Stargate Universe: SGU 1.0 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM/Fox
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (6th March 2010).
The Show

Eli: In my experience, the 1.0 version is the most buggy.
Dr. Rush: It’s also the simplest.

The once mighty juggernaut that is the “Stargate” franchise looked to be finally ending when it was announced that “Stargate: Atlantis”, the second live action series to be based off of the pulpy Emmerich/Devlin 1994 feature film, would not be returning to the Sci-Fi network (screw that SyFy bullshit) and that further direct-to-video films would be put on hold. Then, in a move that caught many off guard (myself included) and going against all previous statements, “SG-1” and “Atlantis” producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper announced that a totally new series was in production and that it was called “Stargate: Universe.” Flash-forward to now and the series’ first 10 episodes are hitting home video and I’ll tell you straight away, I’m not sold on this new ‘gate. Is it as awful as some fans are decreeing? No. But, “Stargate: Universe”, or “SGU”, needs a lot – and I mean A LOT – of work. It’s a promising series; and sure, one day it could be a strong television product. But, as it stands right now, this first half of Season One inspires little, other than thoughts and comparisons to other better television and sci-fi entries.

It’s fairly obvious that Wright, Cooper and company want this series to be akin to “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-2009) but it’s also obvious that they don’t know how to make anything close to Ron Moore’s epic tale of a stranded group of humans. Sure, the production team of “SGU” got the basics down right – a rag-tag group, comprised of military personnel, civilians, and a loony doctor, travel through space in an old rust-bucket of a ship, basically just surviving. But, Moore’s Cylon-fighting colonists had more depth and purpose in their fracking little finger than nearly the whole crew of the Destiny has in its entirety. The problem is that “SGU” doesn’t know what it wasn’t to be. Do Cooper and Wright really, truly want it to fill the void left by the now finished “BSG”? Because, if they do, not only are those big – no, huge – shoes to fill, but this ‘gate is going to need a hell of a lot more work to even be within the same quadrant as “Battlestar Galactica.” Maybe they don’t want “SGU” to be “Galactica”, and if they don’t that’s fine. (More power to them actually for trying something totally new.) But, I’m at least certain that what they don’t want is another “Stargate” show – they admit as much in the supplements; Cooper (and Wright on a different occasion) says that he’s bored with the premise, and franchise, after doing the same thing for, basically, fifteen years.

As a whole I’ve always found the various “Stargate” television series to be average slop, and that’s why I’ve avoided them to the best of my ability. My brief time with “Atlantis” last year on the Fans' Choice Blu-ray didn’t really change my opinion – it’s mediocre action/sci-fi for teens and 20-something men, and no more. Honestly, and I say this even though I love the feature film, the franchise – Emmerich’s original included – is a wasteland of bad acting, hackneyed dialogue, contrived, derivative, juvenile plots, and storylines and characters that have the emotional depth of a full blooded, post-Kolinahr, Vulcan. At first glance “SGU” is just as bad as the old shows; viewers are met with many harmless, but pointless characters and a meandering, sleep inducing, repetitive story. However, even if there are an undeniable amount of similarities that “SGU” shares with it predecessors, fans shouldn’t go in expecting this to be just another “Stargate” series. This isn’t Atlantis 2.0 – or SG-1 3.0… not in the slightest. And that’s a good thing in my book. Yes, Cooper and Wright are shamelessly borrowing from other films and TV shows, and still grounding the show within the “Stargate” mythos, this is definitely a whole new breed of series. “SGU” definitely stumbles off the starting line, but I would be lying if I said that by the end of the first ten episodes I wasn’t at least mildly intrigued by it.

Although prior knowledge of the “Stargate” universe isn’t required to enjoy or understand “SGU”, having a familiarity with, at the very least, the original film does make for a smoother transition. The '94 feature had its characters discovering the wormhole-creating device and decoding the seventh chevron (or symbol) that would allow them to dial clear across our own galaxy. “SG-1” continued this motif, with it’s characters traveling around the Milky Way, meeting alien species and making discoveries left and right (as well as waging a few wars). “Atlantis” came about with the discovery of an eighth chevron, which allowed a team of scientists and military to travel, with the aid of absurd amounts of power, even further and faster into the stars, where they’d eventually uncover the truth behind the mythic lost civilization of Atlantis.

