When a research team is forced to evacuate their secret base, they find themselves on board a derelict Ancient vessel that is many galaxies away from Earth.
The ship's engines throttle back. Lights illuminate dark corridors. The on-board Stargate spins to life. Its kawoosh billows into the Gate Room. Lt. Matthew Scott follows, landing hard on the floor. He stumbles to his feet but before he can get his bearings, a metal case and a woman fly out of the event horizon. More people, boxes and cases are violently ejected, creating chaos in front of the active Stargate. Scott radios back through the gate, ordering them to slow down the evacuation. But civilians and soldiers continue pouring through.
Dr. Nicholas Rush, less disoriented than most, immediately examines a nearby console before climbing to a balcony overlooking the turmoil. Looking down on the scene, he smiles ever so slightly. As people sort themselves out, Scott approaches MSgt. Ronald Greer. Scott asks about their commanding officer, Colonel Everett Young. Everyone is startled when Young is hurled from the Stargate and across the room.
The Stargate shuts down, plunging the Gate Room into darkness. Flashlights allow Scott to locate Colonel Young, who has a bleeding head injury. Young transfers command to Scott before falling unconscious. After summoning Lt. Tamara Johansen, their only medic, Scott orders Greer to try and keep everyone calm. Unsure of where they are, unable to locate Dr. Rush, Scott and a wide-eyed civilian named Eli Wallace start off to assess their situation.
The ship's engines suddenly power up.
The two men locate Rush on an observation deck, bemused because they are traveling at faster-than-light speed -- but not through hyperspace, the means of interstellar travel which is familiar to Earth's Stargate Command. Rush concludes that the ship, of Ancient design, is several hundred thousand years old. And when an air vent in the Gate Room shuts down, Rush realizes that life support is failing.
Scott returns to the Gate Room in search of scientists to help Rush work on the life support system. A number of people, including Senator Alan Armstrong, demand to dial Earth. His agitation brings on a possible heart attack. Johansen does her best to help him, Young, and the other injured.
When Scott, Greer and the scientists reach the Control Room, they find Eli and Rush arguing. Greer, worried that Rush will worsen their situation, immediately sides with Eli and raises his weapon, ordering Dr. Rush not to press a button on his console. Eli is convinced that the man has no idea what he is doing. Scott quickly derails the confrontation, convincing Sgt. Greer to lower his gun. Rush pushes the button, believing it might reset the life support system. But nothing happens -- that would have been too easy.
The group next discovers a visual log of the Ancient ship's journey. Originating in the Milky Way, it has traveled through the Pegasus Galaxy and many others -- dozens of galaxies, at least. Rush estimates they are currently "several billion light years" from Earth.
Returning to the Gate Room, Scott organizes the able-bodied into search teams. As he speaks to the assembly of frustrated civilians, Rush opens the bag Young brought with him through the Stargate. When the teams move out, Rush quietly picks up the carry-all and leaves.
Meanwhile, Colonel Samantha Carter contacts Lt. General Jack O'Neill at the Pentagon from her command on the U.S.S. George Hammond. Just hours earlier the Hammond ferried Dr. Rush, Eli, Senator Armstrong, and his daughter and aide Chloe from Earth to Icarus Base -- an Earth outpost on planet with a unique core. For two years Icarus has been home to the ninth chevron project, into which Rush has poured his life.
Eli Wallace was recruited to help Dr. Rush solve a key power allocation problem to dial the first and only 9-chevron Stargate address, discovered in the Ancient database in Atlantis. A brilliant young man with few prospects, Eli used to spend his time playing video games in his mother's basement. He solved the "Dakara weapons puzzle" on the video game Prometheus -- planted by the U.S. military to find brilliant young minds. Rush and General O'Neill visited him at his home, but when he proved skeptical he was beamed aboard the Hammond against his will, and introduced to a vast new world of Stargates and space travel. His mathematical solution to the video game's puzzle should have supplied the Stargate with the precise amount of energy necessary to activate the ninth chevron.
