Does the return of Stargate Universe pander to critics?

‘Space’ ups the tempo, but there is a sense of reaction rather than development. Light spoilers for those who haven’t seen it.

ede2b8c9d9bc4727634714a8a2a065c8Having seen ‘Space’, the 11th episode of Stargate Universe and its return after a torturously long hiatus, it’s clear that the show has moved up a gear. The perceived lack of pace has been a consistent criticism of the series since the third or fourth episode, and is frequently mentioned in interviews and on comment threads across the internet and in print, so with the inclusion of aliens and a space battle, it will be interesting to see what the detractors focus on next.

I was a little disappointed, mind. Not entirely, as the episode itself was very enjoyable, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an awful lot of action in a short space of time. For a show that had established itself as being one of a more measured canter rather than a full-blown gallop, it seemed to jar with what I’d come to expect. Perhaps this is intentional on the part of the producers – keep shaking it up, keep the audience guessing, and you’ll have a retention of audience that might otherwise ebb away. But perhaps not.

Personally, I rather enjoyed the long lead-time that the show had taken, to apply a journalistic term to a television show. I liked how it had sown seeds for future development, how it was unafraid to devote entire arcs simply to character development, and indeed, how it relied on those characters for the backbone of its drama rather than placing them under mortar fire every week. It was an evolution of the series concept, I felt, one that helped fill out the universe it existed in through methods and approaches that were often too lacking in the pulpy SG-1, and the slightly confused SGA.

It struck me at points as if ‘Space’, for all its worthy attributes, was the show’s rebuttal to the criticism. A subtle “Well, guess what guys, we can do action too” tone rings through it, almost as if it were out to prove something. It’s not entirely unexpected, of course; my colleagues on this magazine have interviewed a large proportion of the cast over the last few months, and they’ve all stressed patience for the show to begin milking the adrenal gland. “Honestly, I think the back half of the season is… it kind of kicks up full gear and it’s just go-go-go-go-go for the last ten episodes,” said Elyse Levesque in this SciFiNow interview. “I think that the back half of the season has a lot of things that the fans are just going to go crazy for, so I’m really excited to see the fans’ reaction to what we have in store.” If that’s the case, we can expect more episodes like ‘Space’, hinted at in ‘Time’ of course. David Blue, as well, was keen to say that while the show had spent a lot of time establishing the characters, there would be more high-octane instalments to come. “You start to see it in ‘Life’, it’s a little bit slower than ‘Time’, which was pretty intense, so it’s going to have to go back and forth for a while, you’re going to have to have sci-fi, action-based episodes and then you’ll have some where you learn a little piece of the character, and then some mixed episodes, it’s just the nature of the beast.”

So perhaps I’m seeing capitulation where there isn’t any. I sincerely hope that’s the case. I’m sure there are some who disagree with me, and some who will never have a positive thing to say about Universe for various reasons, but I feel that it’s an intelligent, adult and considered approach to developing the franchise. I hope that the intensity and interpersonal drama continues to take precedence, because that’s what hooked me on the show in the first place. For it to descend into running gun battles, and fights in the great unknown before they fly through the sun to recharge would be a real shame, as it would, in my view, erode what’s given the series such class to date.

That being said, who wasn’t secretly rooting for Rush to be behind the alien attack? I certainly was.