BLOG Caprica & Stargate Universe Season Premieres Reviewed

SPOILER WARNING! The new season is upon us. Yep, it’s the time of year when all the big US shows return. Will Salmon takes a look at the opening episodes of two old fan favourites

STARGATE UNIVERSE: “INCURSION, PART 3”

“Wait, what?!”

That must surely have been the reaction of viewers tuning into Stargate Universe for the first time with this episode. Beginning with the longest recap of anything ever is probably not the best way to entice newbies. Which is a bit of a shame, because when it gets going, this is an average, but enjoyable episode.

The big talking point this week is The Lucian Alliance. After capturing the Destiny last season, they’re soon defeated. And a good thing too – a bunch of leather-clad weirdoes are hardly the scariest of bad guys. Having said that, there’s a lot of dramatic potential in the survivors being integrated into the crew, as the end of the episode suggests. Not for the first time, SGU is coming across as Star Trek: Voyager done properly. That show tried something similar with its Maquis storyline, but gave up after about half an episode. I’m shuddering at the thought of Robert Knepper as a regular though – the memories of Heroes season four are still too painful. And the way that Kiva is dispensed with is hilariously throwaway.

Then there’s Lt Johansen, whose pregnancy storyline appears to be resolved – for now. Quite what we’re to make of the aliens who appear in a vision to take her dead baby away is anyone’s guess. It’s either a drug/trauma induced hallucination, or the work of godlike ETs. I’m assuming the latter, and would hope that we’ll see a bit more of them before too long. Lovely effects on the nebula at the end.

Finally, Rush gets to save the day! Hooray! Robert Carlyle is the main reason to watch SGU , and even though his motives are as ambiguous as always, it’s good to see him unequivocally rescue the crew. No doubt he’ll be back to weeing in Destiny’s swimming pool, or whatever, next week.

CAPRICA: “UNVANQUISHED”

The SF show everyone should be watching also returned, and proved once more why it’s every bit the equal of Battlestar Galactica . This run starts (literally) with a bang, as terrorists blow up a Pyramid stadium, and both Adama and Graystone wade ever further into corruption.

As with SGU , this was an awkward little season premiere. But then it wasn’t meant to be a premiere at all – it’s actually episode 10 of season one, running six months later after the series was chopped in two.

Clarice, the psycho-MILF, is in her element here, planning to create a literal heaven on Earth (or Caprica) using the holoband technology. The stadium bombing she orders (complete with pre-teen suicide bombers) is shocking – though revealed to be a fake out. It’s also incongruous to see her hanging out with a bunch of space monks. For the most part, this series looks and feels like Mad Men , so suddenly going full-on sci-fi is a little jarring. And I’m still not sure what the point of Barnabas is, except to give the producers the opportunity to go, “Look! James Marsters!” Hopefully he’ll get a bit more action in the coming weeks.

Fun things: A Cylon army is now in full production, at Tomas Vergis’s command. Exciting – though the first war with the metal meanies is surely still many years off. There’s also a fantastic scene where Graystone learns the true cost of dealing with the mob, when they force him to choose between the deal or blowing up his own mum. Eep! Interesting to see how quickly and easily Adama Senior has accepted this violent way of life. His son would no doubt have something to say about that!

Oh, and Amanda Graystone isn’t dead after all. But that was always completely obvious. A strong episode then, a welcome return – and the most interesting US SF show around at the moment.

There's a storm on the horizon though. Neither SGU or Caprica are fairing particularly well in the ratings. And while Stargate has a full season ahead of it, there’s no guarantee that Caprica will be back after episode 18. Will either show still be around this time next year? Here’s hoping. Both shows are doing good work, producing proper, thoughtful character based SF – and I never thought I’d say that about anything with the Stargate brand name on. Go on, if you haven’t already, give these shows a chance.