Eli and Rush work on the problem, only to have the Colonel order a dinner break for the honored guests. During the meal the base came under a surprise attack by Goa'uld motherships, death gliders, even a troop transport attempting to take the Earth base by force. The Hammond and a squadron of F-302s (led by Icarus's Colonel Telford) defended the base while its people were evacuated through the Stargate.
But Dr. Rush didn't dial Earth. At the last minute, with new insight from Eli, they figured out how to properly dial the 9-chevron address. Angry when he learns what Rush has done, Young is forced to proceed with the evacuation, even though no one knows where it leads. He sends Lt. Scott through first to scout the mystery destination. As civilian and military personnel flee the collapsing base, they take mission supplies with them.
Many are killed in the attack, including the base's chief medical officer, Dr. Simms. Young is the last to escape, flung through the Stargate by an explosive shockwave. Due to its unstable core the planet blows up, destroying the attackers in a massive shockwave.
Surmising they were attacked by the Lucian Alliance, Carter reports the loss of 12 people. Since the Icarus Stargate was active for six minutes, she presumes the more than 80 people unaccounted for are safe on Earth. But O'Neill informs her that they did not evacuate to Earth. No one knows where they have gone.
- S. Fetter
Stargate Universe went before cameras in February 2009, at The Bridge Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia (where Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were shot). Show creators Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper served as show-runners. Atlantis writer Carl Binder joined them as an executive producer for the first season, with SG-1 and Atlantis's Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie as consulting producers in Season One.
The producers also brought on science fiction author John Scalzi as a creative consultant.
The premiere episode of Stargate Universe was originally planned to be two hours in length, but was extended to three hours. The show premiered with a 2-hour event on October 2, 2009, with the third act of the premiere airing the following week.
Check out the original casting breakdowns for the SGU regulars here!
The character of Nicholas Rush was originally named David Rush.
The character of Matthew Scott was originally named Jared Nash.
The character of Chloe Armstrong was originally named Chloe Walker, then Chloe Carpenter.
The character of Eli Wallace was originally named Eli Hitchcock.
The character of Ronald Greer was originally named Ron "Psycho" Stasiak.
Read the original casting descriptions for the show's main characters here!
Actress Julia Benson (formerly Julia Anderson) plays 2nd Lt. Vanessa James, the officer with whom Matthew Scott has a relationship. She previously played Willa, Lucius Lavin's wife, in the Stargate Atlantis episode "Irresistible."
The character of I.O.A. representative Camille Wray was written to have a small part with possible recurring status on the show. After producers cast well-known actress Ming-Na in the role and saw what she could do, they gave her more to do and eventually promoted the character to "regular" status.
"Brad and I have written up basically a one-page document that outlines the concept and the characters for the series. That's being used as a sales document to put together the financing. It is definitely very, very high on the agenda of things for MGM to get going. They're asking us. Basically, MGM is saying to Brad and I, 'When can you have it ready? When can you physically, actually write the script and start production?' These things take time. They aren't just born and grow on their own, unfortunately.
"... In [the] typical Stargate world, it's not really a pilot. It's a premiere. We generally sell and proceed with a full season of television.
"... What I can tell you about the third Stargate series, conceptually as we've conceived it, is that it is a completely separate, third entity. Much more so than Atlantis was. Atlantis was much more of a spin-off series of SG-1. It was born out of SG-1.
"The idea for this -- this is going to sound like a broken record -- but it started as a movie idea. We originally were sitting around talking about this. We were trying to come up with ideas for a Stargate feature. Not an SG-1 feature or an Atlantis feature, but a feature that would fit into the Stargate franchise that we feel we've created. Because the studio, if they're going to spend whatever X millions of dollars on a movie, it needs to appeal to a broad audience. Maybe even a bigger audience than is loyal to the show.
"Although mathematically, if everyone around the world who watched the show went to the movie, it would be a tremendous success! Still, the studio is thinking bigger. And I think we were thinking bigger too. We were thinking, 'How do we create a third arm to the franchise that is very connective, and that fans will feel is born out of the material that has come before, but at the same time is very-much something that stands alone?'
