Season 1.5 of Stargate Universe was released a couple of weeks ago on [sfs=1031]Blu-ray[/sfs] and [sfs=1032]DVD[/sfs], and I’ve had a chance to catch up and review the DVD version.
SG-U is a different beast from the previous efforts. It tries to expand the plot that was the genesis of Stargate Atlantis – a team finds itself extremely distant from home at the other end of a one-way stargate trip, mostly in isolation. Whereas Atlantis was still able to receive supplies from Earth (and eventually solved the general problem between starships and the stargate bridge), the team this time is totally isolated except for the ability to use the consciousness transfer stones – which themselves bring up several plot points which are addressed in the series instead of simply ignored. This time as well, the “team” is a combination of military and civilian characters thrown together by circumstance rather than by mission, forced into that circumstance to escape an attack but also through the non-altruistic intents of Dr. Geoffrey Rush (Robert Carlisle), who would rather prove his theories and general greater intelligence than solve problems. And instead of a floating city, they are stranded on an empty Ancient ship (of ancient Ancient design 🙂 ) called the Destiny, where they have very little control over the ship, and few resources.
Some spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen anything:
“Season 1.5” (the second half of the debut season, split in half by SyFy’s odd scheduling) picks up where the first half left off – Col. Young abandons Dr. Rush on a desert planet, and when he tries to report home finds instead that he’s in the mind of an alien – and those aliens in turn attack the Destiny and capture Chloe (Elyse Levesque). While Young tries to use the stones to rescue Chloe, he instead discovered Dr. Rush is also prisoner. He releases Rush before being disconnected, and Rush escapes with Chloe back to Destiny – with the knowledge that the aliens are after the Destiny.
These seems like the setup for the alien antagonists of this series (compared to the Gou’uld/Ori of SG-1 and Wraith of Atlantis) – except we don’t see them again this season after the second episode. Storylines return to the conflicts on board (including a civilian mutiny), consciousness transference and the physical, psychological and moral issues involved, religion, being forced to leave crew members behind, and an invasion by an old pseudo-enemy, the Lucian Alliance.
Perhaps there is still a desire to avoid too many arc stories in a show’s freshman season, especially while dealing with so many plot points to be considered and in establishing an ensemble cast. Like a lot of freshman SF shows, the first season is a bit disjoint – but as with those other shows, there is hope in following seasons if they make it – and SG-U’s second season starts up next month.
Visually, SG-U has improved upon its predecessors a bit. One notable new VFX feature was fully 3D space explosions, visible during the space fight in “Space”, with the fast-paced dogfight where you get a different perspective of the explosion as we are seen to zoom around it.
As for the DVD itself, I’m not sure if this is the case for shelf copies, but the one I received had a cardboard envelope attached to the back of the disc case. Inside, folded up was a cardboard slipcase designed to hold both parts of Season 1. An interesting idea – although I have a feeling most slipcases eventually get tossed. The combined slipcase has a gold/brown color with a different image of Rush, Young and Johansen than on the disc cases.
The standard disc case holds three discs – two of them are in a detachable “flipper” bound to the spine, which is the first time I’ve seen this design. Much better than the “dual-stacked” holders. The three discs are printed identical, with a gray stone-etched image of a portion of the stargate.
Each disc opens identically, with no previews. The menu is simple but has a background video of a “glide” around and then through Destiny before stopping at the bridge where it stays (as opposed to an endless loop). The menus include a “play all” option for the episodes, plus individual episode selection, extras and language setups (options for Spanish audio in Dolby Surround – only English is in 5.1 Dolby Digital) and English, Spanish and French subtitles).
All three discs include commentaries on every episode by cast or crew (detailed below), “Kino Video Diaries” of the characters that were originally released on the Web, and “Destiny SML (Star Map and Log)”, which is really a menu for all the behind-the-scenes featurettes.
