‘Stargate Universe’ has come a long way since it premiered last October. Now in its second season, the Syfy series has mostly ditched the tedious slow-burn plots that marked the first half of its freshman year for more action, adventure and space madness (CGI aliens! Space pirates! Starships that frak with your mind!).
But not everyone is a fan. ‘SGU’ still struggles with low ratings and with fans of the previous, sunnier ‘Stargate’ shows who, for whatever reason, aren’t happy with the series’ darker tone and character-based plots.
TV Squad got a chance to chat with David Blue, who plays slacker-genius Eli Wallace on the show, recently about ‘SGU”s ratings vs. its DVR numbers, the angry fans and, of course, what we can expect from the rest of the second season.
Congratulations on season 2. The show has been really good this year.
Thank you. I really feel like you guys haven’t seen anything yet. With episodes 6, 7, 8 and on, it really become this really cool show that — I’m already proud to be on it – but it becomes a show that … I’m like, I can’t wait for you guys to watch these episodes, and I can’t wait for people to really see where it’s going. You know, it’s so different now than it was even 10 episodes ago.
Yeah, it seems like that with every episode there’s a major development that just pushes things in a whole new direction, and that’s one of the things I’m really enjoying about the show this year.
Yeah, and you haven’t seen anything yet. There’s a lot of big changes that you can’t even guess that are coming up pretty soon.
Sounds good … So we saw Eli go through a pretty rough time recently when he visited his mother, and it looks like he’s really growing more and more as the challenges pile up for him. What’s it like getting the chance to take Eli in these new directions now?
It’s incredibly exciting for me. I had no idea where we were going to be heading in season 2, and now we’re shooting episode, like, 18, and it’s amazing to see how much he really does change this season. And a lot of it, I think, is attributed to the episode ‘Pathogen’ (season 2, episode 4) and how much leaving his past behind can really change him as a person and really help him grow and accept his situation instead of being the person who’s sitting there complaining and waiting for Rush (Robert Carlyle) or Young (Louis Ferreira) to save his life. He’s part of the solution now, and he really does start growing up and becoming his own man
Tell me about Eli’s love connection with Julie McNiven’s character Ginn. How is that going to play out and what’s it like working with her?
It’s really cool … I was looking forward to it at first. I was a little concerned because, well, “What about the whole Eli and Chloe thing?” and from the beginning they said, “Don’t close the door on that,” and I like that. However, you’ll be the judge of it, but I think it’s such a realistic, sweet thing, and it makes sense and it was so much fun to play. Julie is an amazing actress, so every day on set with her was a blast. And I really do like that storyline, and it goes back to what we were saying earlier; there’s so much happening with Eli that really does enable change in him, and she’s a huge part of that.
The show has been on a creative high this year, and I think it’s one of the best, if not the best, sci-fi shows on TV.
That’s nice! I like that. Can I quote you on that?
Yeah, go ahead. Put it on the DVD cover! … Yeah, it’s one of the best sci-fi TV shows right now, but it’s still kind of a ratings-challenged show. What’s it like working on ‘SGU’ with the threat of cancelation kind of looming in the background?
Well, you know, I don’t think that any of us look at it as a “threat of cancellation,” but I do think that a lot of us feel disappointed that the ratings aren’t higher. It’s hard … before we got the DVR ratings back we were all, like, surprised, like, “Wow, what happened? I don’t really get it.” Because, as you said, we were really proud of what we’d done this season and we’ve got some of our best stuff coming up, you know, and it’s kind of disappointing to think that people might not be watching it.
And then we got the DVR ratings and we realized that we jumped, like, 78 percent, and it was kind of like a slap in the face – a reminder that people don’t really watch live television as much anymore. If we’re not a destination show, then we’re very obviously a show that people want to watch and catch up with after, when they can. I respect that. I’m somebody who works so many hours Monday through Friday that on Saturday at 8 in the morning until 8 o’clock at night I’m catching up on all my favorite shows.
I wish and I hope that more people give us a try, because I feel like people who wouldn’t expect to like sci-fi or people who didn’t think they’d ever watch a ‘Stargate’ could give it a shot and really get sucked into the show.
