SGU Stargate Universe: Air (Part 1)   Rewatch 
April 8, 2016 10:40 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

College dropout Eli Walllace solves a mathematical equation in an online computer game, planted there by Stargate Command. For his achievement, Dr. Nicholas Rush and General Jack O'Neill recruit Wallace to the Icarus program, which is attempting to dial a nine-chevron address with the Stargate. When the hidden base is attacked, an evacuation begins. But with the planet's unstable core about to go critical and lacking any other means of escape, approximately 80 people are forced to step through the gate and head to an unknown destination -- on the other side of the universe.

"Where the hell are we?"


* Robert Carlyle as Dr. Nicholas Rush (Chief Scientist)
* Louis Ferreira as Colonel Everett Young (Expedition Leader and Military Commander)
* Brian J. Smith as Lt. Matthew Scott (Military Second in Command)
* Christopher McDonald as Alan Armstrong (US Senator)
* Elyse Levesque as Chloe Armstrong (Civilian)
* David Blue as Eli Wallace (Civilian)
* Alaina Huffman as Lt. Tamara "TJ" Johansen (Medical Officer)
* Jamil Walker Smith as Master Sgt. Ronald Greer (USMC)
* Peter Kelamis as Adam Brody (Mechanical Engineer)
* Patrick Gilmore as Dr. Dale Volker (Astrophysicist)
* Jennifer Spence as Dr. Lisa Park (Scientist)
* Julia Benson as 2nd Lt. Vanessa James (USAF - Special Forces)
* Ming-Na Wen as Camille Wray (IOA Representative)
* Lou Diamond Phillips as Colonel David Telford (USAF)

* On the Stargate, seven chevron symbols are required to open a wormhole to specific coordinates within one's own galaxy.
* Eight chevron symbols can open a wormhole to another galaxy, but this requires more power.
* Add a nine chevron symbol, and you could conceivably go anywhere in the universe.
posted by zarq (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a rewatch thread. Spoilers are allowed.

That said, I tried not to give away too much in this post!

As of now, my plan is to post episodes to Fanfare on Fridays, if there are no objections.
posted by zarq at 10:43 AM on April 8, 2016

This may be one of the few rewatches I join in. I really liked SGU and was sad it didn't continue.

Can we lure Mefi's own jscalzi into these for supah-seekret behind the scenes stuff? It's been years now, spill some truth, John!
posted by phearlez at 11:14 AM on April 8, 2016

I was both excited and kind of sad about the premiere of SG:U. Even though the original show was showing its age in Season 10, it was still pretty fun and I loved the addition of Farscape Alums Browder and Black. Likewise, I felt Atlantis was still pretty entertaining, and both kind of suffered at the altar of a network which was slowly spiraling into an identity crisis that it's only now recently recovered from. That and we had the Battlestar Galatica effect that has altered the television sci-fi landscape quite dramatically, be it the most recent Expanse or the ongoing Killjoys and Dark Matter. So SG:U came in unfairly as something of an accomplice to the death of the other Stargate shows.

That said, the creators were pretty jazzed about it and excited at the prospect of doing something new with the franchise. I went all in for it, even though there was a pretty severe outcry from some fans who seemed to make a living of complaining after every episode how they weren't watching it and hated it, etc....etc.

I thought the casting was pretty fantastic and unsurprisingly, a number of the actors left to do even more successful television projects (Lou Diamond Philips, Ming Na, etc).

So...yeah, I'd need to go back and rewatch the first part to get a great grasp of what happened, but this sums up how I felt, at least, when I watched it.
posted by Atreides at 11:22 AM on April 8, 2016

And the counterpoint: I was a huge Stargate fan going in to SG:U - although Atlantis kinda stumbled in the first few seasons, it turned out fairly well. And then SG:U. Some of the mythology, sort of, but almost none of the week-to-week exploration of a new world, and more focused on the internal tensions and discoveries. I'll admit, I was sort of sour on it since it seemed like it was Stargate only in name and technologies. Which I know, they sort of had to do, we'd gotten to the point where humans were taking on all comers in SG-1 and Atlantis, so more of the same wouldn't have given the writers anything to do.

