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Sci Fi Channel isn’t about to let down “Stargate” fans.
The network is set to announce the order of a new series from MGM Television, “Stargate: Universe,” that will mark the third entry in Sci Fi’s longest-running original series franchise.
The greenlight comes on the heels of Sci Fi’s confirming Thursday that “Stargate: Atlantis” will not receive a sixth-season order. The “Universe” pickup ensures the continuation of the popular “Stargate” franchise, which has been on the air in various incarnations since 1997.
“Universe” will premiere as a two-hour movie early next year and will assume a regular hourly slot in the summer. Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, co-creators of “Stargate: SG-1” and “Atlantis,” will serve as executive producers and writers on the new series.
The new show will involve more space-based action than “SG-1″ or”Atlantis.” With the “Star Trek” television franchise having folded in2005 and Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica” airing its final episodes nextyear, the network hopes “Universe” will become sci-fi fans’ newfavorite space-travel series.
“We’ve had great success with ‘Enterprise’ repeats on Monday night, andthere’s clearly an appetite for space opera as ‘Battlestar’ goes away,”Sci Fi president Dave Howe said. “There’s an opportunity to keep thespace opera as part of our programming strategy.”
“Universe” introduces a team of explorers who find an ancient unmannedship called the Destiny. Unable to return to Earth, the crew must fendfor themselves aboard the ship, which has a preprogrammed missiontaking them to the far reaches of the universe. (Full description below)
The series will employ a new cast of characters, with the networkseeking a known performer for one lead role and fresh faces to play therest of the ship’s crew. Appearances by former cast members from “SG-1″and “Atlantis” are very possible.
Howe said the new series will reinvigorate the franchise by targeting a younger audience.
“This is an opportunity to reinvent this franchise and make it relevantto a new generation,” Howe said. “We really don’t want to be more ofthe same. It’s going to build clearly off the existing franchise butwith a cast that gives it a younger vibe.”
Said co-creators Wright and Cooper: “In ‘Universe,’ we plan to keepthose elements that have made the franchise a success, such asadventure and humor, while breaking new ground in the relationshipsbetween mostly young and desperate explorers, thrust together and farfrom home. Above all, we believe the Stargate itself remains anenduring icon with infinite potential as a jumping-off point fortelling stories.”
Also on Thursday, Sci Fi announced an order for a two-hour “Atlantis”movie in lieu of a sixth-season order.
Airing two-hour movies of suchfranchises as “Stargate” and “Galactica” and quickly releasing thefilms as stand-alone DVDs has been a successful strategy for thenetwork. But the news depressed “Stargate” fans that the long-runningsci-fi television franchise, like “Star Trek” a few years back, wasgoing to be retired as a weekly series.
“SG-1” ran for 10 seasons, launching on Showtime in 1997 then moving toSci Fi after its fifth season. The spinoff “Atlantis” premiered in 2004and will mark its 100th episode this year. Friday night airings of”Atlantis” have averaged more than 2 million viewers per episode.
Sci Fi has not yet made a decision which new project might serve as acompanion for “Universe” next summer. The network has three pilotsunder consideration, including the terrestrial-bound “BattlestarGalactica” prequel “Caprica.”
>> Here’s a more detailed description of “Universe”:
After unlocking the mystery of the Stargate’s ninth chevron, a team of explorers travels to an unmanned starship called the Destiny, launched by The Ancients at the height of their civilization as a grand experiment set in motion, but never completed.
What starts as a simple reconnaissance turns into a never ending mission, as the Stargate Universe crew discovers the ship is unable to return to Earth, and they must now fend for themselves aboard the Destiny.
The crew will travel to the far reaches of the universe, connecting with each of the previously launched Stargates, thus fulfilling the Destiny’s original mission.
Challenges will arise though as the ship comes into range of Stargates placed centuries ahead of the Destiny, but only for a brief period of time before carrying on with its pre-programmed navigational schedule. If someone is left behind, there is no way to go back for them, adding to the drama of encountering new races, enemies and adventures.
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