Thursday, July 29, 2010

'Stargate Universe' Season 1, vol 2 (2010) [blu-ray]

Starring Robert Carlyle, Louis Ferreira and Brian J. Smith
Created by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright

Picking up where the first half of the season left off, "Stargate Universe" amps up the problems the crew of Destiny face.  Colonel Young (Louis Ferreira) has marooned Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle) on a barren alien world, but told the crew that Rush was caught in a rock slide.  The crew grow suspicious of this, with civilians like Camille Wray (Ming Na) deciding that enough is enough, and they begin to plan a mutiny to take over the ship.  Meanwhile, Destiny begins to encounter dangerous alien lifeforms intent on taking control of the ship.

And, of course, a third threat begins to build from a surprising place - back on Earth, the Lucian Alliance has managed to plant a spy in Stargate Command, and they may have found a way to board Destiny.  Young and his crew will have to learn to put aside their differences and defend the ship and their lives from these various outside threats.

The second half of this first season of "Stargate Universe" is a bit more energetic than the first.  The show ramps up the action quotient a bit, though in general is still a slower-paced show than previous "Stargate" shows.  This is problematic, however, because the show sometimes goes too far in the wrong direction.  The ideological conflict between the civilians and the military becomes rather grating towards the end when the civilians, especially Wray, become extremely unlikable.

Wray will often get in the way of things, claiming some kind of higher moral authority from being a civilian, when in such cases it's obvious that the military could and should remain in charge.  It's the sort of overly exaggerated 'liberal' character that does no one any favors.  The problem is that the show sets up the military being in the right whenever she comes around and starts talking about how in a civilized society, military takes orders from people like her.  Sure, that's all well and good, except that the situation never seems to fit her interpretation of the way things should be.

This isn't helped by the fact that Colonel Young can't ever seem to take ten seconds to explain to Wray why he does the things he does, somehow thinking that "because those are my orders" should be good enough for her.  In the episodes leading up to the finale, when Young is attempting to gather information from the uncovered spy, he hatches a plan to break the brain-washing the spy has undergone with involves removing the air from the room.  Wray, of course, objects to this on principle - "It'll kill him!"  Except that Young's plan isn't to kill the spy.  A couple of sentences along the lines of, "I'm not going to kill him, I just need to make sure he's not brainwashed anymore" would go a loooong way.

Still, despite these annoyances, "Stargate Universe" is a rather enjoyable show.  I certainly find it more entertaining than anything past the first season of "Stargate Atlantis."  The aliens Destiny encounter in the first few episodes of volume 2 are intriguing, more so than anything "Atlantis" ever did.  It's too bad they only appear for a few episodes before focus shifts back to the building threat from the Lucian Alliance, a "Stargate: SG-1" enemy that were never all that interesting to begin with and don't get any better here.

On blu-ray, the show looks great.  Watching it on TV, the show looks pretty decent, but doesn't really pop.  Here, colors are bright and bold, with the show seeming much more colorful and visually interesting than it ever does on TV.  The DTS-HD audio track is also quite nice, with crystal clear dialogue and booming bass usage.  Surround use is fairly limited, however, since the show rarely has more active events that require them.  Still, ambient noises aboard Destiny are fairly cool, and when the action does come, it's lively and energetic.

A small surprise, the volume 2 or "Season 1.5" blu-ray set came with a "Complete First Season" box that fits both the 1.0 and 1.5 releases in it.  Not bad, and it seems likely that a forthcoming "Complete First Season" release will simply be the two 1.0 and 1.5 releases contained in the same box for around the same price.