Stargate Atlantis and Universe, in retrospect
I’m rewatching Stargate: Atlantis for the first time since its 2004-2009 airing. I remember the furor over its cancellation in favor of Stargate: Universe.
I originally defended Universe. It rode Battlestar Galactica’s coattails, but I thought it had potential. Now, rewatching Atlantis, I get the anger. Universe is fine as a typical network TV science fiction show. It rides the line between reality TV and space opera.
Universe is fine as a generic space opera. Not good, not bad. The final scene of the final season was great TV and made me hopeful it would get another season. As the show that murdered Atlantis, it’s the worst thing ever. Atlantis is so good! I thought expedition leader Dr. Weir was an annoying, overbearing character when I first watched. Now I have a broader view of the space opera genre.
Watching Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway, another leader in a similar situation who made similar hard choices while far away from familiar social and legal structures, gave me a fresh perspective on what it takes to keep a crew together far away from home with hostile aliens at every turn. Voyager ended three years before Atlantis started, but I didn’t watch it until recently.
Universe had no intentional leaders. It had a temperamental lead scientist who felt like a defective clone of Battlestar Galactica’s Baltar. The military lead was a sanded down version of the cliche military tough guy of the Stargate movie with none of charm or tact of Colonel O'Neill. Neither of them led half as well as some of the side characters did. Atlantis had John Sheppard and Dr. Weir, each one a perfect evolution of their SG-1 counterparts, Jack O’Neill and Dr. Carter. Universe improved with time, but it was doomed long before.
Universe ended with a cliffhanger that gave hope for a renewed show with a real leader. Eli was one of the most developed characters and could easily have taken over, and he was poised to as he stared out the window at the expanse between galaxies.
And he was never heard from again. Boring. Back to Atlantis and dreaming of what could have been.