Coping With LOST Letdown: May We Suggest Stargate Universe?

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Sorry chaps. Lost has come to an end. Finito. We hope you can come to terms with how the finale played out. (It was just last week that we were guessing all the ways it SHOULDN’T end)

But then it did what it did. And here we are. And so it goes.

I’m one of the few people in the Techland universe who never quite cared about Lost. That e-mail address is steve@techland.com, by the way, if you want to fire off those angry notes. But before you hit send, allow me to present you with an idea for how to tend to that Lost withdrawal. The next show you should plunge into is effectively Lost set in space. I’ve been watching it all season, and I must admit that I’ve gotten hooked by the thing. It’s called Stargate Universe, and if you’ve never watched a Stargate TV series, never fret; neither had I prior to this. Sure, I saw the 1994 film, but this was the first Stargate Syfy series I gave a try. And now I must admit: I look forward to the episodes. I appreciate the mystery. I respect the craftsmanship. This is one of my favorite TV shows right now.

We’re nearing the end of the first season, which means that it might take a little effort to catch up. But the good news is that it’s terribly easy to do so. You can find clips from the first half of the first season here, and find more info here, and basically watch the last five full episodes here. But really, don’t worry too much about catching up, because there was one week where I missed an episode and I was able to plunge back in easily enough. As long as you know the basic conceit, each and every episode is an accessible entry point into the narrative.

The premise, for those who perhaps know nothing about Stargate whatsoever: There are these big stone devices that can dial up wormholes through space. Step through the stargate, and you can wind up pretty much anywhere in the universe. And at the beginning of Stargate Universe, a group of scientists and soldiers – and one brilliant nerdy kid who’s being recruited to help with the Stargate mission – are at a base on Earth that is suddenly attacked. They fire up the Stargate as a last-second escape strategy, and jump through. They wind up in the cargo bay of a deserted alien spaceship on the other end of the universe. (More at Techland: Graduation gifts for nerds)

They can’t get back to Earth. They aren’t quite sure how the ship works. They suddenly have to deal with issues of diminishing air supply, and energy outages. They are in many ways the characters on Lost, trapped in a place they don’t understand, scrambling to adapt to the rules as they change. And then coping with the emotional fallout of being stranded so far away from home.

The one ingenious kicker in SGU is that this ship appears to be pre-programmed to travel at warp speed, and then slow down periodically to check in with other planets in faraway solar systems, each containing a stargate. So repeatedly the ship will stop for a day or so next to a new planet, and then zoom off. And this is all pre-programmed in the computer, so the humans are just along for the ride.

The series’ drama works in multiple ways: As the crew tries to figure out a way home, we have various away missions to foreign worlds with unexpected dangers. Each and every time, we are exploring a planet with limitless possibilities. Meanwhile, always back on the ship: A ticking clock, before the ship jumps back into a wormhole. The humans have no way of stopping it.

It’s a solid concept: There’s the drama of the new planet, the drama of the ship acting on its own accord, the strange blue aliens who have thus far only appeared and attacked this crew once, motives unknown; and the interpersonal issues that arise between men and women, between scientists and soldiers, between various personalities all vying for control. Oh, and all of the characters have vague back stories that we are now only starting to learn about via flashbacks, or through “communication stones” that allow characters to briefly travel back to Earth, psychically connecting with one person’s mind.

I know this might all sound trippy when spelled out, but you’ll have to trust me: The show trumpets exceptional performances (particularly Robert Carlyle, who plays the lead scientist), and the mixture of camaraderie, discovery and boundless fear is a winning combo. I’m hooked, and if you’re looking to fill your Lost void, why not start right here. There are two more episodes this season, June 4 and 11 (they’re taking off this holiday Friday), so now’s the perfect time to catch up, dive in, and join us for episode reports starting next week.

Also, given how much I’m enjoying this, tell me Stargate fans: What else should I be watching? Is Atlantis good? Someone gave me the complete series box set – should I unwrap it?

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