And I do think that as much as people want to hold a grudge against this show because of decisions made about past (‘Stargate’) shows, or think that we have anything against anyone from the past, which is not true — you can ask David Hewlett (of ‘Stargate Atlantis’) who just guest starred this season and who I respected to no end and told him to his face, “Part of the reason I took this job was because of you.” They even enjoy the show. Ben Browder (of ‘Stargate SG-1’) was kind enough to tell me that he’s really enjoying ‘SGU,’ and I think people need to let go of hate and let go of anger and just watch it. If you like it, great, if you don’t, you don’t — but just don’t hold a grudge, you know?
I think that’s a huge part of it. I hate getting on a soapbox, but that’s the one thing I don’t get as a fan of sci-fi – don’t have hate against a franchise that you’ve grown to love because then all you’re gonna do is hurt the franchise. Why do that? You don’t have to watch it, but just don’t hurt the franchise.
Yeah, it seems like a natural progression for the franchise to move into this direction … I know a lot of people maybe don’t share that opinion or just miss the fun action-adventure style of the old shows.
Well, that’s the funny thing, you know … If you watch the special features from season one (of ‘SGU’) on the Blu-ray, (show creators) Brad (Wright) and Rob (Cooper) say it in an interview, I think with (cast member) Alaina (Huffman), where … people forget – they created ‘SG-1.’ They want to hate Brad and Rob, but they started this franchise that everyone’s in love with. They created these characters that people love, the stories that people can recite now by heart, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. They wanted to do something different – they wanted to go in a different direction. You have to let them have that, since it was them who started it.
And I respect them for trying something new, and I think a good amount of people do, but at the end of the day it’s like getting mad at your dad for wanting to try a new career. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense — he’s still your dad.
A lot of what I was missing as a fan of the previous ‘Stargate’ shows was the rich character development, which has become a hallmark of modern TV with shows like ‘Lost’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ I think a lot of people thought that the original ‘Stargate’ shows lacked that rich character development.
There comes a point where I think, and I don’t want to speak to Brad and Rob, but I think they wanted to get back to a newness … They wanted to bring it back to a sense of newness and awe, and I think they did that. Even more so, I think they wanted to explore fault and weakness and see people who weren’t supposed to be there and how they’d thrive in a situation, and I think that’s really what’s driving shows these days.
Maybe it’s why reality television is so popular, because we like to see the catharsis of a flawed character either failing or growing. And that’s what made shows like ‘Lost’ or Gaius Baltar in ‘Battlestar’ popular. It’s because, you’re like, “Oh, this guy’s not supposed to be there.”
And if you have somebody that can solve every situation at the end of an episode, maybe they’re not the ones you want to follow in this type of show, you know, and that’s where they tried something new, and I respect them for it. I’m enjoying the ride as much as I loved the previous ones.
Well, on that note, I know we have more than half the season ahead of us. Without spoiling too much … how about you tell us about some of the big developments coming down the line this season.
Well, season 1 had a lot to do with surviving, getting to tomorrow, trying to find a way home. And I think people are gonna be really surprised and possibly happy with season 2’s purpose – well, there you go, “purpose!” I think season 2 has a lot more to do with, “OK, we’re here. Where do we go from here?”
You haven’t seen the last of any aliens, and you’re gonna see more (along with) some really trippy, great storylines and some amazing action.
Can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works besides ‘SGU?’
At the moment I’m really focused, I’m writing, producing and directing a short that I’m trying to get into Sundance next year. And then I’m also co-producing a feature called ‘Fireflies.” It’s kind of a coming-of-age road trip drama. We go into production in December, wow that’s soon (laughs), … and, I don’t know, I just love telling stories.
I’ve even written a few ‘SGU’ episodes for fun that I’ll never ever show Brad and Rob because they’ll judge me. But who knows, maybe down the line, if they’ll have me, they’ll let me direct an episode like they did Carlyle or maybe write one. Who knows? Maybe if you guys can convince them they’ll let me.
Yeah, there’s a great tradition in sci-fi of actors going behind the scenes after a few seasons and doing that, writing and directing episodes. They did that a lot on ‘Star Trek.’
Yeah, you know, I mean, I’ve known David Hewlett for a little bit now and, as I said, I really respect him. When he guest-starred on the show, we actually sat down and talked over the possibility of maybe working on a project together, maybe writing something. So keep an eye out for that maybe down the line.