By the powers of deduction then, it’d seem logical for “Universe” to be about the circumstances and consequences of tinkering with a ninth symbol, and what happens to those who dial said symbol. Basically, that’s what happens in the pilot episode. “Air” is available in both a broadcast version, which is split into two episodes – “Parts I & II” and a disconnected “Part III” – and an "Extended cut", which pieces everything from the three parts into one feature-length show. For the purposes of this review I’ll discuss the "Extended" version, as it’s far better than the hacked up broadcast crap.

After an extended (fairly impressive) long take that establishes the shows main base of operation, a ship named Destiny, a dark room is suddenly illuminated as a Stargate springs to life. A man walks through the portal, and calls back over his radio that “It’s all clear.” Suddenly person after person is climbing though the gate, each body entering at greater speed. Boxes fly though with urgency, people begin colliding with each other, and the various objects that they might have carried through. The man calls into his radio for the “evacuation” to slow down. It doesn’t. The Stargate is becoming wild, more people come through, at faster and faster speed, and it all reaches a climax when the final person through the device is ejected through portal with such force that he hits the wall on the opposite side of the room. As that person lay bleeding, the first man tries to calm everyone down and the Stargate shuts off. The screen goes dark. What the hell just happened? Apparently, the answer is the opening minutes of “SGU’s” pilot, titled: “Air.” The random, middle-of-the-story scene reminded me of something – the opening of “Lost” (2004-2010) I half expected someone somewhere in the episode to say, “Guys, where are we?” but that wouldn’t happ—wait, actually, one of the characters basically does say that. In a further parallel to “Lost” the hook-ish opening gives way to plenty of flashbacks, leading to how this group of people ended up being ejecting from a Stargate, onto an abandoned ship. We begin with Eli Wallace (David Blue), a computer nerd and MIT dropout who is hard at work trying to decode a hidden message that he discovered in his MMROPG. He figures it out, but nothing actually happens to his character in the game. Dejected at the fact that he’s just wasted hours if not days on nothing, he’s rather surprised when two men from the government – a Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) and General Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) – come knocking on his front door. It turns out that Eli decoded a message and sort of test implanted into the game by Rush, and that it was actually a pattern written by the Ancients (the people who first built and used the Stargate’s millions of years ago). Wallace is whisked off on a space ship to a class-M planet (yeah, that’s a “Star Trek” reference, so shoot me), were he meets Colonel Young (Justin Louis), commanding officer of the Icarus Base, a military installation placed on one of the only planets in the galaxy that contains enough energy (at its planet core) to power a Stargate to the ninth chevron. Dr. Rush, Eli and a team of scientists, key military personnel and a few civilians, including a senator and his daughter, stand on the threshold of a new frontier. No one knows what dialing the ninth symbol will do, or what doorway it will open. To say that the burden of possible success, and probable failure, is pushing heavily down on Dr. Rush is an understatement, and when an alien force attacks the base, he’s forced to make a rash decision. When ordered to activate the Stargate for an emergency evacuation of the bases’ populous back to Earth, instead of dialing home, Rush runs his final sequence, activating the ninth symbol – thus creating a wormhole to god-knows-where. With the base crumbling around them, the soldiers, scientists and on lookers are forced to enter into the unknown and when they pass through, they find themselves on a 2-million year old, abandoned space vessel once operated by the Ancients, as it hurdles across the universe, faster than the speed of light.

Of course, that’s not the whole episode. No, in the second hour, with the dying ship barely powered up, full of thousands of holes and operating on near-non-functioning, damaged machinery that’s over a million years old, there’s not enough oxygen onboard to sustain the whole crew. What will they do to solve this problem that will prove fatal if not resolved? Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out. “Air,” especially at feature-length, is not a bad pilot at all; it’s just not exactly groundbreaking stuff either. The episode spends an inordinate amount of time introducing the large cast, their motives, back-stories and what-have-you, while simultaneously trying to have a plot that isn’t entirely expositive in nature, and does so only half-successfully. To that end, “Air” is imperfect, but pilots of TV shows rarely are the essence of faultlessness (one of the few exceptions being “Lost”, but that’s for another day). Usually, the first episode one isn’t what a viewer should judge a show on – it takes time for things to explain themselves and writers of television usually need more than the one or two hours given to them. I will say, however, that compared to the rest of the episodes on disc one, “Air” is a masterpiece. Compared to some of the episodes on disc two, it’s merely average. Overall, it’s still good, but not THAT good.