"So when it became clear that a third series was a more realistic possibility at this point, from the studio's standpoint, we figured out how to tweak that idea and give it a little more legs than it would have had as a one-off story. We always, in the back of our minds, even in coming up with that concept, felt it could launch a third series. The idea was we do this big movie and then use that to launch the series. But now that story has become the core idea for the new show.
"One of the things that we love about Stargate is that it's us. It's our military. It's our scientists. It's our people. And we're going out into the galaxy and the universe to discover all the wonders that are out there, and dealing with our own limitations versus things that are far more advanced to us. That's identifiable. It's what we deal with every day in terms of medicine and science and astrophysics. We're just babies. We would always want to maintain that in anything that was Stargate-related.
"It certainly plays into mythology that's been pre-established, but it doesn't directly relate to anything that has been in either series, SG-1 or Atlantis."
(Series co-creator Robert C. Cooper, in an exclusive interview with GateWorld)
When Stargate Universe does get here how different do you think this series needs to be to move the franchise forward and attract new viewers? How closely, on the other hand, does it need to stay to the established formula?
"Well, you just hit the nail on the head because it's got to be both. It has to feel like Stargate and it has to feel new. And that's the tightrope, that's the balance you have to maintain, and that's the challenge. To put it in the simplest terms, if we had ever just done SG-2 as a series it would never have worked. It's not the C.S.I. model. And it's frankly because of the heroes that our team is.
"... The pitch [to the network] was received very well. ... We pitched an expensive series. The idea we have is not cheap. Universe, if we do it the way we want to do it, is very expensive, and I think we've proven ourselves, so 'Can we please have enough money to do it right this time?' And if not, then honestly I don't want to do it. Why do it wrong?
"... Stargate Universe, the idea of it, is that it is set on a ship that was part of an Ancient experiment that was set in motion probably millions of years ago. One that they never saw to fruition but that we can. They got a little busy with the whole ascension thing.
"Their goal for the creation of this experiment, which is to send a ship literally across the universe, and to send one ahead of it seeding the galaxies that they encounter with Stargates. And that they would one day use the ninth chevron to get there, and that's what Stargate Universe is."
(Series co-creator Brad Wright, in an exclusive interview with GateWorld)
"Robert and I feel like we're growing and have new challenges to do ourselves. And we feel like we want to be the agents of that change ourselves, and feel like we're capable of coming up with another engaging television show that is possibly more mainstream, possibly a little outside the Stargate box. Because we know where we've been. For us to remain engaged in the show creatively, we need to make those changes ourselves."
What do you mean by making it a little more mainstream?
"Maybe a little more character-based, a little less rooted in a sci-fi mythology. Those kinds of things -- that's all.
"I find the word 'mainstream' kind of silly. But it really does come down to characters and stories that are engaging, and that people want to see -- that they feel like they haven't seen before."
(Series co-creator Brad Wright, in an interview with GateWorld)
"The intention here is to make this one skew young and give it a contemporary vibe. ... As a network, obviously we look at Battlestar Galactica, that's set the standard in terms of tense character drama. Stargate does not have the intensity of a Battlestar Galactica. But it may well be somewhere in between.
"Brad and Robert are very eager to keep the action and adventure and the sense of humor. But I think there's an opportunity to maybe inject a bit more dramatic intensity into the series. But that's obviously a conversation for them as they start to script and move into development.
"What we endeavor to do each time is to introduce the franchise to a new audience, make it a bit more contemporary, more relatable. The ambition with Universe is to skew it younger than the previous two chapters and fill it with a fresh-faced cast; and a storytelling that is more for the late 2000s than it is for the 1990s.
"... What's unique about this chapter is it's going to be set entirely in space. ... That's also an opportunity for us because as Battlestar Galactica reaches a conclusion, it's nice for us to have within the mix of programming a space opera that serves the audience that's really into space operas."
