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Surviving in the Dark: "Stargate Universe" Cast and Crew Discuss the Future of the Franchise

Proving that it's possible to kickstart a franchise after fifteen years on the air, Stargate Universe creators Brad Wright and Robert Cooper and stars Robert Carlyle, Elyse Levesque, Ming-Na, Brian J. Smith, David Blue, Alaina Huffman, and Jamil Walker Smith appeared at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend to talk up the newest addition to the Stargate franchise, which launches this October.

After screening an intense and gripping trailer for Stargate Universe (see below, though the music is slightly different than what screened at SDCC), the cast and creators took to the stage to discuss the impetus behind the darker, more verite Stargate Universe, why it's accessible to new viewers and old alike, and what to expect from the first season.

"We really had to keep the franchise going and make sure that Stargate fans have something to watch," said co-creator Robert Cooper. "It is quite a different feel. It will reintroduce what a Stargate is. It will give you a whole new sense of what Stargate is in an introductory sense that is quite clever, but it will very much reward the SG-1 and Atlantis viewers."

Helping make this transition is former Stargate: SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson, who will recur throughout the first season of Stargate Universe, along with Amanda Tapping, another familiar face to fans of the franchise who will appear in the pilot episode.

"We've already tried to acknowledge what came before and never reset back to zero in an episode, so we didn't undo things, but we wanted the casual viewer to access the show," explained co-creator Brad Wright. "It's difficult when you get too serialized. There's no question that it does have a broader, more continuing storyline. It will reward any viewer that turns on episode five, but please start from [episode] one." He described the production as having "a different energy... It's much more hand-held and dynamic."

"It had gotten to the point where everyone was a superhero and a genius," said Cooper of the previous series in the Stargate franchise. "[SGU] is trying to make the characters identifiable" and put them through some major challenges early on. But it's not all doom and gloom as Cooper promised "humor and hope" among the narrative elements.

Still don't blink during the opening episodes of Stargate Universe. "Big things are going to happen very quickly," promised Cooper. "In terms of what happens and what unfolds in the show, even in the first 10 episodes. You're going to find if you do skip an episode, you might miss something huge. There may be major revelations with what's going on with the characters and the storyline."

And the characters themselves will prove to have moralities that are surprisingly like quicksilver. "In Universe, all of our characters are both heroes and villains," explained Wright, "and remarkably have the ability to slip in and out of the skin of both."

For Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, Stargate Universe offered the opportunity to sign on to for a long-term engagement on an American television series. Asked if he prefers to do film or television, Carlyle stated, "I don't think it's the actor's place to define between genres. It's about the part and the people you're working with. [Universe is] a very easy, very welcome platform to express myself."

His character, widowed scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush, was described by producers as being able to "make dislikable things likable." (Hmmm...)

David Blue, who plays genius civilian Eli Wallace, is also Universe's resident franchise fan. Blue said he had "pride to be a part of [the Stargate franchise]" but that there was also "pressure to make it great for you [the viewers]." Blue has seen every episode of SG-1 and Atlantis as well as "pretty much every sci-fi show out there." Wright kidded that with Blue they landed both an actor and a technical adviser.

As for the other characters, a fan stunned the female members of the panel by implying that they didn't seem like "strong, intelligent, beautiful" women, an assertion which the producers--and the actors themselves--were quick to refute:
  • "T.J. is a strong intelligent woman," said Alaina Huffman, whose character Tamara Johansen is a military lieutenant. "They're great at developing these strong women that I think are great role models and carry themselves very well. They have their flaws and their moments."
  • "Camille Wray is a strong, intelligent lesbian," joked Ming-Na, who plays an IOA accountant.
  • "Not to sound redundant, but Chloe is also strong in the physical sense and an intelligent young woman," said Elyse Levesque who plays Chloe Amstrong, the daughter of a prominent US senator. She went on to say the way that Chloe and the other characters "band together makes them who they are."

What else was revealed about Stargate Universe?

Wright said enigmatically that "none of these characters are supposed to be there." The trailer indicates that they flee through a Stargate when their base is under attack by unseen forces... and end up billions of light years away from Earth on an Ancient ship.

SPOILER ALERT! Those worried about the high body count for doctors in the Stargate franchise series shouldn't get attached to Universe's resident physician. Said Cooper: "We kill the doctor right away in this one." (And it doesn't seem like he's kidding.)

Finally, questioned about whether viewers will learn about the mythical ninth chevron on Stargate Universe, Cooper offered a single-word answer: "Maybe."

Stargate fans, read that as a yes.

Stargate Universe: Comic-Con 2009 Preview:

Stargate Universe launches in October on Syfy.


Taezar said…
Oh, looks nicely dark and challenging.
What Voyager could have been in a less than perfect universe - ie. Good television.
I just hope we don't have to wait a year for it to come out on ScyFy Australia...
angel said…
Nothing appealing at all about the trailer or the cast. I'll miss Stargate and it's a shame that Brad became bored with Atlantis and didn't seem to care that the fans weren't. Stargate was about escapism and not boring ordinary people lost in space. I dont see anymore realism in this show that SGA/SG1 didnt have I thought they wanted to get away from the genius and the superhero, seems like the genius is featured front and centre in SGU. SGU isnt Stargate, its a bad attempt at jumping on the bandwagon of other shows like Lost/BSG,so where does the new and original come in.

There is nothing origninal about SGU and if there was why the need to drag in every SG1 cast member and what about Atlantis, wasn't that part of the Stargate World, I guess not.
SGU is just a sexed up show to appeal to the young males and nothing that would appeal to long standing fans of the franchise who loved Stargate because it was light hearted entertainment that appealed to a huge range of fans.

I guess its time to move on.
Celticdenefew said…
When I first heard about SGU it sounded a lot like SG Voyager 90210. I rolled my eyes and wasn't going to go out of my way to watch it. The more and more I learn about SGU, the better it sounds. If I wasn't convinced before, this quote pushed me over: "In Universe, all of our characters are both heroes and villains," explained Wright, "and remarkably have the ability to slip in and out of the skin of both." I think the drama possibilities are endless when the characters don't have to be perfect. I shouldn't have doubted Brad and Rob, they've given us over 10 years of good TV, here's hoping for many more :)

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