I remember at the time feeling like all the time they spent pining for home was annoying (more space! more ship! more discovery! less body swapping long distance phone calls back home, thanks), but on rewatch it wasn't quite so bad since it seemed to dry up sooner rather than later. The shame of it was that it was shaping up to be a really good show by time it was cancelled. By that point they'd thinned out the herd of people trying to get home, the basic "we're going to die because this was a stupid idea and we weren't prepared" premise had played out some of the early episode tensions had resolutions, the team was gelling, and they were cruising along dealing with reoccurring enemies and internal drama, huzzah!

It's a show that I almost sort of wish was released today as a Netflix original. It would give the show space to breathe without necessarily having to be episodic enough to retain viewership numbers.
posted by Kyol at 11:30 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

And yeah, as much as SG:1 and Atlantis introduced me to the woodlands of Vancouver, SG:U seems to have introduced me to the Bit Players Of the PNW as well as revitalizing a bunch of careers. So many familiar faces keep showing up in Sci-Fi shows that I recognize from old Stargate productions...
posted by Kyol at 11:32 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I liked this show specifically because it broke from the rest of the franchise. There was just so much canon by that time that it started to rival Marvel and DC continuity. It was impossible to sort out and understand what the hell was going on. I remember stumbling across an SG:1 episode at one point that consisted entirely of a briefing to some previously out of the loop government official so they could catch the audience up on this timeline vs. that timeline and why we could do this but not that and who was on who's side and why that had changed back in season four. I was kind of a fan even, and I eventually just gave up.

So SGU let them start over with a minimal set of backstory conventions to be respected. I didn't mind that it was obviously designed by someone who had gone, "Hey, that Battlestar Galactica show sure is successful, with everyone yelling at each other all the time. Maybe we should do a show like that." I just liked that I could get into it without having to sit through that briefing. Indeed the one time they annoyed me was precisely when they zigged the other way - I'm guessing because the existing fan base was slagging the show because it wasn't like the old stuff - and they had the ship inexplicably overrun by people who I gather were big baddies from one of the other shows.

(Also, I used to be in a writing group with Eli's mom. So it was cool seeing her again."
posted by Naberius at 12:55 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey. This sounds like fun. :)

I loved all things Stargate, even though the first couple seasons of Atlantis tried my patience soundly. (I consider Stargate SG-1 to be the true spiritual successor to ST:TOS - it's a show whose appeal is largely rooted in the relationships between a tight-knit group of quirky protagonists who go into space and defeat mythological gods, both false and effectively real. It's *way* more old school Trek than anything that followed in the Trekverse.)

SG:U was a deeply flawed addition to the franchise, but I still loved it, and I loved them for trying it out. One of the things I enjoyed about it really is showcased in Air: unlike a lot of stories with the premise of 'we're stuck out in the middle of nowhere and trying to get home,' SG:U really played up how much trouble they were in. I mean, it opens with them overtaxing the life support just by being on board, and it removes one of the main advantages of the Stargate networks in earlier shows - the ones Destiny drops are severely limited in range.

Looking forward to talking about it more. (And I, for one, would enjoy rewatches of the entire Stargate franchise, even though we still refer to Atlantis as 'the bad Stargate' in my house.)
posted by mordax at 3:45 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

(And I, for one, would enjoy rewatches of the entire Stargate franchise, even though we still refer to Atlantis as 'the bad Stargate' in my house.)

posted by Thorzdad at 5:12 AM on April 9, 2016

I really like all things Stargate.
But I always find myself calling them stargate:tng, Stargate:ds9 and Stargate: voyager.

I hope there's a new trek show soon so it can define the theme of the next Stargate show...

Oh, actually didn't the makers of the original movie (Stargate:tos) say they wanted to make a sequel to the 1994 movie which ignored the TV cannon?
That's basically the jjverse of sg
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not only did they say they wanted to, they now are in the process of getting ready to make the first of a trilogy to reboot the Stargate franchise.
posted by Atreides at 4:46 PM on April 9, 2016

Not only did they say they wanted to, they now are in the process of getting ready to make the first of a trilogy to reboot the Stargate franchise.

I want to be hyped about that, but it's Roland Emmerich. I suspect I'll just go back and watch the old shows instead. :(
posted by mordax at 5:00 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I totally wasn't paying attention, I guess that was the point. Blech. This is why we can't have sequels to nice things.
posted by mordax at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2016

I'm going to give this a try and rewatch the first two episodes and see what I think.

