STARGATE UNIVERSE 2.03: Awakening

So what (or who), exactly, was “awakening” in this week’s episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE? The new aliens? The seedship? Rush? Young? Telford? How about “all of the above.”

Picking up from last week’s cliff-hanger, we discovered that the mystery “object” was another ship – one that looked almost exactly like Destiny. The ship was clearly of Ancient design; it was one of the many craft sent out ahead of Destiny to seed worlds with stargates. Brody (Peter Kelamis) theorized that it had suffered some kind of breakdown, enabling Destiny to catch up. The sister ships docked, and Brody, Volker (Patrick Gilmore), Scott (Brian J. Smith) and Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) entered the other ship with a kino to explore. Meanwhile, the ships automatically began transferring data.

Rush (Robert Carlyle) discovered that the new ship had vast power reserves; enough to power Destiny’s stargate and send everyone home. This was not good news for Rush, who still has no intention of leaving Destiny. The problem was – as Volker discovered – the other ship had already been boarded by other explorers. And, like everyone who has encountered Destiny, they were unwilling to share. The aliens overpowered Rush and reversed the power flow; in effect draining Destiny. Rush separated the ships, severing the bond. He claimed he had no choice, but did he? An unintended consequence? Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) was inadvertently left behind on the seedship as Destiny jumped away…

Let’s begin with the ending: Once again, this episode sought to shock by leaving someone behind. But we’ve seen it too many times for it to be effective. Rush was abandoned on the ruins planet. Eli (David Blue), Scott, Chloe (Elyse Levesque) and Greer were left on the labyrinth planet. The last people to be left behind for good were those who voluntarily got off on the Eden planet – but even Dr. Caine (Tygh Runyan) was seen again. So anyone who thinks Colonel Telford is gone for good, well, I have a bridge in New York to sell you.

Those aliens Telford was left sharing the ship with are not necessarily hostile. Rush theorized that they were a science team studying the Ancient ship, not a contingent of soldiers. (Don’t forget, the first alien to encounter Volker apparently fainted!) Telford should be able to hold his own. However, I did like the design of the aliens a lot, with their petite structure and heads that resemble the top portion of a human skull (without the jawbone). There was also a resemblance to the Blueberry Aliens, so perhaps the species are related. T.J. (Alaina Huffman) was dispatched to treat one of the unconscious creatures, but it revived before she could accomplish much. It speaks another unknown language, and there are no convenient “universal translators” available. I really like that the Destiny crew has not encountered any humanoid aliens. The universe is a big place, and it cannot be populated solely by creatures that look like humans with bumpy foreheads.

The design of the seedship was another big plus. I liked the narrow corridors, which made it feel claustrophobic. Destiny is poorly lit (an intentional decision on the part of the-powers-that-be to convey a sense of alienness), but the seedship takes the unearthly gloom to another level. It almost appears not to be of Ancient design – was this the same race that built the soaring and graceful Atlantis? There was mention of this seedship being even older than Destiny, so clearly the race had evolved by the time it had created Atlantis.

Ginn (Julie McNiven) offered her Ancient expertise to explore the seedship, but Young (Louis Ferreira) refused. He also balked at releasing Varro and the rest of the group, because Young doesn’t trust the Alliance anywhere near that ship. (Mike Dopud’s voice sounds exactly like Kiefer Sutherland’s, doesn’t it?) Simeon (Robert Knepper) is the malcontent stewing over Young’s treatment and whispering in Varro’s ear. Clearly, no good will come of that. Young scolded Camile (Ming-Na) for keeping the Alliance in the loop. She said Homeworld Command cut a deal with the Alliance: in exchange for information, the prisoners need to be included in decisions aboard Destiny. Homeworld Command fears another Alliance attack, so out of fear, Wray is provide them with intel on the off chance that someone in this tiny band knows something useful. Now, everyone knows I dislike the Lucian Alliance (a loose conglomeration of criminals) as a concept for an enemy, but Young really hates the Alliance. I think this indicates some past trauma with the Alliance, so I’m just waiting for Young to reveal that the Alliance killed someone he loved. There has to be a reason for his grudge over and above the fact that they tried to hijack his ship and kill him.

Not everyone else doesn’t have their own issues. Telford got bent out of shape about not being “kept in the loop” about Young sending an away team to the seedship. It’s telling that Young and Telford call each other “Everett” and “David.” (Are they supposed to call each other “colonel”?) Telford seemed to be trying to support Young; genuinely wanting to help. I think everyone expected the guys to continue their feud even after Telford was freed of the mind control. Two headstrong men of the same rank vying for control? One imagines shouting matches of “Belay that order!” as they butt heads. However, their enmity seemed to stem from much more than Telford’s implanted personality. What about the clashes over Young’s wife? Or has Telford been brainwashed for a lot longer than we ever suspected?

As viewers, we needed to see Telford being cool, being creative, being…well, if not likable then at least charismatic. Freed of his brainwashing, Telford is practically a new character, and he’s lagging far behind the others in audience identification. With his sacrifice at the end of this episode, he at least showed flashes of potential. When Rush and Dunny were overpowered and aliens began draining Destiny, Telford tried to undo the power drain from the seedship control room. It was nice to see Telford making use of some of his specialized training for the Icarus mission, like his working knowledge of basic Ancient technology. I wonder if he has undergone gene therapy to operate Ancient tech; it would make sense. As Destiny prepared to jump to FTL, Telford bravely told Young, “Take care of those people. And, Everett, take care of yourself.” Destiny jumped, leaving Telford with the encroaching aliens.

What about that whole power-transfer process – why was it necessary at all? If the seedship was powered up, why not just send the Destiny crew over there to use that ship’s stargate to return to Earth? We are left to theorize that the seedship either doesn’t have its own working stargate (which seems highly unlikely), or it was not located in the same area as Destiny’s gate room, and it could not be located quickly. Still, the stargate-manufacturing chamber was found, so why not pull out a fresh one? They couldn’t all have been unfinished. (In a sly nod to fans, composer Joel Goldsmith’s musical cue for the scene was very reminiscent of STARGATE SG-1 scores.)

It was a nice touch when Chloe encouraged T.J. to talk to somebody about the loss of her child. But T.J. insisted there was nothing to talk about: She lost her baby; the child may be in a better place; and maybe it’s for the best. T.J.’s coolest moment: Simeon tried to get fresh with her, but T.J. handled him almost broke his arm. (However, it was clear he would remember being pwned by the medic.) Varro, in contrast, turned on the charm with T.J., and told her a story about how his wife died. He said her senseless death convinced him that “Life is loss.” Later, T.J. thanked him for making sure her life was saved after she was shot.

Speaking of life, it appeared that only Camile and Greer were present at the “memorial” ceremony when they sealed up Hunter Riley’s room. To his credit, Greer seemed genuinely moved by the loss of Riley. Young is clearly feeling the weight of responsibility, as he got a bottle full of hooch from Brody’s still. And are Rush’s demons (in the shape of his late wife, Gloria) beginning to catch up with him? He looked awfully alone, sulking on the bridge by himself.

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