The two remaining episodes on disc one are pointless, meandering drivel. I didn’t like “Darkness”, which is about the crew and the plight that they face as the ship loses all but reserve power, plunging the Destiny into – yep – darkness (seriously). It’s the opposite of good television. It’s not only boring, but needlessly melodramatic. “Light” suffers from a complete lack of purpose and fails to inspire even a semblance of suspense; sure, the ship is heading directly on a collision course with the systems nearest star, and the crew can’t do anything about it because they’re locked out of the main computer (leaving them unable to pilot the Destiny at all). But, “Light” is only the third episode, so you know everyone is going to survive. There’s no sense of urgency or danger. You know right away, when half of the main cast is left to burn up on the ship and the other half hop into a shuttle and fly off, that neither of those groups are going to die or that any real harm will come to them. Not even Ron Moore or Joss Whedon would kill off that many people in what’s only the third episode of a series.

Things don’t improve with the move to the second disc – at least not at first, anyway. “Water” gave me a strong sense of déjà vu. The Destiny’s water supply is dangerously low and won’t sustain the large number of passengers for much longer. When the ship drops out of FTL (faster-than-light) suspiciously close to a planet that might solve their drinking water issues, Colonel Young and the eager Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) dial the Stargate to the planet in search of what could solve their current problem. Sound familiar? Take the plot of the last third of the pilot, change the elemental macguffin from air to water, and boom, sudden-episode-redundant-syndrome has infected the series. It quite literally follows the same basic formula of “Air: Part III” only, a few different characters go through the gate to the planet, said planet is covered in ice instead of sand and, well, that’s essentially it. The action on the ship is the same soap-opera level drivel that the writers have been pandering in most of the “dramatic” storylines so far and the episode just doesn’t sit right with me at all. At this point of the series I was seriously thinking it to be one of the worst on TV at the moment.

Thankfully someone lit a spark under the writers asses because following “Water” are three positively superb stories that have more life, humor, depth and cohesive character development than I’ve seen in all the other episodes in the show so far, combined. “Earth” and “Life” both use a device called a “communication stone” (which allows the user to switch consciousness’ with someone on the other end of a sibling stone, thus transporting their mind into a different body, back to Earth) and it permits for some pretty interesting twists in the overall tone of the series. Up until this point, the only people on the whole ship that have had even an ounce of meaty substance to them are Dr. Rush (who plays off as a bit of a two-faced mad man) and Eli. The latter’s sarcastic, witty façade is more to the credit of actor David Blue; his approach to the character makes it what it is, and not so much the writing. That leaves Rush as the lone wolf in the well-written-character department. But that starts to change with these two episodes. The Colonel gets a more developed back-story, and we get to see into his previous home life and failing marriage. Chloe (Elyse Levesque) becomes more than just “the senator’s daughter.” Lt. Scott gets fleshed out, and for the first time he’s more than the generic archetype that he seems to be in the first 7 or so shows. And, perhaps most importantly, the series’ first real (and much needed) villain begins to take shape. Above all else, not only do these two episodes begin to push the series forward in an interesting way, they’re also just really well written. In-between “Earth” and “Life” is a fun episode, called “Time.” Even if it’s not exactly deep, serious or dramatic, the time-travel tale does add a bit of excitement to the show, as it features plenty of action. Aside from the opening moments of the pilot and the destruction of the Icarus base later in that same episode, “SGU” is a pretty dry, non-action based show. Not that I need incessant firefights and constant fisticuffs between characters, but it is admittedly nice every once in a while. It’s these three episodes that inspire some confidence in the future of “Stargate: Universe.” If the writers and producers can write and produce further stories of the same caliber as these three, I may just end up liking “SGU” a whole lot more.

Make no mistake; I don’t think “SGU” is a terrible series in the slightest. If fact, of the three main "Stargate" TV projects, I think this newest entry has the most promise. It’s got a heck of a lot of talented people in front of (and behind) the cameras. Robert Carlyle, Justin Louis, Ming-Na, Lou Diamond Philips and even newcomer David Blue do solid, consistently excellent work and are always great, even if their characters aren’t perfect at this point in time. Brian J. Smith and Alaina Huffman seem like they have the chops to be as good as the rest, it’s just, this time, neither of their characters have advanced sufficiently beyond a basic outline for them to really do much. The production design, visual effects and direction are all top notch. Unlike “SG-1” and “Atlantis”, “Universe” really does look expensive and on par with the big boys of cinematic television (“BSG”, “Lost”, etc.). Which it is; one episode of “SGU” reportedly cost twice that of an average episode of “Atlantis” – almost $5 million a show. An ncreased budget, a new possible direction for the franchise to go, and a rather solid five or so episodes in the SGU 1.0” blu-ray set give me hope that something good comes of this series.

