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Stargate Universe Canceled: What’s Your Take?

Via a tweet from SyFy’s Craig Engler, we learned on Thursday that Stargate Universe has been canceled. There are still ten more episodes to air, but there will be no more after those are broadcast. Show consultant John Scalzi confirmed the cancellation as well.

I have to admit that in the beginning I was not a fan of the show, but as I started covering the episodes for SF Signal I saw a definite improvement. I always enjoyed the other shows in the Stargate franchise and appreciated what Joseph Mallozzi and his team were trying to accomplish with Stargate Universe. I don’t have a problem with the dark and gritty approach and, despite the criticism surrounding this aspect of the show, I don’t think it was the source of its downfall. Instead, I think it really hurt the show that the long emotional arcs didn’t start paying off until the middle of season two.

The first season of any show is usually rocky and many viewers will cut a series a lot of slack for this reason — if they’re given a reason to hang on. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in season one and started recapping the show to figure out exactly why that was. There’s nothing wrong with dark and gritty, but an audience needs to have at least one of the following: periodic cathartic release of tension, redeemable traits in unlikable characters even if it’s just a glimpse of something way down below the surface, and characters we love to hate (not just hate). By mid-season two, Stargate Universe accomplished all three of these, but not a lot of viewers were willing to stick it out through season one to see that culminate and the ratings showed that decline.

What do you think? Did you love the show and are sad to see it go? Or are you relieved there’s an open spot now for something else?

New shows in the lineup include the paranormal Being Human and the superhero drama Alphas. Another paranormal show, Haven, is scheduled to return as are Warehouse 13 and Eureka. While these latter two are definitely science fiction, only the Battlestar Galactica prequel pilot movie Blood & Chrome promises space opera. Without a show like Stargate Universe is there enough actual science fiction on SyFy to keep you watching?

18 Comments on Stargate Universe Canceled: What’s Your Take?

  1. I gave up on this show a long, long time ago; I’m not surprised it got cancelled. My wife stayed with it a bit longer, so I did get to catch glimpses of it here and there. What I did see reaffirmed my decision to stop watching. Far too heavy on the drama, no likable characters, and, unfortunately–and maybe I needed to watch more to see it–but no overarching storyline to pull everything together. The stories themselves were kind of ho-hum. Been there, done that. Last, I started jokingly calling the show SexGate Universe. That and inhabiting other ppl’s bodies and then having sex, going out on the town to dance–seemed like there was a moral quality, or lack thereof, that was never explored there. Besides for that, that one episode where the two characters spend most of the time in a disco… if this is sci-fi, I need to find a new genre.

    Of course, I very nearly gave up on BSG time and time again b/c of the heavy drama. Looking back, it was the overarching story, the mystery, and the characters that kept me coming back. And no discos.

  2. This show started off just terrible. All the characters were built so unlikablely, clearly just to maximize conflict and drama. I warmed up to it by the end of the first season and am looking forward to watching season 2 when the dvds come out. This show could have been improved. It’s a shame it’s been cancelled. It’s a much better concept than the other Stargate shows; of which I was not a fan. I really like the lost in space concept. It’s a classic.

  3. Dark and gritty pulled me in immediately. I liked the constant conflict of characters and felt there was plenty of redeeming qualities in each from the get go. Rush is a fan favorite to hate, but I think his inner conflicts are fascinating. Sure he’s a whack-job that shouldn’t be allowed near the controls because he’d rather play “explore” than save any lives, but he’s got that obsessive scientific impulse that drives him to extremes.

    I’ll be sad to see it go. But, I will admit, the premise wasn’t developing into anything that had a very long show arc. There are some hints that the Lucian alliance will duke it out with Earth, that aliens will catch up with Destiny, and that all of this may be underpinned by an almighty force that lives outside/inside our universe, but for the first two to have more day-to-day relevance the show would have to be on its way to a close anyway.

    Were some episodes slow and felt like filler? Yeah. But overall I still liked the show.

  4. I loved it from the get-go, despite – as you know – hating all the Stargate series that came before it as puerile teenage pap. To me, it was ‘Stargate’ in name alone.I’d have enjoyed it more as a pure stand-alone.

    Actually, I could say the same for most TV fantasy and sf, with only a very few exceptions. SG:U was close to novelistic in some ways. Not perfect, by any means (I’m looking at you, magic new-age talk-to-home stones), but it was cleverer than most, didn’t talk down to the audience, and presented characters who felt more real than most I’m used to seeing on TV. I think that’s the reason a great many writers rate it.