(Syfy Channel president Dave Howe, in an interview with Multichannel News)
"One of the things I'm really excited about is that we're looking for people who are a little more identifiable and contemporary. I always thought one of the things that was attractive about the original series was the 'everyman on the street' point of view that O'Neill had to science fiction. It made the characters identifiable. They were more like we would be in a science fiction situation, and how we would react. And that's what we're trying to do with the new show -- create characters that are going to be challenged by the situation.
"The team that ends up on the ship is not really who was supposed to go, and in some cases they're very unprepared and unqualified to be in that situation. So they don't have all the answers as quickly, and the challenges are greater than they would be for people who have seen it all and don't have as far to go as characters when they encounter an incredible situation."
"... It's an all new cast. There will certainly be plenty of opportunity for cross over, and there certainly might be some familiar faces in the premiere and in subsequent episodes. But the core of the show is all new.
"... It says Stargate in the title, but it's also going to be something that is very different in tone. It will certainly have a Stargate in it, but is going to be unlike anything Stargate we've ever done before."
(Co-creator Robert C. Cooper, in an interview with Stargate.MGM.com)
"The premise of SGU is ... more intimate -- a limited group of people trapped aboard a space ship hurtling through distant space -- and therefore necessitates a more intimate form of storytelling."
"Stargate Universe is a series that draws on established mythology yet blazes a bold, new path for the franchise. It's definitely more character-centered and intimate in its exploration of the interpersonal dynamics that will drive a lot of the shipboard developments (and, no, I'm not talking about romance). The premise of this ship hurtling through uncharted territories offers up unbounded story possibilities, yet also forces us to adopt a very different approach toward alien encounters and planetary investigation. Twin themes mentioned over the course of today's conversations: survival and sacrifice."
"SGU will definitely be more of an arc-driven series. Although it will have its fair share of stand-alone and multi-parters, the show will have more season-long plot and character threads running through every episode."
"Given the premise of the series, it will be darker and more serialized than SG-1 or Atlantis. That said, there will still be plenty of opportunities for humor and the series will be firmly rooted in established Stargate mythology. Yes, the series will focus on survival, but it will also focus on exploration and adventure -- and, by extension, the occasional alien encounter as well."
(Consulting producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
"Brad and Rob did a terrific job of kicking things off in thrilling fashion. The script is fast-paced and fun; its characters unique and engaging. My favorite: Dr. David Rush [later renamed Nicholas]. Oh, he's going to be a handful. Originally planned as a two-parter, Brad and Robert quickly discovered that there was simply too much story for such a tight frame, so the series opener is now looking like a three-parter."
(Consulting producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
"[The show] is much more character-driven, much more of a drama. Survival is the main thing. Much less interaction with alien species and more about who's in charge, who's going to run this ship, who's going to survive. There's two or three deaths, in fact, in the first three episodes, and a suicide by episode six. So this is a harsh world."
"It's got more reality, but then there are fantasy elements. There's nothing wrong with that. There will still be adventures to be had. But I think that Robert Cooper and Brad Wright have done an awful lot with Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis [and] they've been looking for something slightly different. I think they want to try to propel this craft through character rather than through action."
"A point came about a year ago where I thought, 'I've kinda had it. I've kinda done that. I need something different to keep this process new.' And I went to Los Angeles and spoke to some television companies, some stuff was offered to me, and this was the one that I liked the best. And to be honest, if you had told me that before, I'd have said you're crazy. Because it's not a world that I'd have thought I could inhabit. But [it was] suddenly a drama opening up in space, [and] in the past that was something that was slightly missing from the genre."
(Actor Robert Carlyle, in an interview with IGN.com [SCI FI advertising upfront])
"The producers, particularly Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, these guys are the main reason why I'm here. They explained it extremely well when they got in contact with me at first. The first thing I said was: 'Why do you want me in it?' The way they put it was very interesting: They said they wanted someone who can 'make unattractive things seem quite attractive.' I said: 'I'm your man.'"
