reprising his role as Dr. Daniel Jackson, for an Stargate orientation video, which isn't a bad way for the uninitiated to get up to speed. Also included are some on-set video diaries, behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast, and Creating a New Universe, an extensive production design featurette that is exclusive to Blu-ray.

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, David Blue, Alaina Huffman, Jamil Walker Smith, Lou Diamond Philips, Ming-Na
Created By: Brad Wright & Robert C. Cooper
Network: SyFy

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