    If people failed to watch it in sufficient numbers to keep it on the air then, frankly, it’s their loss, and they’ll suffer for that loss whether they know it or not. I can only imagine the people who failed to turn up believed their time was better spent reading Twilight or watching Dolph Lundgren action movies. One can only hope that the salvation of intelligent visual sf lies in the realm of indie genre movie-making as exemplified by films like Monsters.

    I’m going to miss it. I’ve generally avoided tie-in novels like the plague, but if they continue the story in such novels, I might actually read them if they get decent enough writers in. Hell, I wouldn’t rule out considering writing one myself if presented with the chance.

  5. I figured it was inevitable, too many people I know did like I did and wandered away from the show.

    I loved the concept, and think it could have been done very well, but the haphazard writing from episode to episode drove me off (well that and the over reliance and misuse of the communication stones crutch). 







  6. Great comments! I also think that this show might have done better if it wasn’t part of the Stargate franchise. There were a lot of fan preconceptions — and rightly so — based on all of the earlier SG-x shows. I know of more than a few Stargate fans who really missed the comaraderie of the crews so evident in the other shows.

  7. Hal Duncan // December 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm //

    The whole “no likeable characters” complaint makes me want to slam my head into a wall until my brains drip out my ears. Hell, then I might even be able to appreciate Haven, with its rogueish-but-likeable smuggler and its gruff-but-likeable cop and its anodyne-but-likeable heroine.


    Man, part of me thinks this is some sort of revenge for the audience not watching Craprica. Like, “What, you’re not going to tune in for How God Made Killer Robots Cause He Just Did, So Shut It? Why then, we’ll just have to cancel Stargate Universe. And *renew Haven*! How d’ye like them apples, huh? Huh?”

  8. I’ll let Charlie Stross (talking about Steampunk) sum up my feelings about the Syfy channel:

    it’s in danger of vanishing up its own arse due to second artist effect. (The first artist sees a landscape and paints what they see; the second artist sees the first artist’s work and paints that, instead of a real landscape.)


  9. Just another average show, so the only surprise is it lasted this long after they cancelled two other series.

    ‘Craprica’ as Hal points out, was instantly doomed because of how awful the end of BSG was, turning a huge chunk of their possible fanbase away from it instantly.

    As for turning up, people not in the US watching it or not makes zero difference.

    Gary, actually time spent on this is better spent rewatching Fringe, for example. Not to mention Blake’s 7, where they actually have good writers! πŸ™‚

    As for being puerile teenage pap – the only difference with this one is it had darker lightning, and Rush and the Boy Wonder performed their space miracles in 2.5 minutes, compared to the 1.5 minutes that it took geniuses Carter and McKay.  There’s also nothing in Monsters that challenges the intelligence of anyone over 9, if you are holding that up as some sort of exemplar.


  10. I’ve posted here several times concerning my opinions of SGU.  I was really looking forward to the series and thought it would make for some high action, adventure, and wonder.  The first few episodes were good (because it was new), but quickly declined as the writers marooned us on a ship with very depressing and thoroughly unlikable charactes.  Why?  Was it their lack of talent?  Their lack of budget?

    Let’s analyze this at a high level.  The characters are stuck on an immense and ancient alien spacecraft…that they never explore.  The characters are stuck on a ship that regularly stops at planets that have a stargate.  The ship is equipped with a shuttle able to enter atmosphere.  There are at least 2 alien races introduced…then quickly forgotten.

    What we’re left with is, again, these depressing and unsavory characters littering our screens with their useless drama.  The writers were given a VAST canvas to entertain us with…and they completely dropped the ball.

    Yes, I watched the show and will watch it until the end…but it was a large disappointment.  And for that I won’t be overly upset (ok, not at all) when it goes off the air.

  11. This is the only Stargate series I ever watched. The rest were just stupid.


    But I guess that has about been my history with SF on TV. I’m just out of touch. After all, I don’t see the connection of wrestling and ghost hunting to SF, as, apparently, everyone else does.



  12. Al Reynolds // December 20, 2010 at 6:57 am //

    I’m over with Hal in the slamming head on wall thing.

    Where are the “likeable” characters in The Wire, The Shield, Deadwood, Rescue Me…? All gripping, adult TV series with complex themes and long story arcs with no immediate short-term payoff. (OK, they cancelled Deadwood – but it still managed three seasons).

