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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Stargate Universe: SG-U 1.0

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 11, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Stargate Universe: SG-U 1.0 (Blu-ray)

    Directed by Peter DeLuise et al

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2009
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 436 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, French
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 69.98

    Release Date: February 9, 2010
    Review Date: February 11, 2010
     
     
    The Series
    3/5
     
    The third time’s not necessarily the charm with Stargate Universe: SG-U 1.0. The third television series spun off from Roland Emmerich’s entertaining 1994 film Stargate, SG-U 1.0 houses the first ten episodes from the latest sci-fi incarnation of the movie’s central conceit, a series notably darker and grittier than previous entries in the franchise but so far, at least on the evidence of these first ten episodes, not as much fun either.
     
    The first 90-minute outing “Air” sets up the premise of the series: a group of civilians, military personnel, and scientific researchers trying to evade an alien attack make a desperate escape through a Stargate that lands them aboard an ancient, unmanned space ship, the Destiny. The ship, created thousands of years ago as a way to place Stargates throughout the universe, is on an unstoppable, pre-determined course billions of light years from Earth. With no way to alter the ship from its current autopilot and with much of the ship a complete mystery to them, the group must grudgingly continue on the ship’s unknown mission with the hope that somehow someone can eventually dial the Stargate back to Earth coordinates.
     
    Heading the military operations is Col. Everett Young (Louis Ferreira), a tough, demanding commander. His second in command is the series’ charm boy, 1st Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) with the hot-tempered Master Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) often right in the thick of things. The science end of the equation is helmed by the eternally cranky and dyspeptic Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle). He’s assisted by unemployed science nerd and video gamer Eli Wallace (David Blue). Among the civilians is the daughter of a U.S. senator, Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque) and head of human resources Camile Wray (Ming-Na). No doctor is on board the Destiny, but 1st Lt. Tamara Johansen (Alaina Huffman) is a military medic who serves the needs of the crew more than adequately in these initial episodes.
     
    These first stories mainly involve the crew attempting to get used to this ancient vessel which has maintained itself for centuries without any human assistance and then having to deal with seemingly simple matters like a lack of power or a reduced water supply to service their own needs. As the scientists learn facets of the ship’s operating system, it often becomes necessary for the ship to drop out of hyperdrive so various individuals can slip through a Stargate to accomplish some mission on a nearby planet. The peril-of-the-week scenarios so far have been fairly predictable, and the show’s large number of irascible characters has given these first episodes a decidedly sour and repetitive tone. In fact, were it not for the sense of fun that David Blue brings to his Eli, there would be no light-hearted moments on the show at all, and the tone would be acerbic enough to alienate viewers. Several of the scripts are confusingly put together resulting in storylines that are either needlessly unclear (the first episode “Air”) or unsatisfying in their resolutions (“Time” is particularly rambling and pointless).
     
    The following are the ten episodes contained on the two Blu-ray discs in this set. Names in parentheses refer to those who contribute to the audio commentary available for that episode.
     
    1 – Air, Parts 1 & 2 (Robert C. Cooper, Andy Mikita, Mark Savela)
    2 – Air, Part 3
    3 – Air (extended edition) (David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque)
    4 – Darkness (David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque)
    5 – Light (David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque)
    6 – Water (William Waring, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque)
    7 – Earth (David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque)
    8 – Time (Robert C. Cooper, David Blue)
    9 – Life (Ming-Na, Brian J. Smith, Louis Ferreira)
    10 – Justice (William Waring, Louis Ferreira, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, Jamil Walker Smith)
     
     
     
    Video Quality
    4/5
     
    The program’s broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio has been faithfully delivered in these 1080p transfers using the AVC codec. Because of the stylized filming of the show, only the “current” scenes involving inhabitants of Destiny are shown in sharply defined, richly hued color. When various individuals use the communication stones and return to Earth, when flashbacks are used, or when we get shots from the Kino orbs, the color is desaturated, contrast becomes milky, or shots are deliberately manipulated to appear processed. These are not errors in the transfers, of course, but it does cause picture consistency to bounce back and forth wildly. Even in the best shots, however, the sharpness is not always optimum, and sometimes flesh tones take on a brownish tinge that seems less than lifelike. Episodes have been divided into either 11 or 12 chapters.
     
     
    Audio Quality
    4.5/5
     
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very impressive on a television show budget. Bass is particularly strong with the subwoofer getting a firm workout from the effects and the continually low level of music underscore. The soundfield seems more active in the program’s first three installments of “Air” than in subsequent episodes, but this is often the case with pilots and opening episodes of new series. More could certainly have been done with the rear channels in terms of ambient sound.
     
