It starts with the ship, the Destiny, coming out of hyperspace, turning on, and receiving an incoming wormhole. Completely disoriented, the refugees from an off-world base, the Icarus base, fumble through the event horizon and once they're all through, they find themselves stuck with no way back to earth in an old, decrepit ship with failing life support systems. It's after this that we start to learn where they came from and the events that brought them here. This is a long departure from regular Stargate storytelling. I can't personally think of a single episode of either SG-1 or Atlantis that departed from a straight-forward, linear storyline. And I like it! As one who has just recently caught up on Lost, I have grown quite attached to this story form, and I think the world as a whole has fallen in love with the unfolding mystery that non-linear stories bring with them.
In the first episode(s), Air, parts 1, 2 and 3, we see certain leaders emerging. There is Dr. Rush, who is ambitious and suspicious, Colonel Young, who seems to be fighting with Rush for power over the group who have been stranded by Rush, Lt. Scott, a handsome, young airman who is a model soldier, and Camile Wray, an IOA representative who doesn't like the thought of anyone other than someone from the IOA being in charge.
And then there's Eli. I love Eli Wallace. He is the Everyman in the series. The slacker genius won a position on the Icarus project by figuring out an ancient, complex algorithm embedded in a video game. He is, as he says, "Math-Boy." As you might imagine, I connect to this geeky character immediately.
Last but not least, Chloe Armstrong is the daughter of a senator. She and Eli seem to be the only two relatively normal people on the ship. The rest are military, government or scientists. Well, I guess she's technically government... but... daughter of... government... it's different, right? Anyway, she's sweet and beautiful and could easy fall into the damsel in distress role if she had to.
The first episodes of Stargate Universe rock the socks off of anything from the past. And the best part is you don't even really have to know the previous series to be caught up. They explain everything you need to know, and you don't need to know much because it doesn't take long before everyone is completely gone from everything they ever knew and loved. From the time they step through the Stargate, nothing is ever the same. Nothing.