At some point in every man, woman or child’s television viewing career, a show they love will be canceled. It’s a fact of life and broadcast politics. “SGU Stargate Universe” had a loyal following (and still does over at the Save SGU Facebook page), a large portion of which carried over from past Stargate series, and yet it went onto the block after only its second season. What made the second season of SGU its last? Was it poor marketing on the part of Syfy? Lack of viewer interest? Or did Syfy not realize that Stargate had finally found a formula, mixing in elements of other popular Sci-Fi series, that could have potentially led it to (forgive the pun) universal appeal? It’s a little bit of column A and column B, but primarily it’s column C. Stargate Universe is a noticeable improvement from its predecessors and it didn’t get enough credit for that.
The crew of the destiny starts the season off under duress with events of the first season leaving them to fight to regain control of the Destiny and then deal with the members of the Lucian Alliance who prove to be a handful. After that, the shows major plotpoints include the discovery of Destiny’s twin, Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle) gaining access to the Destiny’s bridge, time travel (albeit very short-term), Rush’s internment in a virtual prison, the discovery of secondary versions of the protagonists, and a showdown with the Drones. While these are some of the bigger set pieces, they take backseat to the much more character-driven writing of this series and the constant butting of heads between Young (Louis Ferreira) and Rush, which are what set it apart from the past Stargate series. SGU has created a much richer cast of characters while still maintaining the thick sci-fi mythology that the franchise’s fans cling to. It’s win-win up until you reach the season’s finale.
When a show gets canceled prematurely, the biggest issue showrunners have to deal with is the season (and consequently series) finale. Assuming the show’s writers aren’t just flying by the seat of their pants and have an overarching plot, it can be difficult to suddenly change the chain of events to create a satisfying finale. In the case of Stargate Universe, there simply wasn’t enough time and the season ends as it was originally written with no real closure. The unfortunate ending here is all the more frustrating when Stargate Atlantis had five seasons and then completely blew it with an ending that undid everything that happened up to that point. SGU ran at a considerably higher level of storytelling and scripting and yet was cut down in its prime to no conclusion. Stargate Universe fans should hope for a direct-to-dvd movie to truly close it out.
DVD Bonus Features
The final season set comes with a healthy load of featurettes, but none of it deals with the series’ premature cancellation, which is disappointing. First, all episodes have audio commentaries and these might be the most rewarding for fans looking for cast and crew feedback about the show’s demise as they actually have context of how it went down.
The first disc is packed and includes pieces where the cast and crew discuss Robert Carlyle’s direction of the episode “Pathogen” and Andy Mikita’s direction of multiple episodes (season premiere “Intervention – Part 3”, “Awakening”, “Trial and Error”, “Resurgence – Part 1”, “The Hunt”, “Blockade”, and the impromptu finale “Gauntlet”), Brian J. Smith’s stage fighting training for his first hand-to-hand brawl in the show, the CGI planning and filming of the shuttle crash, the creation and filming of the tight Seed Ship set, a goodbye to Sgt. Riley (Haig Sutherland), and Lou Diamond Phillips ranking his favorite guests and talking about interacting with green screen characters.
On disc two, James Bamford talks about his stunt as Lt. Scott where he’s hit by a car, Writer Brad Wright talks about the filming of the episode Cloverdale (a dreamy flashback-esque episode), the cast and crew talk about the cable work in the stunt that emulates Lt. Scott’s being sucked into space, and finally, the best and longest of the extras (19 minutes) is Stargate Universe’s cast and crew giving you a tour of their set in the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico and talking about the filming experience.
Disc three has a series of featurettes titled “Deconstructing Destiny” which offers brief insights into how certain parts of the ship work and how they’re portrayed. Each is about three to four minutes and does a fairly good job as retrospective looks at how pieces of the ship unfold.
Disc four’s featurettes focus on a behind the scenes tour with Jamil Walker Smith, an explanation of how they essentially filmed a space-bound medical episode, a character analysis of Varro with actor Mike Dopud, a chat with the set design crew about the creation of the Destiny’s bridge and its sort of alien and steampunk hybrid aesthetic, and a back and forth contrasting Louis Ferreira’s actual class clown personality (mostly him goofing off behind the scenes) against the character he plays in the show (clips).
The final disc has a 25-minute chat with Peter Kelamis and Patrick Gilmore fielding questions and discussing the genesis of an episode from the writing to the acting. It’s not too substantial, but it’s interesting to hear them discuss pitching it to the producers and getting their (negative) feedback. Don’t expect any real revelatory substance, it’s just an opportunity to see them banter back and forth poking fun at one another. The second featurette here is a bit haunting because it was seemingly filmed without the awareness of the show’s demise, with everyone talking about it as merely the end of the season and not the series. It’s especially cringe-worthy when cast members talk about how much was set up for future seasons. Ow.
"SGU Stargate Universe: The Complete Final Season" is on sale May 31, 2011 and is not rated. Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi. Directed by Andy Mikita, Peter DeLuise, William Waring. Written by Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright. Starring Alaina Huffman, Brian J Smith, David Blue, Elyse Levesque, Louis Ferreira, Robert Carlyle.