Icarus Base is an off-world base under Stargate Command created to solve the mystery of the ninth chevron on the stargate. As the first gate to the ninth chevron location is created, the base comes under attack by an unknown enemy. The bases’s noncombatants evacuate through the stargate and find themselves on board the Destiny, a spaceship of Ancient design billions of lightyears from Earth. The involuntary crew of the Destiny have no choice but to work together to get home, but as they are all aware, they are not alone in the universe.
Stargate Universe (SGU) is a science fiction drama based on the lore of the Stargate franchise but does not rely heavily upon previous Stargate properties. The team from Stargate SG-1 make their appearances (with the exception of Teal’c) but, like the good cameos that they are, they serve a narrative purpose whenever on screen. Otherwise, SGU focuses on entirely new characters, some of which are familiar with previous Stargate missions, most of which are civilians whose first foray into space was to Icarus Base.
SGU diverts from previous Stargate properties with serialized narration and a serious tone. Previous Stargate properties have been episodic in nature with overarching plots resolved slowly through a handful of seasons. Episodes of SGU are informed from previous events. This opens SGU to tighter storytelling and character-driven plots. The serious tone makes SGU the space opera property I expected when I started recapping Stargate SG-1: a serial drama underscored with adventures through space. Which is to say, I fell in love during the pilot.
This is not to say SGU does not throw in some familiar flair reminiscent of the old Stargate properties. For instance, Eli Wallace (played by David Blue) was a MIT drop out who solved the mystery of powering the address to the ninth chevron in a video game and is then recruited by General Jack O’Neill and Dr. Nicholas Rush of a top-secret military program in space—an honest-to-God nerd dream come true! This plot device is referenced a handful of times throughout the series but is only in the foreground in the pilot episode. Other whimsical aspects—such as giant dinosaurs emerging from an alien rain forest—are also contained to the single episode in which they are introduced. Thus SGU carries on the whimsy from previous properties while maintaining its own tone.
SGU also treats religion differently than it’s predecessor. Religion appears in the form of personal faith as seen in small moments like crew members praying together or Lieutenant Matthew Scott’s metal necklace with a small cross. Moments seen as miracles by some of the crew, such as the events in the season 2 episode “Visitation”, are analyzed and revealed to be the work of aliens in a similar manner SG-1 disproved false gods in Stargate SG-1. This religious symbolism continues with the ultimate mission of Destiny which (spoiler alert) is to discover whether a structured entity in the residue of the big bang is the work of an intelligent species more advanced than the ancients. The fallout of this discovery will never be explored as SGU was cancelled after two seasons.
Stargate Universe is a new spin on the Stargate franchise featuring new characters and a new narrative style but keeping the exploration of religion and its relation to the nature of the universe. Despite some light reliance on previous Stargate lore, the show would be easy to pick up as a Stargate newbie. I recommend SGU to people who enjoy space opera and people looking for new twists on old franchises.