5 musts for Stargate Universe success

Posted in Insights, Reviewson Oct 14, 2009

I recently viewed the premier for the new SyFy Channel series, Stargate Universe.  While I generally felt pretty excited about it, I’m cautiously reserved because I think the new series has potential to disappoint–however, I hope I never see that disappointment.

I’ve come up with 5 things that Stargate Universe must do in order to avoid disappointment.

1. Don’t become a Stargate meets Battlestar Galactica series. I very much appreciate the sentiment to make Stargate Universe a fresh spin on an old franchise, so don’t ruin it by becoming a Battlestar Galactica clone.  Already they’ve adopted the “lost in somewhere in the universe trying to find our way home” theme from Galactica, and when combined with many of the same lighting and camera shooting techniques as Galactica, it looks less original.  I would like to think that part of the reason that Battlestar Galactica was so good and popular (at times) was that it was a very fresh Sci-Fi show.  Copying something that was fresh doesn’t mean that it still is.  Stargate Universe must be its own show if it wants to succeed.

2. Don’t forget the Science in Science-Fiction. Although you air on a network which changed its name to SyFy, it doesn’t mean the science is gone from science fiction.  One of the things I really liked about Stargate SG-1 was that I felt that I could relate to it because it was set in present-time.  A problem for Stargate Atlantis was that the setting was to alien, and hard to relate to.  Too many times, including in the finale, Atlantis presented some miracle tech to save the day at the last moment.  Keep the Stargate Universe tech and science to a reasonable level that the audience can more easily relate to.

At the same time, don’t leave out the science and tech by making the series all character based.  I think audiences like feeling like they are learning, even if they aren’t learning anything real.  The first Jurassic Park movie was entertaining because they explained the whole cloning thing, while the sequels were just dinosaurs eating people.  Keep enough science involved so that people feel they are being educated a little bit.

3. Give the audience a hero. What made Stargate SG-1 fantastic, was Richard Dean Anderson’s role as Jack O’Neill, as well as the rest of the SG-1 team.  I believe that audiences want to cheer their hero on every week, although sometimes their hero wins or looses.  However, the hero shouldn’t betray his audience.

Stargate Universe characters need fans, just like athletic stars and Facebook.  Create characters worthy of having fans.

4. Don’t be depressing. I watched every episode of Battlestar Galactica right up to the point where I recognized that the show was making me depressed.  I talked to other former Galactica fans, who said they also stopped watching because the show got to dark and depressing.  Don’t let Stargate Universe find the same fate.

I feel this could be especially a trap for this show.  If too many characters become obsessed with, “We will never make it home, what is there worth living for?” the audience will adopt those sentiments with “What is there worth watching for?”

Relatedly, turn on the lights.  If the setting is always too dark, such as on your ship with little lighting, then it will feel more depressing.  Also, dark scenes don’t look as great when viewed on a low-cost home projector.

5. Give it a little humor. Stargate SG-1 was packed full of little humorisms.  I could feel that the actors really enjoyed the show.  Their enjoyment, when combined with little facts (Teal’c’s favorite movie is Star Wars) make the show very enjoyable to watch. 

Bonus.  Keep the camera shots stable. No one likes getting motion sick from a show where they couldn’t keep the camera still.

After just two weeks of tuning into Stargate Universe, I can’t quite claim that it is a winner.  I’ll keep tuning in, unless, of course, I feel like the show had betrayed my many years of Stargate fan-dom.

Stargate Universe airs Friday evenings on the SyFy channel.  (I still think the renaming of Sci-Fi channel to SyFy was dumb).

4 Comments

Aunt Lynda

October 16th, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Good, thorough analysis. I’m impressed. I hope someone who can take it to heart gets to read it. Aunt Lynda

MysticGoddess

November 14th, 2009 at 1:16 am

Wow, my sentiments exactly, could not have said it better!! In fact I used the words “dark” & “depressing” in my search that led me here. I stopped watching Galactica for the very same reason you did & had the same thought about Universe (Stargate meets Battlestar Galactica). It’s now 7 episodes in & I keep waiting for it to give me something to love, which it has not. It also seems to have made all of the mistakes you mentioned. It was said that the creators have wanted to do this show for so long that they let Atlantis go just to get it on. I feel that was a great mistake & I really miss having an awesome Stargate show to watch, something this still has not become. Thank you for a great analysis that unfortunately “hit the nail right on the head”

Francois

November 4th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I’ve watched less than 5 episode of Battlestar galactica, and I’ve watched the first 3 episode of SGU, and another one today ( named First encounter I think ).

I just typed this in google:
Stargate universe battlestar galactica.

I wanted to find out if the guy who directed the camera was the exact same person.
Seriously.

I’m a fan of Stargate, because it’s fun. I’m smilling when listening SG-1 or Atlantis. but I don’t like Universe, not at all.

The only character that I would throw to garbadge would be the little nerd guy who’s not a militairy ( I don’t even remember his name ) … and maybe the guy with long hair too, he remember me of Daniel Jackson and Rodney McKay … (and the weird point about this is that those 2 personnality completly cancel themselve when mixed up together..)

Jacob

January 21st, 2011 at 9:50 am

And if they had listened to me, they might not have been cancelled.

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