Yes this isn't your usual getting saved at the last second, making jokes while being tortured kind of Stargate we are used to, and that's a good thing. The previous Stargate TV franchises consisting of SG1 and SGA which used the same formula and had the same tone, and don't get me wrong, I love these shows, but with 300+ episodes of the same thing coupled with falling ratings a change was required for SG to survive. Some compare SGU to Battlestar Galactica, it has more drama like BSG, it's set in space like BSG, they are far away from home like BSG, but other than that the show even with its darker feel, has a completely different tone and is far less political. Just because shows have similarities doesn't make them the same (Lost in Space, Voyager, BSG and now SGU, all have similarities but are all different).
The show also has beautiful special effects with the gate opening procedure looking much better than previously. The special effects aren't in abundance, but when they are there, they're fantastic.
This is a show about survival, with real emotions and fear coming to the surface throughout, people behaving irrationally with different agendas. It's the potential of the show that stands out, with a huge ancient ship to be explored, no doubt riddled with cool technologies, not to mention the galaxy they are stuck in, billions of light years from home with new aliens to encounter.
The show has had 3 slow episodes especially the episode: Life which was pretty slow but essential in the long run, other than that however the show has been strong with great episodes like: Light, Time and the fantastic Justice episode which for a sci-fi show was exceptional. Episodes 11-12 (Space & Divided) are also top notch with aliens, action, the works.
The haters of the show who call it a soap in space exaggerate greatly and need to give it a chance. This show doesn't want to be an SGA clone, it's a serious scifi drama, when people get injured, they stay injured and don't make miraculous recoveries in the following episode. The creators of the original movie weren't happy with SG1's light hearted tone, so folks saying SGU is an insult to SG need to remember that, fans hated Star Trek: TNG until the Borg came along, they hated Voyager until 7 of 9 came along.
With all this in mind and being a long time scifi fan, this show will only get better and with season 2 already commissioned it will be here for a while yet.
This isn't a show to casually watch but one to savour, watching through the 12 episodes again, the Life episode was far more intriguing second time round and the characters seem to have sunken in more. If you feel like burger and fries, watch SGA, but if you want a 4 course meal, give this a try.
P.S. This is the full 800+min season.