DVD: So Long Stargate Universe; Welcome Home Season 2!

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After spawning two series that ran for a combined fifteen years – and two straight-to-video movies – the Stargate franchise, Stargate Universe, got canceled just as it was beginning to peak. The season two DVD set contains the final episodes of the series, along with a host of extras and a look at why the show ended on the note it did.

The second season of Stargate Universe [or, SGU] opened with the final part of the three-episode arc that had included the season one cliffhanger – Destiny was boarded by the Lucian Alliance and two key personnel were left on Destiny’s hull to face almost certain death.

Season two of SGU could be broken down into a few specific major arcs – dealing with the Lucian alliance prisoners; the reappearance of the blue aliens and their effect on Chloe; and the chess game between the Destiny’s people and the aliens’ efforts to block their attempts to refuel the ship. A few individual episodes might standalone, but even then, hints of the ongoing arcs would be threaded through them.

The large ensemble cast – Robert Carlyle [Dr. Nicholas Rush], David Blue [Eli Wallace], Louis Ferreira [Col. Everett Young], Ming Na [Camille Wray], Brian J. Smith [Lt. Matthew Scott], Jamil Walker Smith [Msgt. Ronald Greer], Alaina Huffman [Msgt Tamara ‘TJ’ Johansen], Elyse Levesque [Chloe Armstrong], Lou diamond Phillips [Col. David Telford], Patrick Gilmore [Dale Volker, Peter Kelamis [Adam Brody] and Julia Anderson [Lt. Vanessa James] – was among the best on television. It seemed that no matter what curves the writers threw at them, they could handle them [TJ leaving her baby on a distant planet; Chloe becoming part something else; Eli falling for a Lucian Alliance woman; the sudden appearance of a second Destiny – with exactly the same people aboard her].

During the second season, the people of Destiny found their mission changed, too. No longer was getting home the most important thing. Now there was something bigger, grander that they had to do – or so claimed the arrogant-to-the-point-of-imperiousness Dr. Rush – though even he changed and grew as the series moved forward.

One of the season’s most moving arcs-within-arcs was a two-parter that dealt with what happened to the crew of the second Destiny – an alternate history that revealed things about the original group that both reassured and shocked.

The season/series finale left fans [among whom I number myself] a bit at sea. It wasn’t the kind of perilous cliffhanger that marked the end of season one, but it wasn’t a definitive series finale, either. The finale, Gauntlet, found the Destiny taking an enormous risk to refuel – and taking a risky path to avoid being destroyed the alien ships that had begun to blockade the stars from which Destiny used, under optimum conditions, to refuel.

It was an audacious thing, to end the season with the planned season finale – not giving the series a more definitive conclusion – but to my mind, it works from the point of view that it offers a hopeful continuation of Destiny’s new mission.

Throughout season two, no matter how odd the premise might have been for individual episodes or arcs, SGU’s writing was sharper than in season one. We got to see all of the characters – from main characters like Rush, Eli and Chloe to less frequently seen ones like Corporal Barnes [Leanne Adachi] and Dr. Lisa Park [Jennifer Spence] – grow and change, usually [if not always] for the better as a result of their experiences on the Ancient vessel.

The sets and props [mostly practical] were frequently beautiful and added to the show’s unique feel. Over the second season, it grew from being Stargate with a Battlestar Galactica grittiness, to just being SGU. And where it wouldn’t have been a loss if the show had been canceled after the first season, it became, for me, at least, a crime that it had to be canceled just as it was hitting its peak.

SGU wasn’t quite there, yet. It still had a bit of room to improve, and a third season would likely have found it hitting that final level, but it had improved so much from its premiere to its finale, that it was a shame that its audience was no longer large enough to keep it on the air.

As with all Stargate franchise season sets, Stargate Universe: The Complete Final Season is absolutely packed with extras – including commentary tracks for every episode [commentaries by cast members tend to be less informative about the actual making of their episodes and more about the fun of making them; crew commentaries tend to focus more on the nuts and bolts – though they often contain fun anecdotes].

Features:

Disc One:

Commentaries: Louis Ferreira, Alain Huffman on Intervention; Brian J. burke, Jennifer Spence on Aftermath; Andy Mikita [Director], Patrick Gilmore, Mark Savela [Visual Effects supervisor] on Awakening; David Blue, Ming-Na on Pathogen

Featurettes: Robert Carlyle Directs; Andy Mikita Directs; Eli’s Mom Comes on Board; Brian J. Smith’s First Flight; Crashing a Shuttle; The Seed Ship with Joe Mallozzi [Consulting Producer/Writer]; Saying Goodbye to Sgt. Riley; Lou Diamond Phillips on Guest Stars

Disc Two:

Commentaries: Brian J. Smith, Elyse Levesque on Cloverdale; David Blue, Patrick Gilmore on Trial and Error; Louis Ferreira, Alaina Huffman on Greater Good; Jennifer Spence, Brian J. Smith on Malice

Featurettes: Lt. Scott Gets Hit by a Car; Inside Cloverdale with Brad Wright; How To Get Sucked Into Space; SGU Welcomes You to New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands

Disc Three:

Commentaries:

Louis Ferreira, Alaina Huffman on Visitation; David Blue, Patrick Gilmore on Resurgence; Jennifer Spence, Patrick Gilmore on deliverance; Jennifer Spence, Patrick Gilmore, Peter Kelamis on Twin Destinies

Featurettes: Deconstructing Destiny [7 Featurettes]: Power, Weapons, Shields, FTL Drive, The Ancient Chair, Communication Stones, and The Bridge

Disc Four:

Commentaries: Ming-Na, Jamil Walker Smith on Alliances; Jennifer Spence, Patrick Gilmore, Peter Kelamis on Hope; Elyse Levesque, Brian J. Smith on Seizure; Andy Mikita, Mark Savela on The Hunt

Featurettes: A Day in the Life of Jamil Walker Smith; Transplant Day; Sitting Down with Mike Dopud; Bringing the Bridge to Life; Louis Ferreira vs. Colonel Young

Disc Five:

Commentaries:

Jennifer Spence, Patrick Gilmore on Common Descent; Jennifer Spence, Patrick Gilmore, Michael Dopud on Epilogue; Andy Mikita, John Lenic [Producer] on blockade; Andy Mikita, John Lenic, Lawren Bancroft Wilson [Script Coordinator] on Gauntlet

Featurettes: Pitches: A Journey of Friendship and Discovery; Behind the Season 2 Finale – Gauntlet

Grade: SGU: Final Season – B+

Grade: Features – A+

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