Alaina Huffman (First Lt. Tamara Johansen) is 29
Brian J. Smith (First Lt. Matthew Scott) is 28
Jamil Walker Smith (Master Sergeant Ronald Greer) is 27
Elyse Levesque (Chloe Armstrong) is the youngest at 23
To give you a comparison, Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson) was only 27 when Season 1 of Stargate SG-1 aired. Rainbow Sun Franks (Aiden Ford) was only 25 when Stargate Atlantis launched, and Jason Momoa (Ronan Dex) was 28 when he joined the cast. Having cast members in their 20’s is not such a big change for Stargate, and I think it’s safe for me to say these guys played very popular roles. Keep in mind too that the actor’s age might be different from their character’s given age. According to “1969”, Daniel Jackson is actually five years older than Michael!
So do not judge Universe based on what you have heard. These before mentioned notions have been blown to such proportions that at every discussion of Universe they become the elephant in the room. Please, watch the show and make your own judgment.
Universe displays such a vast range of characters, there’s someone for everyone to identify with. While the descriptions of these characters that have been released may seem cliché, there is an obvious sense in the first hours that there is way more to these characters than meets the eye. What will grab your attention and help you to identify is their reactions to their situation. The emotions are so raw, so unfettered, that I found it hard not to feel it too and sympathize. It reaches a level that Stargate fans are not accustomed to seeing. We are used to seeing characters who get into difficult situations while knowing the risks. They signed up for it. They fight back their emotions because it is what they are expected, even trained, to do. The survivors in Universe didn’t choose this. They are unprepared, untried, and untrained, and most of them have no reason to hide their fear behind a façade of controlled calm. They see what their reality has become, and they react to it the same way most of us at home would. That’s were science fiction and reality meet.
Have you ever read a book and become so engrossed by the injustices that you see the characters are perpetrating, that you read the book because you are angry at those characters? You read because you want to see if they get what they deserve in the end? I have done that, and those emotions – the way that I would get mad about the terrible things people would do – fueled many an A graded essay. There are characters in Universe that are already having this effect on me, but I am trying to reserve judgment. One of the things that is made abundantly apparent in these first episodes is the fear and uncertainty that these characters feel, and the tension between them as they try to get past placing blame. Because of the violence of their emotions as they come to grips with what has happened, characters that act like real jerks in the first hours may turn out to be likeable later. I’m just going to keep telling myself that.
Speaking of civilians, I had a feeling from the trailers that Eli Wallace, played by David Blue, was going to be high in the rankings as far as my favorite character. I was right. If you like the character who just can’t resist saying what they are thinking (and it’s probably what you were just thinking too), says all the rest with his body language, and will try to bring levity to the direst of situations with a bad joke, Eli is your man. He is your classic comic relief, whether he needs to be or not. And just wait until you see his reaction to the Stargate!
First Lieutenant Tamara Johansen, played by Alaina Huffman, also struck a chord with me. Among her colleges she appears to be someone they trust without reservation, a good quality for a doctor indeed. “TJ”, as they call her, deals with the terrifying situation she is placed in without losing focus, though all the while claiming to be just a field medic. In this way and in one particular moment in which she immediately earned my respect, I swear she was channeling Dr. Janet Frasier. I loved it.
The rest of the crew is a little harder to gauge at this point. Everyone seems to have had a reason, an agenda, that is largely unexplained as of yet. As I said, there is way more than meets the eye. We may know what their purpose was before – whether they were just there for the tour or for the long haul – but their role now will have to be entirely different. How well they adjust to what their new functions will have to be in this makeshift crew is something I will watch with interest.
It was wonderful to be able to see some familiar faces. We saw the most of Richard Dean Anderson, and according to the recent news it looks like he will be seen again late in the season. Jack O’Neill hasn’t changed a bit, and it was great to see him in BDUs once again. Amanda Tapping was back to being a blond to reprise her role as Sam Carter. Sam seemed surprisingly at home in command of the George Hammond, Earth’s newest Daedalus class ship. Michael Shanks’s appearance as Daniel Jackson was brief, but oh so sweet. Three words, ladies: black leather jacket!
Of course one must not forget Gary Jones and Bill Dow! Walter Harriman, as Gary has described, was indeed dressed in camouflage. Don’t ask Gary about it. He’ll tell you it’s for blending in with the filing cabinets! Dr. Bill Lee’s role in the plot was unexpected, even to him! Let’s just say I think he had a rude awakening, and later probably thought it was just a dream.
The series has been provided with the perfect tool for allowing us to see our old friends. As fans will see, it provides the opportunity for the writers to have endless and completely plausible visits from the Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis casts. In fact, we already know that Michael Shanks will return for two future episodes, though not necessarily by the same means in both occasions.
Then there is our other old friend with a new twist. To be perfectly honest, the new Stargate looks amazing, but it has me completely confused. The Destiny is very old, so does this mean this gate design predates the Pegasus or Milky Way gates? Or both? If you’ve seen the symbols on it, it no doubt has occurred to you that those are not constellations. These details are exactly the type of thing that I always loved about Stargate. There is sure to be a whole history behind it that will unfold to have greater ramifications than anyone will expect. What these symbols are – three episodes in – is yet to be explained. This comes as no surprise however. How things work is not so much a concern so long as they actually do work. You can bet that eventually the puzzle of the Destiny’s gate will be addressed – pun intended!
The cinematography is something that really has to be seen. Description cannot do it justice. As someone who has soaked up all that I can regarding filming techniques from Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, I can clearly see the difference in the approach they are taking with Universe. Think of your television screen as a wall between you and the characters you are watching. Now try to imagine it being gone. It’s not easy, is it? That’s because it is so rarely done, but yet this is exactly what they have accomplished. The camera is placed in positions we have never seen before, taking angles and panning in atypical ways. It lurks in corners, looks though narrow spaces, and hides behind random objects. It sees the world more as a human being would, rather than as a piece of machinery would, providing you with a sense of being included in the goings on. If you are familiar with hit series Firefly, you may recognize the methods because that is where Brad Wright and Robert Cooper drew their inspiration.
The sound track is something else to behold. As a musician and a fan who recognizes what music brings to the tone of the video it accompanies, I believe that Joel Goldsmith has really outdone himself this time. Joel composed a hauntingly beautiful piece featuring a violin. It is similar in style to Sanctuary’s main theme, which is also Joel’s work. It is used to great effect in the less action-driven scenes. At the same time, there are also pieces that feature more modern, electric instruments than we are accustomed to hearing on Stargate, but the effect is . . . it’s so amazing it is indescribable. Joel, if you were to market the soundtrack, I’d be first in line! Sanctuary too!
When I get down to it, I think this one instance just might say it all. I feel no shame in saying that when I first witnessed a group of the Destiny’s new crew members go through the Stargate, I sat here and grinned like an idiot. It felt so good to see that again, and more than that, it felt right. It felt like I was home again after a long trip full of homesickness. The happiness that settled over me was still rivaled by my concern for what was going to happen, but it was in no way diminished. I’m not usually that easy to please, but when that old feeling rushed back, I just knew.