Honestly, I dreaded the approach of this week’s episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE because the previews made it look like the silly old “alien makes you face your worst fear” cliché was in full effect. Sooner or later every show gets around to this hoary chestnut, and I figured SGU better just get it out of its system. To make it seem even worse, the fears glimpsed looked to be standard-issue dull; I mean, claustrophobia? Really? Why can’t some alien force somebody to face the terror of…speaking in public? Supposedly most people dread that more than dying!
Happily, the actual episode proved to be much more enjoyable than anticipated. Not stunningly original, but at least well-executed. As usual, the excellent cast stepped up with some terrific performances (special kudos to Elyse Levesque for her conflicted Chloe), and the direction kept the story moving at a good enough pace that the audience did not have time to linger over the overly familiar plot points.
The story involved alien ticks that inject a sort of venom that induces hallucinations by affecting the host’s limbic system, enhancing negative emotions like fear, guilt and anger. Interestingly, not all the hallucinations were of fears – or even all that unpleasant. Chloe’s guilt over her father’s death precipitated a very warm and affectionate delusion – one Chloe was loathe to part with. Nice to see Christopher MacDonald back, playing a sympathetic version of Senator Armstrong. “You’re living my dream, kiddo,” he told her, proudly. Chloe realized that removing the parasite would cause her to lose her daddy all over again, and Levesque was wonderfully sympathetic as Chloe made the most of every second with her late father’s shade.
Chole’s tale was the heart of the story; the meat of the episode was Greer’s (Jamil Walker Smith) paranoid delusion that Camile (Ming-Na) and Rush (Robert Carlyle) were attempting to mutiny once again. Sure, he was wrong, but was also well-armed! And, just to complicate matters, Rush was embroiled by a hallucination that painted Camile and Greer as blueberry aliens. Rush severely wounded Camile with a screwdriver (ouch!), leaving her at the mercy of Greer, who interrogated her and then decided to kill her! Smith turned in another of his patented angry performances, and it is a tribute to him (and SGU itself) that viewers can never assume that things will turn out happy in the end. Greer will shoot, and shoot to kill. And poor Camile. Ming-Na plays frightened rather well. And let’s hear it for Julia Benson as Lt. James, whose delusion had her believing that she had killed Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith) after a particularly intense booty call. As for Scott, it’s interesting to note that he feels guilty over leaving Matthew – the son he never knew he had – back on Earth. Poor Dr. Volker (Patrick Gilmore) got the boring claustrophobia dreams.
Luckily T.J. (Alaina Huffman) was able to diagnose the problem and figure out a solution: using Squiggler venom to anesthetize the ticks and remove them. I liked Col. Young’s (Louis Ferreira) concern for T.J. – it was clear but unspoken that he didn’t want the mother of his child exposed to the ticks.
I, for one, was ultimately pleased that the rest of the crew was exposed, because it uncovered some interesting personal quirks hidden beneath the surface. Rush is more terrified of the aliens than Chloe is – or, at least memories of her father are more alive to her.