Unfortunately, because MGM has only pushed out half (ten) of the planned (twenty) episodes from the first season on disc, I feel like I can’t judge the quality of the show as whole quite yet. It’s been so inconsistent over the short time it took to reach episode ten; who knows, even though “SGU” looks to finally be turning around in the latter half of the second disc, things may again get repetitive, derivative and boring in the eventual “SGU 1.5” release. The remaining stories have yet to even air on television (but they will, starting sometime in mid 2010), so in my opinion, it’s just too early in the game to lay down a strong final thought on the series. I think this half-season business is a mistake; I didn’t approve of it with “Battlestar Galactica” and I don’t like it now.

“SGU 1.0” contains the first ten episodes from season one, spread across two discs. Two versions of the "Pilot" are included via separate encodes; episodes can be accessed individually or via a “Play All” option. This half-season set includes:

- “Air: Parts I & II” [Broadcast Version]
- “Air: Part III” [Broadcast Version]
- “Air” [Extended Feature Length Version]
- “Darkness”
- “Light”
- “Water”
- “Earth”
- “Time”
- “Life”
- “Justice”

Video

The first half of season one arrives with 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1.78:1 widescreen transfers for all ten (Nine? Eleven?) episodes that are included in this 2-disc set. Overall, I’m going to say that this high-definition rendering looks great, if not exactly reference quality due to the nature of the intended style. Contrast, depth and black levels are stupendous and while a mild bit of infrequent crush is evident in a few scenes throughout the season. I’d say those are intentional and I don’t really fault the blu-ray much for them. The image is unmolested with no signs of DNR or edge enhancement, and the Blu-ray encodes are strong with nice detail and texture retention. Likewise, I spotted no obvious moments of banding or artifacts, even in the vast desert or the dark recesses of the Destiny interior. But, really, that’s to be expected as episodes look to maintain an average bitrate in the high teens, which is more than satisfactory for AVC and peaks appear to be in the 30's, which is terrific.

Stylistically this is the darkest “Stargate” yet. I can’t help but wonder if “Battlestar Galactica” influenced not only the shows narrative, but also visual style because, like Ron Moore’s epic masterpiece, “SGU” features a desaturated, dreary, somewhat bleak aesthetic in most scenes. Even bright daylight scenes are harsh, and in them skin looks bleached and pasty – or, in other scenes, sunburnt and overly hot. Part three of the 3-part pilot takes place almost entirely on a sand dune covered planet and here the show takes on a crisp high-contrast tone. The sand is almost blisteringly white, the crew’s dark sunglasses and Matt’s black uniform punch out against the lighter hues, and the sky is almost turquoise. It looks very cool, but is a little gritty all the same. On the upside, the sand dune scenes consist of a lot of long lens and helicopter shots, which hold up beautifully and are both sharp and detailed, showcasing the niceties of the increased clarity afforded by Blu-ray and high-definition.

As the first “Stargate” series natively produced in high-definition from day one, completely from the ground up, “SGU” actually looks quite a bit better – sharper, richer and with less occasional softness – than either of the two “SG-1” direct-to-video movies or the “Stargate Atlantis: Fans Choice" disc available on Blu-ray. Part of this stems from the fact that both “SG-1” productions and the first episode on the Fans Choice disc were shot on Super16 and Super35 film and feature SD-originated CG, whereas the new series is shot completely in high-definition, with all-HD effects, via the Panavision Genesis HD system; a high end digital device that quite successfully apes the look of celluloid (thanks to it’s 4:4:4 color space and lenses that offer a film-like depth-of-field) but also delivers a grain free image. The reworking in native HD also led to the effects crew finally redoing the decades old “kawoosh” (also known as the “Stargate Effect”) in 1080p. And, the bigger budget I talked about earlier certainly doesn’t hurt either, so I guess it’s no wonder ‘SGU’ looks as good as it does.