     
    Special Features
    3.5/5
     
    There are audio commentaries for every episode apart from “Air, Part 3” with participants listed in the episode list above. When the cast gets together in various groups, it’s basically a gab, laughter, and cheering session with very little information about the making of the episode being imparted. The director, producer, and special effects coordinator on “Air” give the best of the commentaries giving real behind-the-scenes information on the genesis of the series and the making of the first episodes. I also rather enjoyed the director and actor David Blue talking on "Time" even though it was my least favorite show in the set.
     
    All of the bonus features are presented in 480i.
     
    Disc One
     
    Destiny SML is an interactive star map which contains a series of brief behind-the-scenes featurettes (lasting from 2-6 minutes) which the user can go to in any order. There are brief interviews with five of the leading actors: Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ming-Ha, and David Blue. The other vignettes are “A Brand New Universe” (background for this new incarnation of Stargate), “Designing Destiny,” “Inside Destiny,” “Stargate 101,” “Kawoosh 2.0” (the making of the special effects cloud that emerges from the Stargate), “Chatting with the Cast,” “Shooting on the Destiny,” “Director’s Minutes: Andy Mikita” (about shooting the first three episodes), “No Day at the Beach” (filming the episode “Darkness” in hideously arid conditions), and “White Sands, NM” (the location for thee desert scenes in “Darkness”).
     
    There are six Kino video diaries: six individual scenes staged for this video release featuring cast members in character being eavesdropped on by the Kino. They may be viewed individually or in a 9 ¾ minute group. Actor David Blue also introduces this section of the bonus features in a 3 minute clip.
     
    There are trailers for Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate SG-1.
     
    Disc Two
     
    Destiny SML is an interactive star map which contains a series of brief featurettes (lasting from 2-3 minutes) which the user can go to in any order. There are brief interviews with Alaina Huffman, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque, and Jamil Walker Smith. The thirteen featurettes showing behind-the-scenes aspects of the show’s production are “Director’s Minute: William Waring,” “Falling Through Ice,” “On the Ice,” “Setting the Mood,” “Out on the Town,” “A Stunt in Tight Places,” “Director’s Minute: Ernest R. Dickerson,” “Helmet Cam 101,” “Shooting in the Rain,” “Let It Rain,” “Fight!” “Future/Past: The New Stargate,” and “A New Look for SG-U.”
     
    There are nine Kino Video Dairies: nine individual scenes staged for this video release featuring cast members in character being eavesdropped on by the Kino. They may be viewed individually or in a 10 ¾ minute group.
     
    There are trailers for Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum, and Defying Gravity.
     
    The Blu-ray package also contains $10 in DVD Money good for purchasing any individual season of Stargate Atlantis or Stargate SG-1.
     
     
     
    In Conclusion
    3/5 (not an average)
     
    Stargate Universe is not yet a great series. These first episodes have stumbled somewhat in plotting, but the nucleus is there for a first-rate science fiction adventure series. With a bit more humor, tighter plots, and a lessening in temperament of so many disagreeable characters, the next batch of episodes from the series might bring everything together for a more entertaining ride.
     
     
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Lead Actor
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    It sounds someone threw aspects of "Battlestar Galactica" and "Stargate" into a blender and spewed this out. It is almost like the mentality was "it worked for Battlestar Galactica, why not us?".
     
  3. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    Don't forget the Star Trek: Voyager angle.

    I am not really fond of this series so far (nor is almost anyone else who was a fan of the two prior series, SG-1 and Atlantis), and doubt if SyFy will pick it up for a second season.
     
  4. Arild

    Arild Supporting Actor

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    Don't let some rabid haters on the internet fool you. SGU has plenty of fans, and I am pretty sure a significant portion of us were fans of SG-1 and Atlantis as well (I know I was). And FYI - SyFy already has picked up a second season of the show.
     
  5. ATimson

    ATimson Second Unit

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    At least they seem to be sticking with it this time. Atlantis pretty much went straight downhill once they reestablished contact with Earth in "The Siege, Part II" (the season 1 finale).
     
  6. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

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    This show is actually "Lost in Space"!! That is, the show "Lost" transplanted to a ship in space as opposed to an island in the ocean. Or at least that seems to be what it was aiming for. (I can see the pitch now: "We'll do "Lost" -- in Space; but with a Stargate facade. The show has tremendous demographic appeal with a cross pollination of fans from up to three established franchises. It can't miss!") It has obviously fallen way short of that lofty goal and alienated about 50% of the original Stargate SG-1 and SG-A fans to boot. I appreciate the fine production values on display here -- but the plots have been too poorly paced; and, surprisingly, characterization beyond the three core characters spotty. I won't be purchasing this half-season set unless the second half of season one generates some serious fireworks!
     

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