We are now four episodes into Stargate Universe and so far I'm quite impressed.
First of all a warning as this is a bit spoilery.
After the first extended episode (or two episodes, however you want to class it) I wasn't so sure. It struck me as just trying to tap into the Battlestar vibe and channel Star Trek: Voyager at the same time. Personally I felt that Voyager never lived up to its original premise of a crew being stuck in the middle of nowhere as much as it could have done, and was worried Stargate is a franchise that would probably end up doing the same.
However, SGU - as it’s apparently being called - seems to be going the same route Battlestar went in its first series rather than the usual Stargate way of a big bad alien race looking to enslave them. With the first story concentrating on the lack of air on the Ancient ship, then the second about them losing power it looks like this is very much going to be about them struggling to survive rather than usual Stargate fare. The closest we've come to aliens so far is the strange dust clouds that may have guided the Lieutenant to the lime so they could repair the air filters and the mysterious shuttle seen leaving the ship at the end of the Air story.
One touch I really liked was a lot of the staff have been cranky. Dr Rush, Robert Carlisle, was even suffering from headaches. Why was this? Alien signals messing with their brains? Something wrong with the ship making them ill? No, they were suffering from caffeine and nicotine withdrawal. It was totally unneeded yet really grounds the fact that they've jumped onto a ship and lost access to everyday amenities.
Despite being stranded in a galaxy far far away, the makeshift crew of the Destiny do have a way to communicate with Earth thanks to the Ancient communication devices first seen in the Ori storyline of SG-1. This works by swapping the minds of people at either end and allows the other person to walk around on Earth, just in someone else's body. This has given the show some great scenes of characters delivering the news that they are trapped in another galaxy to their family members, who are in great discomfort as the person speaking looks and sounds nothing like their loved one.
This is a fantastic addition to the Stargate franchise. I'm still annoyed Atlantis was cut down in its prime so this could reach our screens earlier but Universe has certainly found its feet a lot faster than Atlantis did during its first season. I'm hoping that this high quality is maintained and it doesn't fall into the usual Stargate plots any time soon, as it would be a waste of the concept.