    I’m very sorry to see the end of SGU; as I’ve said elsewhere, within the constraints of TV sci-fi it did a remarkably good job of feeling like proper SF, at least some of the time.

  13. What AL Reynold’s said. Titus Pullo was my favorite character on ROME (itself my favorite show of the last ten years) and he did horrendous things routinely. Likewise Dan Draper on MAD MEN. The best of non genre TV doesn’t seem as fixated on requiring their larger than life characters to be better people. Whether its classic Greek heroes (whose tragic ends arouse from flaws of character) to King Arthur, heroes were never expected to be perfect until the last century. (I blame Superman). 

    But as to SGU’s cancelation – I’m devastated. I was onboard from the start and thought it was one of the best SF television shows in ages. Like BSG with some actual thought to the “plan” and a respect for science and the traditions of science fiction. I think that the failure of this and CAPRICA together probably spell bad things for Syfy’s willingness to produce expensive, high quality, adult entertainment in future. 

  14. I will join Hal, Al and others.  I don’t need “likeable” characters.  I just need good writing and good characters.  Baltar in BSG is prime example.  No one liked him, but he was a fantastic character.  Now, that being said, there wasn’t a lot of good writing initially for SGU, but it is really hitting it’s stride now.  Not as good as BSG, but the first 2 years of BSG were as good as any drama in any genre.

    Putting SGU in the Stargate universe was probably a mistake, as it was a little closer to a darker grittier show like BSG than the “everything always works out” world of all the other Stargates.   One group of people didn’t tune in because they prefered more realism (BSG) and the other group (original Stargate watchers) tuned in, but didn’t like that the show wasn’t an easy escape.

    Now SyFy will replace it with some reality show or supernatural show.  Blatantly showing the channel has no loyalty to the fans that kept that channel viable.  Where is the science part of the fiction now that SGU and Caprica are gone?

  15. I’m very disappointed by this decision. I subscribe to SKY but watched it online because the US was a week ahead of the UK in terms of episodes. I’ve checked the torent sites and it was prodigiously  downloaded. The decision to move Caprica and SGU to a Tuesday night in the US could not have helped TV ratings but I tend to agree with the argument that the first season was laborious and cost the show a great deal in terms of of interest and goodwill. However, Season 2 has been a joy and had we reached the point that we are currently at by the end of Season 1 things may have ended differently. I’ll miss the show. The show tried to take the Stargate franchise in a new direction. Stargate SG1 and Stargate Universe were comic book scripts brought to life, SGU was a far more substantial in every sense. I have enjoyed all the Stargate franchise shows and all were good in there own terms.  

    Whether SciFi on SyFy? Given the high cost of making space operas, I don’t see shows like Stargate, Startrek and their ilk getting made too often these days. Animations – yes. However, shows with real actors and costly special effects for the HD and 3D age will not get made.

  16. Sigh…


    I really like SGU. I thought the earlier stargate series were ok, when I had nothing better to do, and I felt like watching a bunch of people dress up and run around a pacific northwest douglas fir rainforest.

    I thought SGU started slow, but as many other have stated, its gotten much better. Just as it hits its stride, its cancelled. But people want to watch eureka, and warehouse 13? Really? REALLY?

    And your talking about SGU having no depth? Bad writing? Are you kidding me? Eureka is nothing more than the first stargate series set in a pacific northwest town, with a sherrif replacing the head of the SG1 team as the irreverant fix it man.


    I wonder whats going to happen when so many cable and network companies are cancelling half decent shows after short runs in a desperate attempt to get major hits. But not every show can be a major hit. Not as audiences are spreading out to so many different channels, the internet and video games.

    Not every show is going to be a LOST. Not hardly any. But this doesn’t seem to stop companies from dumping promising shows in an attempt to find the next Fringe, or Lost. TV executives are going to have to get it together and starting thinking about the long plan, rather then the next quarterly report.

  17. i just hope that they will stop and think about what they are doing and hope that they take note that there are still fans out there who miss SG-1 and SGA but for now SGU is the only thing keeping the Stargate franchise going on TV seeing as they keep on shelving all the movies ( syfy  get your act together !!!!!) 

  18. Heidi A Draffin // April 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm //

    While I recognize areas of weakness in the development of the story arc and characters, this is still one of the very best Sci-Fi series I’ve ever seen and I’m heading into the second half of a century of watching such things.   Happens way to often to intelligent scripts, capable actors and brave directors.



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