I can't quite recall the timing, but my impression is that I watched SGU before anything else (I never watched the movie) and then, because I liked it so much (and was unhappy it was canceled), later ended up watching the other two series.

It was a bit hard-going for me at the beginning of both series, especially Atlantis, and I really had a lot of trouble watching the final season of SG-1 and never watched the final few episodes (even though the completionist OCD part of me is unhappy about this). But, overall, I was thoroughly won over by both show's charms. Yet, when it was all said and done, I was left hungry for SGU's virtues. I really liked SGU. So I guess I'm the opposite of most Stargate fans. Sort of like someone who came into Trek by watching Enterprise and really liked it.

That doesn't dissuade me from asserting that all those who hated SGU were wrong.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:13 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yet, when it was all said and done, I was left hungry for SGU's virtues.

It really had some, didn't it?

My contention that SG:U was deeply flawed is about the times it shied away from its central premise, rather than all the ways it was different from SG-1 and SG:A. I don't want to get too far ahead in the discussion, but Air completely hooked me in a way that things like BSG or ST:VOY never managed.

It was a bit hard-going for me at the beginning of both series, especially Atlantis, and I really had a lot of trouble watching the final season of SG-1 and never watched the final few episodes (even though the completionist OCD part of me is unhappy about this).

SG-1 is my favorite of the three shows - I have seen it all the way through more than once - and I'm still going to tell you that it's fine to skip the end of S10. I enjoyed a lot about the Ori arc, but like SG:A and SG:U, SG-1 S9/10 is effectively an entirely different show that was filled with problems that did not plague any of the others.

(Something I've thought about a lot in adventure fiction is that heroes have scope, and pushing them beyond their scope messes everything up. Like... John McClane can save a building or a city by himself, but he shouldn't save the world. SG-1 could save a planet or even - occasionally - the whole galaxy, but fighting beings who were indistinguishable from *actual* gods pushed the story out of where it worked properly, and the seams show hardest toward the end.)
posted by mordax at 3:20 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I watched the first two parts of "Air" yesterday (which I guess aired together as the series premiere on October 2, 2009) and then the third part today. It's kind of hard to discuss the first two separately, as they really do form a unit that introduces the show.

It was interesting to see the flashback alternations not signaled with titles -- another show I watch recently did this. Personally, I'm the kind of viewer that doesn't have much trouble following along and noting details and I don't need things spelled out for me. I vastly prefer shows that don't hand-feed the audience. Still, many people don't pay very close attention and get confused without titles.

I very much enjoyed this premiere -- these first two together -- but wasn't quite as happy with the third. We can discuss that further when we get to it. But I just really like how they set everything up and executed the beginning of the show. This is always difficult to do and the first episode is almost never very good. Juggling all the necessary exposition with keeping the audience interested is very difficult. In this case, I think they managed it with panache.

Both Robert Carlyle and David Blue are very well cast as Rush and Eli, respectively. I'm especially impressed with Eli because this stereotyped character will often fail miserably and just annoy everyone. I suppose that some people will still end up being annoyed by Eli (and maybe he becomes quite annoying later on, I can't recall), but here at the beginning I think that this portrayal is right in the sweet spot of being a little nerdy and maladroit and yet charming and competent and not over-the-top. It looks like Blue hasn't worked very much since this, which is a shame. Carlyle is a strong actor and this role is just right for him.

What I like most about this show and is very present in this premiere is the awe and wonder of this incredibly old and mysterious ship and how unfathomably far from Earth it really is. This is something that film/television science-fiction always handles poorly. How unimaginably vast space is -- that's something that is always glossed over. But most shows just stick within our galaxy (if that, and rightly so because, again, space is big) which is about 100,000 light years across the disk. Meanwhile, the Andromeda galaxy, which is the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way that's comparable in size, is 2.5 million light years away, which is twenty-five times further. So visualize this as like a town that's about a mile across and then the nearest town is about twenty-five miles away with nearly nothing between. This ship has traveled at (much) faster-than-light for many thousands of years, moving from one galaxy to the next, and Rush says that it's now something like a billion light years from Earth. That's like another 400 galaxies away, assuming they're about evenly spaced. (Which they sort of are -- there's the Local Group and then the Local Supercluster, all kind of moving together, but basically the galaxies within the universe are only somewhat less than isotropic, the unevenness there is creates some extremely large-scale filament structures and some slight clumpiness, but you can mostly just think that in the larger picture the galaxies are close to being uniformly spaced.)

