The shared groan that my girlfriend and I shared as the end title card for the last episode of Stargate Universe’s first season, Incursion (Part 2), has become a familiar reaction to the ending of each episode of the series that we've been watching, and reminds me of the reaction that I've generally had for the season enders for Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, as well as Battlestar Galactica. The ending to SGU's first season was shocking, frustrating, and ultimately, a fantastic end to a really strong season for the Stargate franchise's latest television entry.
The SyFy channel has a really annoying habit of leaving a viewer hanging, and it was something that largely characterized SG-1, with a small story arc that would be resolved within the first couple of episodes of the next season, and while it's annoying, it's a good way to make people really look forward to the upcoming season - already, I'm eagerly awaiting September, when new episodes return to the small screen. The finale demonstrated that the franchise, with its much darker nature, can continue to tell a good story, but also link back to the regular Stargate franchise and storylines that had been started earlier on, something that was a welcome surprise.
The start of Stargate Universe led me to believe that much of the storylines would be somewhat ignored, pushed to the side for some background context for the characters, but that was it. As the story has progressed since that first, fantastic pilot episode last October. The show has taken a couple of hits with its characters and some of the smaller elements, but overall, it has come out the other side in good form, telling some truly fantastic stories, and leaving the audience really wanting a bit more as the story of the crew of Destiny shows that there are some pretty cool things planned.
The surprising element that I've found over the course of the show was the connections to Earth, and the recent reintroduction of older storylines that had begun to creep in at the end of SG-1's run, namely, with the Lucian Alliance. While it's pretty clear that the show is going to remain on Destiny for now, and that much of what we've seen thus far will continue, the introduction of other storylines gives this show something a bit different than what we've seen in other shows, like Star Trek: Voyager and to a lesser extent, Stargate: Atlantis. The ongoing storylines that we've seen show that some of the groundwork that was set up in SG-1 will still apply, and unlike in Atlantis, where a whole new story arc had been put into place, with some of the prior story elements coming in only occasionally. Hopefully, this new approach will work better, resulting in a series that lasts for longer than Atlantis fared. SG-1 demonstrated the lasting appeal of the show, and thus far, nothing has been able to replicate that.
Universe also shows that the franchise can move beyond SG-1 by incorporating more mature and darker elements to it. SG-1 was a fairly lighthearted affair most of the time, but Universe can be downright grim, but it maintains much of the fantastic storytelling and characters that the Stargate franchise is known for. This makes quite a bit of sense, given the prior successes of Battlestar Galactica, and that as the surrounding times change, the context for the show changes as well. The original Stargate came out in 1997, preceded by a movie, with the United States facing off against an evil empire that wanted to enslave humanity, just seven or so years after the fall of the Soviet Union, where the United States faced off against a singular power that threatened its influence in the world.
Universe seems to mirror that change in politics, with the crew of the Destiny moving into an ambiguous world where the enemy is not clearly known. While I doubt that it is an example of the show's creators explicitly going out and looking at political science and social theory to help construct the show, it is a good example of how the show, and the entertainment arts are generally influenced by the world around them. I think that this is the key element that allows for something to become relevant, notable and ultimately successful, because an audience will respond to something that they themselves can understand and perceive.
The good thing in all of this is that the show has come around full circle, leaving a lot of the familiar elements of the prior shows, where it finds itself in the middle of larger storylines that had been in progress. Universe, which had tried to largely escape from the rest of the franchise's image, has come back, serious, determined and ready to take them on. The Goa'uld ships look better than they ever have, and the villians are just as evil and ready to kill people, but without the costumes and things that made the show a little more difficult to take seriously. In short, Universe is the grown up Stargate SG-1.
As such, this was one of the strongest points of Battlestar Galactica, and with the follow up show, Caprica, and it remains a strong, if somewhat subdued element with the new show. As such, it is a good thing for the franchise, giving the show relevancy and some new ground to cover for the characters in the show. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind: I’ll be tuning in for Season 2.