"[Justin Louis] is another terrific actor [on the show]. Lou Diamond Phillips is in there as well. David Blue, a good young actor. And there's a couple of youngsters, a guy called Brian J. Smith, who's working out extremely well, and a girl called Elyse Levesque -- she's actually from Vancouver, a wonderful young actress, the first thing she's ever done."
"I'm very happy to be here, that's all I can say. I've done an awful lot of nitty-gritty type of stuff in my career over the last 15 to 20 years or so, and I felt it was time for a change. I wanted something different. When I came out to Los Angeles about a year ago, I talked to various television people with various ideas. I put it out that I was looking for something that was going to interest me. And I was very fortunate, three or four things came in. This one, for me, was by far and away the best."
(Actor Robert Carlyle, in an interview with Multichannel News [SCI FI advertising upfront])
"What a day! We were on Icarus Base shooting a couple of HUGE scenes featuring Rush, Young, Scott, Chloe, Eli, Telford, Senator Armstrong, Dr. Damji, Lt. James, Sgt. Riley, Park, Brody, and Franklin. The set is spectacular, I'm loving the new gate set-up, and, surprise surprise, really loving those Icarus military uniforms. Stylin'!
"... Andy Mikita, directing the three-parter, is running a tight ship -- but everyone is enjoying themselves immensely. I got some nice behind-the-scenes pics of Bobby and Justin along with the actor playing Telford (not sure if his identity has been announced yet but I have to say -- and did say -- I've enjoyed his work, especially his performance in my very favorite Mark Wahlberg movie. And, no, it's not the movie you’re thinking of. Or the next one. Or the one after that.).
"Speaking of announcements, apparently TPTB are just getting their ducks in a row in preparation for the big announcement that should be coming ... very soon. A truly phenomenal cast!"
(Consulting producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
"It's not a new Stargate. It is, in fact, a very old Stargate. It's the prototype. It has a limited range, a far more limited range than the Milky Way or Pegasus Galaxy Stargates. For example, if the Destiny is traveling through a galaxy it can't go anywhere in that galaxy -- it can only go within a limited range.
"That's why they put it on a ship, so as it moves through the galaxy it can move across it and explore Stargates that have been seeded by other ships prior to the launch of the Destiny, who knows how many hundreds of years before."
(Co-creator Brad Wright, in an interview at Moviehole)
"I was up there doing a snippet of a scene with Robert Carlyle and I'll be going back March 17 for another scene in part 2 of the two-hour. I had told Brad that if he wanted help in the launch of Universe I'd love to be a part of it. (Truth be known, I missed those guys 'n gals.) So I'll make a few slim appearances in the first half-dozen episodes, or so.
"Again, details are sketchy, but I've already shot the first of my scenes so the ball is rolling. Andy Mikita is directing the two-hour, so we had a good hug and huge laugh."
(Actor Richard Dean Anderson, in a message at RDAnderson.com)
"I play a character called Dr. Nicholas Rush. He's a scientist, very much a kind of driven man. He has his own motives, you know, and you're not quite sure what his motives are -- even Rush himself sometimes I don't think [knows]. What happens in the beginning of the show is that Rush [and the cast] are propelled through a Stargate into the ninth Chevron address, and the ninth Chevron address is the Holy Grail of the Chevron. When they get through there, they think they're in another world. In fact, they're in a massive spaceship. This thing is as if you put five aircraft carriers together. This has been sent out hundreds of thousands of years ago by the Ancients and no one was ever meant to be there.
"So when they get there, they find this ship which is basically falling apart. How are they going to survive on this thing? And the first [priority], which is the title of our first three episodes, is air. So they can actually breathe. That's the first, basic step."
(Actor Robert Carlyle at the Syfy advertising upfront [via IGN.com])
"At the beginning of the show, Rush has transported a team through a Stargate to what they believe is another world. In fact, when they get there, they realize they're actually on another ship, a space ship, a massive spaceship which has been floating through the universe for hundreds of thousands of years, launched by the Ancients long ago -- unmanned, picking up information, gathering data.
