‘Stargate Universe’ finale: Looking back on 14 years as the iris closes — for good?

Stargate Universe cast

Tonight marks the second season finale, and series finale, of Stargate Universe on Syfy. It’s also the end of an era: a wrap to 14 continuous years of spinoffs from the 1994 feature film Stargate.

Where it will go from here is unclear: Any plans to continue the SGU storyline are on hold, at best — as are the long-promised DVDs chronicling further adventures of the SG-1 and Atlantis crews. It’s hard to imagine a Family Guy- or Futurama-style resurrection at this point — although stranger things have happened.

With the iris closing, perhaps for good, on tales of Stargate Command, I thought it only fitting to look back on highlights from each incarnation of the franchise (not including the animated series Stargate Infinity, which frankly confuses me by its existence). Check out my thoughts, share the article if it pleases you — and take a moment to add some of your own favorite Stargate moments below!

Spader and Russell

Stargate (1994)

Drawing comparisons to Star Wars at the time, this adventure film set a record for highest-grossing opening weekend in October at the time. Kurt Russell and James Spader originated the characters of Col. Jack O’Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson that would later be developed by Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks in the first TV spinoff. Highlights: Humor; action; amazing costumes and set design that have influenced all versions of the series; special effects; allergies; the ballsy snuke; French Stewart; “Give my regards to King Tut!”

Stargate SG-1Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)

Picking up where the movie left off, Showtime’s spinoff built on the alien-as-god concept and revealed there was entire network of Stargates that exposed Earth to a greater threat: the alien Goa’uld, who sought to enslave all humanity everywhere. Aside from various incarnations of Star Trek, the adventures of SG-1 represented a rare quality outlet for fans of sci-fi action on TV for many years — though, for me, it didn’t really it its stride until the Sci Fi Channel acquired the series. Highlights: The gentle wisdom and wry observations on Earth society by alien turncoat Teal’c; O’Neill’s frequent pop culture and Simpsons references; the sad conclusion to Jackson’s search for his abducted wife, and his repeated brushes with Ascension (and his return to the series after his character’s death, proving how integral he was); Samantha Carter’s still-unmatched genius and determination (even considering the scientists who would follow in later spinoffs); real Air Force cameos; a great stable of recurring characters such as Bra-tac, Thor, Skaara, Jacob Carter and Dr. Fraiser; Hammond of Texas; the Goa’uld language; Jack-Daniel moral melees; and a touching series finale. Also not to be forgotten: The way the show wasn’t afraid to laugh at itself. In later seasons you could count on at least one episode per year that skewered the series’ own eccentricities. And there were many!

Stargate AtlantisStargate Atlantis (2004-09)

Building on the mythology in big ways, the second spinoff unlocked the Stargate’s eighth chevron and took us across the universe to the Pegasus Galaxy, where the Ancients who built the Gates had abandoned the lost city of Atlantis. Here we met the vampiric Wraith and the grubby but noble Athosians. The Atlantis crew, and the show itself, had a leadership problem: In a case of “life imitates art” that mirrored the fictional Stargate Command’s dissatisfaction with civilian team leader Dr. Elizabeth Weir, producers were quick to replace Torri Higginson with SG-1 alum Amanda Tapping and, just one season later, Robert Picardo. Highlights: Jason Momoa, who will soon be known as the new Conan the Barbarian, kicking ass as alien warrior Ronon Dex; brilliant-but-annoying Canadian scientist Rodney McKay (David Hewlett); the bitter enmity and eventual alliance with the human Genii; Teyla Emmagan’s (Rachel Luttrell) loyalty and the loyalty she inspired; Dr. Weir standing up to … well, just about everybody in two galaxies — and eventually making the ultimate sacrifice for those in her charge.

Stargate UniverseStargate Universe (2009-11)

Ninth chevron locked! It sounded ridiculous when it was first announced shortly after Atlantis’ death knells: An SGC crew trapped on an Ancient spacecraft locked in a mysterious mission from the dawn of time. Sort of Battlestar Galactica meets Lost in Space meets Star Trek: Voyager. But it quickly captured fans’ attention as one of the darker and more human takes on the franchise’s high-concept formula. Highlights: Hardly enough time has passed to even have highlights! But here goes: Loving to hate brilliant Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle); the contrasting genius and utter goodness of young Eli Wallace (David Blue, pictured); compelling questions of military-civilian leadership; intriguing plot devices in the communication stones and Kino drones; a sometimes truly convincing approach to presenting and dealing with alien races; the heartbreaking and heartwarming Novus saga.

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