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New Stargate gets a little lost in space

Some people in America are labelling Stargate Universe "Stargate for people who don't like Stargate". Me, I loved the original series, Stargate SG-1, as well as the 1994 film on which it was based, though I never got into the spin-off, Stargate Atlantis.

Don't know about Stargate Universe yet; this two-hour, double-episode opener, shown just four days after its screening in the US, was a long slog at times. I do know, however, what it reminds me of: Lost in Space.

Not Lost set in space, even if the first hour, with its multitude of characters and frequent flashbacks (can't any new US series tell a story in a straight line any more?) did bear resemblances to JJ Abrams' interminable puzzle.

No, I mean the actual Lost in Space: the 1960s series from my childhood that basically took the Swiss Family Robinson and marooned them on a strange planet. The Robinsons' lives were continually imperilled by the untrustworthy Dr Zachary Smith, who started the series as an out-and-out bad guy but quickly mutated into a cowardly comic-relief character.

Smith's counterpart of sorts in Stargate Universe is scientist Dr Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle, joining the mass emigration of British acting talent to America), an ambiguous, troubled character who may know more than he's letting on about what's going on.

What's going on, by the way, is that Rush plus various soldiers, scientists and civilians flee through a Stargate when their secret research base comes under attack and find themselves aboard an ancient, deserted alien spaceship, light years away from home.

They can't get back to Earth and the ship's air supply is failing. By the end, though, Rush has discovered that they can slip through the Stargate located on the spaceship and emerge though other Stargates dotted around the universe, thus allowing them to explore new planets.

And there, as they say, is where the adventure begins. Whether it will be an adventure worth sticking with remains to be seen. Aside from Carlyle's Rush and David Blue as a slobbish, nerdy young maths genius called Eli, the rest of the Stargate Universe crew are a pretty generic bunch. Promising, though.

We're all stranded in a place we don't want to be right now: Planet Recession. Still, if we must have worldwide economic meltdown, let's have some slick and entertaining television along with it. David McWilliams' globetrotting new series Addicted to Money is very slick and entertaining, even if it does verge on the daft here and there.

As the title suggests, McWilliams likens the worldwide hunger for easy credit to a drug addiction, and paints the greedy, reckless global bankers who fed and encouraged the habit -- even selling shaky, sub-prime mortgages to people without jobs -- as no better than streetcorner dealers.

At times the metaphor is stretched to snapping point, such as when McWilliams turns up in a morgue, standing over the "dead" body of a borrower/user, but the presentation is absolutely dazzling and never obscures the truth: none of this had to happen.


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