STARGATE UNIVERSE 1.14: Dr. Rush’s Beautiful Mind

The doctors: Rush and Jackson

STARGATE UNIVERSE asked viewers to go on a journey to two separate potentially ugly places: one was a maze of dark subterranean tunnels inhabited by giant spiders, and the other a thicket of dense memories inside the mind of Dr. Nicholas Rush. You decide which prospect was worse.

Rush engaged the Repository of Knowledge, and with Brody’s help, has rigged up a buffer to slow down the flow of information and present it in the form of a semi-lucid dream based on Rush’s own memories.  Rush decided to build on remembrances of the time his wife, Gloria, was dying of cancer because he would not mind if those painful memories are destroyed by the Ancient device. Since Rush was essentially having a lucid dream, he understood that his wife was not really dying, and his students were all aspects of his memories. Thus, Rush appeared coldly disinterested in his wife’s slow demise.

The episode was a great opportunity for Robert Carlyle to take viewers inside the mind of Dr. Rush, and Carlyle made the most of the challenge. Carlyle had to play Rush’s usual detachment and condescension in a different way – he was much more self-aware about his bad attitude. Rush goes through the motions of reenacting his past in a bored, distracted way, because he was actually trying to decipher the secret to the master command code that would give him control of Destiny. Rush appeared even more annoyed than usual by other people. However, watching Gloria deteriorate eventually wore him down, as well. Once Rush allowed himself to face the reality of what happened, his construct of Gloria became aware of the dreamworld, and Rush addressed himself through her. “You’d rather die than fail? What have you become, Nicholas?” she asked, noting that her death made him callous. He claimed all the good in him died with her, but she reminded him that he she was never his conscience – he just needs to listen to his inner voice. “I know how much you loved me,” she said. “Stop taking it out on everybody else.” I think that was my favorite piece of dialogue, as it was poetic, and said so much about Rush as a character.

This was also the episode that saw the return of Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson in certain sequences of Rush’s dream, but it felt like stunt casting, because aside from getting off a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy gag, he did not really do anything Jackson-like. He was in civilian clothes and kept advising Rush to visit his wife. Still, Jackson’s appearance was welcome, even if he did nothing but remind us that this is a STARGATE series.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Destiny crew was given little to actually do. Destiny dropped out of FTL at a seemingly random planet for no apparent reason (It’s not like this solar system was newly created or anything; perhaps the ship realized the producers needed something to pad out the episode). As I was watching, I could not understand why Col. Young allowed Chloe and Eli to go to the planet. With Rush out of commission – for all Young knew, Rush might never be extracted from the repository, or could have been killed/driven insane by the chair – the commander should have balked at sending his other resident genius of the ship and on to an unknown planet. (I trust that when this whole story is over, Rush and Eli will never be potentially lost on missions at the same time again.) Anyway, once on the planet, Eli discovered a warren of tunnels and began whining about exploring them, ostensibly because he’d lost a kino down there. Inexplicably, Scott approved (He must have been bored, as well).  Sure enough, something happened and the team was trapped underground, and Destiny left them all behind as Scott declared, “God be with you, Colonel. All of you.” (Reminding us that he was at one time in training for the priesthood.)

Sadly, there was no suspense because we, as savvy TV viewers, do not fear Eli, Scott, Greer and Chloe will be left behind forever. They are too important to the series. Plus, SGU already used that particular “shocking” cliff-hanger in the Rush/Young subplot. So I fully expect to see our friends back on Destiny soon. In fact, since we have no idea why Destiny stopped at that planet at all, the ship may return next episode, once it realizes that whatever mission was intended for the planet was not accomplished.

Aside from the labored plotting, the episode was completely lacking in action, and so the energy level also flagged, as the director was unable to maintain a good sense of narrative pace. In his defense, the story was all talk, and it is hard to make that visually interesting. However, the representations of Rush seeing Ancient symbols in a kind of tunnel vision accompanied by classical music was interesting, and reminded me of A Beautiful Mind. Rush eventually realized that he was seeing the number 46 everywhere in his dream, whether it should be there or not – meaning there was some pattern to the information based on that number. So Rush put himself through this ordeal merely to come up with a starting point for deciphering the master code.  BTW, this story would have been the perfect opportunity to update us on Jeremy Franklin’s condition after his ill-fated attempt to use the repository himself.

Speaking of Franklin, I mean no disrespect toward the actors in the supporting cast, but the lesser-known characters really need to be distinguished. The dialogue needs to cite names a lot more until we get used to them. It totally knocks me out of the story when I need to stop and ask myself if that’s Brody or Volker…

When Young asked if the number was worth risking his life for, Rush shrugged, “We’ll see.” And we viewers shall see what impact this episode has on the series. Hopefully it will be a little more evident than the repercussions of the mutiny.

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