"So once they get there -- and they're relieved to get there because they have a very tricky situation to get there -- Rush then tells them: 'You can’t go back. You can never go home.' Then things start to get really, really tense. A battle for leadership takes place on the ship. We have three deaths in the first three hours. A suicide in episode five, I think.
"This is a hearty band. They're literally billions of light years away, on the very far side of the universe. And the thought of that is quite terrifying. So it has to be character driven. This piece will stand and fall on the characters, for sure."
(Actor Robert Carlyle at the Syfy advertising upfront [via Multichannel News])
"It was terrific having Rick [Richard Dean Anderson] back. He's just a good-natured, easy-going guy. A lot of fun to be around. When I told him we had added a French bulldog to the brood since last we spoke, his reaction wasn't the usual 'Are you crazy?!' but a grin and a 'Bless your heart.'"
(Consulting producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
"Yesterday, we sat down and watched the director's cut of 'Air' I and II. Even without the visual effects and the music, it was mighty damn impressive. MIGHTY damn impressive! A big congratulations to show creators/runners Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, the entire cast and crew, and go-to-guy Andy Mikita who directed his big ol' heart out in treating us to one hell of a spectacular premiere."
(Consulting producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
Stargate Universe nominated for VFX Emmy
Also: Beau Bridges nominated for guest appearance on The Closer.
Cooper on crafting SGU‘s ‘Air’
Robert C. Cooper talks to The Official Stargate Magazine about how the SGU pilot came together.
SGU‘s ‘Air’ nominated for VES award
The pilot episode of Stargate Universe has been nominated for a visual effects award.
James Swallow talks SGU‘s ‘Air’ novelization
Author James Swallow talks about the challenges of turning a teleplay into a novel -- and why the art doesn't get the respect it deserves in the industry.
Review: Air Novelization
The new novelization of Stargate Universe's premiere kicks off a new series of SGU books! Here's our take.
First Stargate Universe novel available now
The new Stargate Universe novel series kicks off with the novelization of "Air."
GateWorld Podcast: â€˜Air, Part 3â€²
Darren and David hash out the final part of the Stargate Universe premiere.
Universe grows audience for Week 2
Ratings for SGU grew in its second week, with "Air, Part 3" drawing 2.4 million.
MGM touts viewership for SGU‘s worldwide debut
Stargate Universe premiere turns in solid numbers in its first four countries, including a few ratings records.
Transcript: SGUâ€˜s â€˜Air, Part 3â€²
Read the complete transcript from Friday's new episode of Stargate Universe!
HD Screen Captures: ‘Air, Part 3′
Over 1,300 images from last Friday's SGU episode are at your disposal!
Tonight on SGU: ‘Air, Part 3′
Preview tonight's new episode of Stargate Universe! SPOILERS
GateWorld Podcast: â€˜Airâ€™ Parts 1 and 2
Stargate Universe has arrived! Darren and David talk about the first two hours of "Air" in this week's show.
SGU sets ratings record in Canada
The premiere of Stargate Universe north of the border made for SPACE's biggest audience ever.
Transcript: SGUâ€˜s â€˜Air, Part 2â€²
Read the complete transcript from the second hour of Friday's Stargate Universe opener.
Transcript: SGUâ€˜s â€˜Air, Part 1â€²
Missed a detail from Friday's series premiere? Read the complete transcript here at GateWorld!
Stargate Universe premiere draws over 2 million
"Air" launches the third series with a 1.7 rating, Stargate's best in four years.
Watch the Stargate Universe premiere right now … for free!
Watch "Air" on Hulu, or download it for free from iTunes for a limited time! (U.S.)
Screen Captures: ‘Air,’ Parts 1 and 2
More than 2,000 screen captures have been added from the first two hours of the SGU premiere!
Stargate Universe Press Coverage Round-Up
SGU premieres tonight! Here are links to all the reviews we have seen so far.
How would you rate Stargate Universe's "Air, Part 1?"
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