To me, this is an awesome distance. But you can argue that this is silly. For any human being, "just" the distance to Pluto (!) or, at least, to the nearest star is already so unimaginably large as to make greater distances virtually cognitively indistinguishable. However, in our imaginary SF worlds, we get sort of accustomed to just translating interstellar distances into something like, say, cities scattered across a region of a continent. If a narrative even bothers thinking about the opposite side of the galaxy or even a nearby galaxy, that's usually treated equivalent to sort of like going partway around the Earth or to the opposite side of the Earth, respectively. Those places are a very long ways away in a fictional world that's at least metaphorically equivalent to the pre-modern era (no air travel, it takes weeks to months to travel to far away nations on other continents).

So if you're sort of accustomed to believing that you understand this scale (which you or I don't, but we sort of think we do), then the idea of something that's suddenly 400 times farther away than the (metaphorical) opposite side of the world -- which heretofore was just about the greatest distance these narratives ever deal with -- is just mind-bogglingly far. And with that comes a presumption of the truly unknown.

Which is also weird because, hey, even in the Stargate fictional universe there's lots of unknown right here in our galaxy. Atlantis was in Andromeda, right? Am I remembering that correctly? I'm not really sure why you need to go a billion light years away in order to drive home this whole idea of the complete unknown, but, well, I sort of think you do. Because of what we've become conditioned to think is normal and what we understand.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:52 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I didn't watch these at the time. I was bummed about the decline of sg1, and then I downgraded to super-ultra-basic cable. So this is a first-watch for me.
So far, halfway through the pilot, I am optimistic. The people are a mix of real and cartoony-stargate-caricatures (as I would expect from the team that dreamed up Apophis's goofy little shorts in sg1) and the hysteria and squabbling and hoarding and power grabbing seem like a promising setup.
posted by janell at 9:23 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Transcript of this episode is here. I'll add them to the posts from this point forward.
Rush has returned to the Control Room and he and Eli are investigating the control panel and arguing over which button does what. From the bored look on Scott's face as he sits slumped nearby, they've been doing it for a while.

WALLACE: What's that? Well, it doesn't look like life support.

RUSH: Yes, I realise that.

(He presses an area on the central screen and a floating holographic screen appears in the middle of the room showing a picture of the Milky Way galaxy.)

WALLACE (awestruck): Woah.

(He walks closer, as do Scott and everyone else in the room apart from Rush.)

SCOTT: What are we looking at?

RUSH: It's a star map.

PARK: That's the Milky Way.

RUSH: I believe it's a visual log of the ship's journey.

(Eli points to a flashing light close to the edge of the spiral.)

WALLACE: So this is where we are now?

RUSH: No. That's where the ship originally embarked from.

BRODY: Earth.

(The map begins to pull out and a line shows the route of the ship as the Milky Way fades into the distance.)

PARK: It's leaving the galaxy.

RUSH: It did –- long ago.

(They watch as the line continues to travel through the stars, stopping at a couple of points and then continuing onwards. Brody recognises a constellation as the line whizzes away after a stop-off.)

BRODY: That was Pegasus.

(The line moves on, indicating many more points where the ship stopped.)

SCOTT: So those points are more stars?

WALLACE: No –- they're galaxies.

(Shocked, Scott walks over to Rush.)

SCOTT: Rush. Where the hell are we?

RUSH (quietly): Several billion light years from home.

posted by zarq at 8:29 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Which is also weird because, hey, even in the Stargate fictional universe there's lots of unknown right here in our galaxy. Atlantis was in Andromeda, right?

posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was really bummed about this being cancelled. To me, it was the best of the Stargate franchise. Not that I watched more than a couple of seasons of SG-1 and a couple of episodes of Atlantis.

Perhaps I'll try them again before rewatching SG:U, because if I watch them immediately after SG:U there is basically zero chance I will slog through the shitty beginnings of both series.
posted by wierdo at 10:03 PM on May 5, 2016

I suppose that some people will still end up being annoyed by Eli (and maybe he becomes quite annoying later on, I can't recall),

It's been a while, but my main memory is that Eli has major Nice Guy tendencies, which really put me off him (and the writers for not realizing what they were doing there).
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:30 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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