TV: New 'Stargate' worth going through

Published October 1, 2009 5:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For a network that is all about science fiction, it's a shame that the Sci-Fi Channel -- oops, Syfy Channel -- is one of the worst displays of the genre on television.

From the failed remake of "Flash Gordon" and the bland "Warehouse 13" to the Z-grade, straight-to-video movies on the weekends, Syfy has been a disappointing excuse for speculative fiction. And sorry, that includes the tepid and uninspired "Battlestar Galactica" remake.

And worst of all, the network keeps going back to the same well just to demonstrate its complete lack of creative drive -- the upcoming "Galactica" prequel "Caprica," the "Wizard of Oz" redo "Tin Man" and the "Dune" miniseries, to name a few.

That also goes for "Stargate" and its spinoff "Stargate: Atlantis."

But then comes the latest in the story about ancient travel portals, "Stargate: Universe," and finally I can say there's a series on Syfy worth a peek. It debuts tonight at 7.

I've never been a fan of the "Stargate" lore, even the 1994 movie starring Kurt Russell and James Spader on which the franchise is based. I found it dull, its clash of military and science clichéd.

Not much of that soldier-vs.-scientist dynamic changes in this new version of the series, in which a band of humans are teleported to an ancient spaceship. But this time around, the setup is more palatable because this cast of characters seems a little more likable and interesting.

In the "Stargate" universe, ancient teleporters have been discovered, and a scientist named Nicholas Rush ("The Full Monty's" Robert Carlyle) is trying to figure out the combination to open a new gate discovered on another planet.

With the help of a nerdy video gamer (David Blue) who learned how to decode the portal's combination, they finally unlock the gateway.

But a force of aliens attacks the planet the humans are on, forcing them to open the stargate and go through it.

About 80 humans end up inside a mysterious and abandoned ancient starship that is billions of light-years away from Earth.

So a new storyline is born that is simpler and potentially more dynamic than any of the other "Stargate" series. Included in the cast are such name actors as Ming-Na ("ER") and Lou Diamond Phillips ("La Bamba").

I'll go with this ragtag band of human survivors for the journey for now, which is a lot more I can say than for anything else that's been on Syfy.

Vince Horiuchi 's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at vince@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">vince@sltrib.com or 801-257-8607. For more television insights, visit Horiuchi's blog, "The Village Vidiot," at blogs.sltrib.com/tv/. Send comments about this column to livingeditor@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">livingeditor@sltrib.com.

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