The only Stargate I've ever watched is the original movie. I liked it, but never got into the two TV series. Now, after watching the first episode of new SyFy series Stargate Universe (airing tonight), I'm ready to dive in.

Stargate Universe (SGU) does what all rebootish stories should do. It reintroduces the premise of the story in a way that's intriguing for newcomers like me. You don't need to have watched any SG-1 or SG Atlantis for SGU to make sense. There's a whole new crew, featuring the awesome Robert Carlyle (channeling Battlestar Galactica's tortured scientist Baltar a little) and kickass Lou Diamond Phillips. Basically all you need to know is that some angry aliens attack a bunch of people on a planet with a stargate on it, and they wind up escaping through the gate - and popping out on an alien ship speeding through some far-away part of the galaxy at a zillion mph.

So there's a little Lost in Space/Star Trek: Voyager going on, and a little let's-explore-this-alien-artifact Stargate goodness. In fact, now we have two alien artifacts: the alien ship, full of crazy high tech goodies, and the new stargate. Plus, Carlyle's character has brought a teen genius with him on board, who helps him figure out how to expand the Stargate's functionality. Now they can tune the gate to the "ninth chevron," which I will admit sounds extremely silly when they say it and basically means that there is an extra button to push.

Obviously, with this unprepared crew - they are little more than refugees from an alien attack - tensions run high. Nobody is sure who should be in charge, and so immediately we're plunged into political machinations as well as weird adventures on dusty alien worlds. There is a very strong Battlestar Galactica influence here, which makes sense given that BSG was such an enormous critical hit for SyFy. Not only does the premiere episode echo BSG's political themes, but it also deals with the crew's needs for basic resources like air. (Early BSG episodes dealt with finding food and water.) There is even an unfortunate effort to mimic BSG's religious sensibilities, which I hope will evaporate as the show goes on.

What sucked me into the show, and I think might pique your interest if you tune in tonight, is that SGU introduces us to a cool new environment - both in terms of setting and characters. While some of the characters feel like stock "tough dude" and "funny dude" types, many others are people I'm looking forward to learning more about. More importantly, I love the idea of a group of people stranded on an alien spaceship, trying to figure out how the damn thing works. The ship is both enormous and old, and so part of the show will clearly focus on space-based archaeological mysteries - and dammit, we need more archaeology in our science fiction. And whenever the archaeology gets boring, characters can hop through the new, fully-functional stargate, and find who the hell knows what.

Check the show out. It may not be perfect, but it's got promise.