So you show up to hear a certain Senator give a speech about his pet military project. What the heck – even if putting in some face time at this function is a job requirement, how bad can it be, playing show and tell with a giant space donut? Besides, maybe they’ll serve up some good finger food, like some of those bacon-wrapped shrimp on toothpicks. An open bar would be a bonus. You’re easy, right?
Sucker. Not only is there a conspicuous absence of bacon-wrapped shrimp at this shindig, but this particular military base falls under attack right around the same time the Senator’s pet project gets fired up for the dog and pony show. In this corner – bombs! Things exploding! Hot fire! In the opposite corner – hey, an open teleportation portal! Why not hedge bets here? Whatever is on the other side of the portal might not suck as hard as getting blown up. Riiiiiiiiiight?
Welcome to the opening moments of Stargate Universe.
Nestled within the large ensemble cast is ubergeek Eli Wallace (played by David Blue), who is plucked from obscurity (or his mom’s house, to be specific) and plonked down in the middle of this madness after solving a complicated formula embedded within an online video game. What is prodigious Eli’s prize for displaying such significant brainpower? Getting carted away by the government and put to work! Yay! Also along for the involuntary ride is Chloe Armstong (Elyse Levesque), the smart and sensitive daughter/assistant of that very same Senator whose show and tell project goes so horribly awry.
Blue and Levesque recently spoke to reporters about their participation in this latest installment of the Stargate Universe franchise. Plus we have a few spoiler-free glimpses into the upcoming pilot.
While he himself is an avid Stargate fan, Blue is eager to put to rest any concerns would-be viewers might have about not being familiar with the previous Stargate installments. He feels his character makes for the perfect guide into this brave new world.
Blue says, “When it comes down to it, my character Eli is very much new to this world. The way he approaches things definitely has to be from a fresh perspective, not knowing anything about the program, the aliens, the different technologies. ” He adds, “Eli is the viewer. Eli is the person who has been sitting at home, and loves TV and movies, loves technology. Eli is kind of the eyes and ears and hearts of the audience.”
Levesque, on the other hand, was a lot less steeped in franchise fondness than Blue prior to tackling the role. “First of all, I had to read the script about three times just to wrap my head around what was going on,” she admits. “It’s a whole other animal than I’ve ever experienced before. I brushed up a little bit on some of the SG1, and started to break down the script. Luckily I felt a fairly instant connection to the material.”
The band of space survivors naturally find themselves in less than ideal conditions after stumbling through the Stargate. Yes, friends, that open portal leads to something other than an intergalactic Four Seasons, but what would a space opera be without certain requisite sci fi storytelling staples like (a) an outdated spaceship on its last legs, (b) limited resources like food and oxygen, and even (c) the maniacal mad scientist guy on the loose?
The cliques seem to pretty quickly establish themselves. You have your military faction, your science geeks faction, and the handful of token civilians (like Chloe, and Ming-Na’s Camile) who seem to have been caught in the crossfire. But Blue insists that one of the show’s hidden charms is that alliances will shift, and each character will prove to be more complex and multi-faceted. “There’s some great characters that you can really invest in,” he says. “You will not just find, “Oh, I relate to the girl,” or “I relate to the solider”….you’ll find pieces and aspects of [each of] their personalities and their relationships and how they approach things that you can relate to.”
At first glance, Robert Carlyle’s Dr. Rush appears to be set up as the heavy. He does have a couple of things working against him which won’t exactly help to dispel that notion: (a) he walks around with a giant, self-congratulatory cartoon bubble over his head that proclaims, “I’m the smart one around here, so bow before me, oh thee of limited cranial competence!” and (b) he doesn’t seem to be as freaked out as everyone else that Earth is about 7 billion light years in the opposite direction. Heck, he seems to think they ought to just make the best of things, ’cause after all, this is a pretty big and nifty scientific breakthrough! Besides, the giant space donut is a bit glitchy. You’re gonna have to trust him on this – his brain is just so much bigger than yours, puny peasant, and he doesn’t have time to spell everything out for you.
“Screw you, nerd!” insist the military guys (in so many words, anyway). They decide their new favorite training exercises will involve playing with buttons on that complicated-looking console when Rush’s back is turned, and drop-kicking Rush whenever the opportunity arises. Even the otherwise dutiful Chloe takes up the latter sport at one juncture. But Levesque hints that her character’s feelings toward Rush are surprisingly negotiable. When asked which other character Chloe might take issue with down the line, she responds, “The person I trust the least – it changes for Chloe. I think initially Rush is really the person she does not see eye to eye with. And then that starts to change as certain events occur aboard the ship.”
Stargate’s built-in fanbase might seem like an obvious asset in trying to launch a new chapter of an old fan favorite. On the other hand, carrying the heavy and hallowed mantle of a beloved franchise can generate a fair amount of pressure, too. Blue is confident that initial fears expressed by some of SG’s faithful have – or will be – pretty well allayed by the quality of the show.
“I kind of feel like every time a piece of a trailer is released, or every time there’s an interview with Robert Carlyle, or with one of us, or a picture from the set, it kind of eases the anticipation and worry that somebody had out there. It’s great to see people start to sway toward realizing this isn’t the same Universe, but I feel that there are more open warm arms out there than there are people who have doubts.”
As for the much-hyped “darker,” “edgier” and “younger” tone that SGU is supposedly boasting, Blue thinks the material will speak for itself – and probably without needing to rely on so many superlatives. “”Young,” “edgy” and “darker” are all words people use when they’re advertising something,” he points out. “When you actually watch it, you get the feeling it’s more real. It’s more relatable.”
Tune in when Stargate Universe premieres this Friday, Oct. 2 on Syfy and let us know what you think.