The extras include:
Commentary on “Space”: Director Andy Mikita, VFX Supervisor Mark Savela,
Producer Joseph Mallozzi
Commentary on “Divided”: Actors Louis Ferreira (Col. Everett Young), Elyse Levesque (Chloe Armstrong), and Julia Benson (Lt. Vanessa James)
Commentary on “Faith”: Actors Brian J. Smith (Lt. Matthew Scott), Alaina Huffman (Lt. Tamara Johansen), and Patrick Gilmore (Dr. Dale Volker)
An interview with the creators of SGU: David Blue – David asks Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper viewer questions (9:15)
An interview with the creators of SGU: Brian J. Smith – Brian speaks with Brad and Robert about is character, Lt. Matthew Scott and more (10:53)
Designing a New Race: Space Aliens – Director Andy Mikita and VFX Supervisor Mark Savela discuss creating a new alien race, with a photorealistic look and maintaining theirhandheld camera look (2:21)
Tanked! Elyse Levesque Goes For A Swim: Preparing for the water tank scene (2:29)
Chatting with the Cast: Peter Kelamis – the actor who plays Science Engineer Adam Brody (2:16)
Finding Destiny: A Tour of the Destiny Set with Chris Beach – A tour of the set with the Art Director (5:06)
Commentary on “Human”: Executive Producer Robert C. Cooper and Director of Photography Michael Blundell
Commentary on “Lost”: Actors Brian J. Smith, Peter Kelamis (Adam Brody), Patrick Gilmore, and Jamil Walker Smith (Master Sgt. Ronald Greer)
Commentary on “Sabotage”: Actors Louis Ferreira, Elyse Levesque, and Julia Benson
Commentary on “Pain”: Actors Brian J. Smith and Patrick Gilmore
The Destiny of General O’Neill – Richard Dean Anderson talks about returning (2:03)
Chatting with the Cast: Julia Benson – the actress behind 2nd Lt. Vanessa James (2:17)
Out for a Spacewalk with Jamil Walker Smith – The actor discusses the shooting of scenes in a spacesuit (2:14)
Commentary on “Subversion”: Actors Brian J. Smith, Alaina Huffman, Patrick Gilmore and Jamil Walker Smith.
Commentaries on “Incursion”, Parts 1 and 2: Actors Alaina Huffman and Elyse Levesque
A Day In The Life of Louis Ferreira – Following the actor around near the end of the season (7:20)
An Interview with the Creators of SGU: Alaina Huffman – Alaina talks to Brad and Robert about the franchise and her character (9:57)
Chatting With the Cast: Jennifer Spence – The actress behind Lisa Park (2:22)
A Behind The Scenes Look at Incursion – About the two-part season-ending cliffhanger (6:07)
Two-For-One: Behind the “Incursion” Double-Ratchet Stunt – two stuntmen flying through the stargate, simultaneously (2:09)
Chatting With The Cast: Patrick Gilmore – The actor behind Dr. Dale Volker (2:07)
The featurettes are generally short (most are just over 2 minutes), and it would have been nice to see a bit more – but then again, this is just half of the actual content for the seasons. Skimming through the commentaries, as you’d expect the crew gives a lot of the technical details of filming, while the actors tend to joke more and talk about filming scenes from their perspective, but they do prove pretty interesting, and the actors certainly seem to have fun with it.
One difference I am aware of between the [sfs=1031]Blu-ray[/sfs] and [sfs=1032]DVD[/sfs] versions: an interactive game. Fans can also enjoy “Stargate Universe’s” very first interactive experience, the SGU: Survival Instinct Game, offered exclusively on the “SGU 1.5” Blu-ray Disc. The brand new game challenges players to use their knowledge, intelligence and skillfulness to jump through a series of time loops in order to return to the Destiny.
In the end, I was glad to actually be able to use the DVDs to refresh myself for the last half season – there are things in there I expect we may be seeing again, like the mystery planet (or its creators) from “Faith”. And whether the Lucian Alliance’s way of reaching Destiny breaks the isolation plot point at some level.
Season 2 starts on September 28th, 2010.