Audio

It’s clear from the very first scene of “SGU” that the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (48kHz/24-bit/~ 3.4Mbps) means business. Those opening shots consist of a fly-through the empty-for-the-moment Destiny (the shows ship) and every rattle, creak, groan and ambient effect the sound designers could think of is bounced around the soundscape – in fact in the commentary someone mentions that this sequence had something like 20 layers of sound. The result of all that means fairly activity surrounds and, when combined with a hefty weight from the LFE channel, the show provides a varied, dynamic mix that is quite exceptional. Joel Goldsmith – who previously scored both “SG-1” and ‘Atlantis’ televisions shows – returns to his role as composer for the “Stargate” franchise and his work on “SGU” is some of his best yet. The music is majestic, epic and in some ways – at least partly for the Pilot – recalls bits of his father's superb “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979) score. Hee uses deep, ominous tones that interact with the sound design and pound the bass with welcomed authority (again, this is similar to his dad’s work on “TMP” where the score often doubled as effectively evil sound effects for the V’ger cloud). In all this is pretty impressive and while it doesn’t truly rival the sound design of a major feature film or even approach the levels of pure awesome that “ Lost” achieves week-in-and-week-out, “Stargate: Universe” does come awfully close.

A Spanish Dolby Digital dub 5.1 (48kHz/448kbps) is available on all episodes and subtitles are offered in English and French for the same.

Extras

At first glance of the back cover it looks like there’s a heaping pile of extras included here – almost an exhaustive amount – spread across the two platters in the set. In actuality, what fans get are 10 episodes each with their own audio commentary; the series’ pilot available in both extended feature-length and the original broadcast forms, and a random smattering of behind-the-scenes featurettes with interviews from most of the cast and crew. Also a few ‘Stargate’ oriented bonus trailers are included. Video-based supplements are presented in a mix of standard definition and high-definition video. Further details below:

DISC ONE:

The extended cut of "Air" (HD, 2:18:05) is first up. The three-part pilot has been reassembled (and slightly extended) in this special home video exclusive cut of the debut episode "Air." This is my preferred version of the pilot as it flows better and makes for an excellent lead in movie to the series. The extended cut also includes its own audio commentary, which is different than the one found on the original broadcast cut of "Air: Parts 1 and 2."

Audio commentaries, are plentiful. If you haven’t got the time to listen to all the discussions (or simply want the most pertinent information about the show), skip the actor-only commentaries included here and stick with the tracks that feature at least a producer, although preferably a director or writer. Simply, the actor-only discussions are too light and goofy. They just don’t have as much meat as the other “creative commentator” helmed discussions. Disc one has two versions of the shows pilot; the broadcast cut and the extended cut. Of the two, although the extended cut is the preferred viewing choice, the broadcast is the preferred listening choice (i.e. it has the better commentary) and in my opinion is the best chat of the whole lot (including the commentaries on disc two). Overall the other commentary tracks are pretty standard stuff. There’s nothing exceptional about any of the further nine discussions, but they’re worthwhile listening (for the curious) without a doubt. A breakdown of the commentaries reveals:

- Audio commentary on "Air" [Broadcast Version] by executive producer Robert C. Cooper, director Andy Mikita and VFX supervisor Mark Savela.
- Audio commentary on "Air" [Extended Version] by actors Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.
- Audio commentary on "Darkness" by actors Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.
- Audio commentary on "Light" by actors Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.

"Destiny SML" (16x9 SD, 39:41) – the star map and log interactive feature – hides a collection of interviews with the cast and crew, where they discuss their characters and the series as a whole. The only thing I don’t like is the clunky delivery system that lacks a “Play All” option. Otherwise this collection of featurettes is worth a look as it offers a bit of insightful commentary from the major players, as well as some additional B-roll footage that one is not likely to find elsewhere. 14 segments in total (with some tabs housing additional content) are included. A closer look reveals:

- "Module 001: Chatting with the Cast – Robert Carlyle" (2:12)
- "Module 002: Chatting with the Cast – Justin Louis" (2:14)
- "Module 003: Chatting with the Cast – Lou Diamond Philips" (2:16)
- "Module 004: Chatting with the Cast – Ming-Na" (2:08)
- "Module 005: Chatting with the Cast – David Blue" (2:28)
- "Module 006: A Brand New ‘Universe’" (2:35)
- "Module 007: Designing 'Destiny'" (3:12)
- "Module 008: Inside 'Destiny'" (3:25)
- "Module 009: Stargate 101 – Presented by Dr. Daniel Jackson" (“Play All”, 6:08) features the sub-sections:
-- "The Stargate"
-- "The Goa ‘uld"
-- "Hyperspace"
-- "The Ancients"
-- "Ascension"
-- "Lucian Alliance"
- "Module 010: Kawoosh! 2.0" (2:50)
- "Module 011: Shooting on the 'Destiny'" (2:30)
- "Module 012: Director’s Minutes with Andy Mikita for the 3-Part Pilot ‘Air’" (2:03)
- "Module 013: Ep1x01 ‘Air’ – No Day at the Beach with Robert Carlyle" (2:05)
- "Module 014: Ep1x01 ‘Air’ – White Sands, NM" (3:35)

“Chatting with the Cast…” is what it sounds like – little interviews with the name that follows. “Brand New Universe” and the two “Destiny” themed featurettes look at the shows production design. “Stargate 101” houses a series of little clips with ‘SG-1’s’ Dr. Jackson who quickly introduces the Stargate Universe to a 3rd-party (the viewer) who, we assume, has never seen a single episode or feature-film that has the word ‘Stargate’ anywhere in the title. “Kawoosh” looks at the new HD-ready special effect. And the final four featurettes all deal with the making of the show’s feature-length pilot episode.

Kino video diaries (16x9 SD, 12:51). An introduction to this supplement called “Kino 101 with Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper” is a featurette that discusses the little documentary device used in the show, with comments from the shows producers. An additional six extended KINO entries are included as well (allowing a look at the scenes outside of the series); on the plus side, unlike the SML featurettes a “Play All” option is available. On the downside, these are little more than useless deleted scenes that add little to the overall package.

Bonus trailers are for:

- "Stargate: Atlantis – The Complete Series" on DVD. Runs 53 seconds, in 480i SD.
- "Stargate: SGI – The Complete Series" on DVD. Runs 56 seconds, in 480i SD.

DISC TWO:

Audio commentaries, are plentiful. If you haven’t got the time to listen to all the discussions (or simply want the most pertinent information about the show), skip the actor-only commentaries included here and stick with the tracks that feature at least a producer, although preferably a director or writer. Simply, the actor-only discussions are too light and goofy. They just don’t have as much meat as the other “creative commentator” helmed discussions. Disc one has two versions of the shows pilot; the broadcast cut and the extended cut. Of the two, although the extended cut is the preferred viewing choice, the broadcast is the preferred listening choice (i.e. it has the better commentary) and in my opinion is the best chat of the whole lot (including the commentaries on disc two). Overall the other commentary tracks are pretty standard stuff. There’s nothing exceptional about any of the further nine discussions, but they’re worthwhile listening (for the curious) without a doubt. A breakdown of the commentaries reveals:

- Audio commentary on "Water" by director William Waring and actors Justin Louis, Brian J. Smith and Elyse Levesque.
- Audio commentary on "Earth" by actors Brian J. Smith, David Blue and Elyse Levesque.
- Audio commentary on "Time" by executive producer Robert C. Cooper and David Blue.
- Audio commentary on "Life" by actors Ming-Na, Justin Louis and Brian J. Smith.
- Audio commentary on "Justice" by director William Waring and actors Justin Louis, Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque and Jamil Walker Smith.

"Destiny SML" (16x9 SD, 38:49) – the star map and log interactive feature – hides a collection of interviews with the cast and crew, where they discuss their characters and the series as a whole. The only thing I don’t like is the clunky delivery system that lacks a “Play All” option. Otherwise this collection of featurettes is worth a look as it offers a bit of insightful commentary from the major players, as well as some additional B-roll footage that one is not likely to find elsewhere. Disc Two has 17 individual sections including:

- "Module 001: Chatting with the Cast – Alaina Huffman" (2:13)
- "Module 002: Chatting with the Cast – Brian J. Smith" (2:34)
- "Module 003: Chatting with the Cast – Elyse Levesque" (1:52)
- "Module 004: Chatting with the Cast – Jamil Walker Smith" (2:23)
- "Module 005: Director’s Minutes with William Waring on ‘Water’" (1:55)
- "Module 006: Ep1x06 ‘Water’ – Falling Through Ice with Stunt Coordinator James Bamford" (2:05)
- "Module 007: Ep1x06 ‘Water’ – On the Ice with Brian J. Smith" (2:23)
- "Module 008: Ep1x06 ‘Water’ – Setting the [Alien] Mood" (2:15)
- "Module 009: Ep1x07 ‘Earth’ – Out on the Town with David Blue" (1:45)
- "Module 010: Ep1x07 ‘Earth’ – A Stunt in Tight Spaces with Stunt Coordinator James Bamford" (1:52)
- "Module 011: Director’s Minutes with Earnest R. Dickerson on ‘Earth’" (2:10)
- "Module 012: Ep1x08 ‘Time’ – Helmet Cam 101" (2:33)
- "Module 013: Ep1x08 ‘Time’ – Shooting in the Rain" (2:05)
- "Module 014: Ep1x08 ‘Time’ – Make it Rain" (2:06)
- "Module 015: Ep1x10 ‘Justice’ – Fight!" (2:25)
- "Module 016: Future/Past: The New Stargate" (3:01)
- "Module 017: A New Look for SGU" (2:44)

Four more “Chatting with the Cast…” interview segments are included, as are two more "Director’s Minutes" featurettes (which are like the “Chatting” pieces, only with the corresponding director). ‘Water’ gets three specialized behind-the-scenes featurettes, two of which look at the stunts on the ice planet. ‘Earth’ gets two featurettes – one with David Blue on the club set and another with the shows stunt coordinator. ‘Time’ gets three featurettes, all of which focus on the practical side of things. The coolest piece is “Helmet Cam 101” which breaks down the episodes cinematography and David Blue talks about his dual role of actor and cameraman in this particular episode. The aptly named “Fight!” featurette looks at the final battle between Dr. Rush and the colonel. Lastly, the producers return to talk about the new “prototype” Stargate featured in the show, and how it differs from previous iterations with “Future/Past” and then they talk about the particular style and design that they wanted to give “SGU” with “A Whole New Look.”

Kino video diaries (16x9 SD, 10:46). An additional nine extended KINO entries are included on disc two, allowing a look at the scenes outside of the series; on the plus side, unlike the SML featurettes a “Play All” option is available. On the downside, these are little more than useless deleted scenes that add little to the overall package.

Bonus trailers for:

- “Stargate: The Ark of Truth” on DVD (and blu-ray). Runs 59 seconds, in 480i SD.
- “Stargate: Continuum” on DVD and Blu-ray. Runs 58 seconds, in 480i SD.
- “Defying Gravity” on DVD. Runs 1 minute 10 seconds, in 480i SD.

Packaging

‘Stargate Universe: SGU 1.0’ comes to high definition from MGM Home Entertainment via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in a 2-disc set containing the first 10 episodes from the show’s first season. Two dual layer BD-50's are housed inside an Elite style case. A $10 insta-cash rebate for further ‘Stargate’ DVD and Blu-ray purchases is also included in the package. Unfortunately for non-US based readers the Blu-ray is locked to Region A, which is problematic, as I see no comparable Region B release currently available for sale. ‘SGU’ fans without Region Free or Region-A capabilities are out of luck for the time being.

Overall

The high-definition video transfers and lossless audio mixes are near impeccable on these discs. But, the series itself and the package of extras that supplement it, come down to one word – frustrating. The extras are respectable, but navigation of the SML featurettes is needlessly difficult, and in later home video releases I hope the person designing the menus is a little less ambitious and more straightforward. As to the actual show – could “Stargate: Universe” become something exceptional? Well, there’s certainly the groundwork there for it to be, at the very least, decent television, but, as it stands, the first 10 episodes don’t really give me enough material to form a strong opinion on the series. MGM’s decision to release the first season in these half-sets is troubling and, I think, misguided. All these half-seasons do is make people wait and see what plans and/or deals retailers have for the inevitable full season set. In the short run, a half-season release accomplishes very little and only makes the show look obscenely expensive. It would have been smarter to hold off a couple of months and push out the whole 20-episodes from the first season in one swoop. Instead, we get this limp, confusing release that I’m extremely cautious to recommend. Perhaps, for now, “SGU: 1.0” on Blu-ray is best left to just the hardcore fans. In a couple of months when the inevitable 1.5 and Season One sets are out, we’ll see what MGM has in store, and maybe I can reevaluate the situation.

The Show: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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