The title of this installment of STARGATE UNIVERSE probably should have been “The One in Which We Finally Learn What It’s All Been About (so far,” or maybe “The Fit Hits the Shan,” because this is the episode when we found out what Destiny’s mission is. Rush was busted and had to admit he’s been working on the bridge for weeks now. And Dr. Amanda Perry made a return visit. And Eli got busy with Ginn.
Let’s take that last one first, as the others are all tied together. Poor Eli (David Blue), devastated by recent events during which redheaded bombshell Chloe (Elyse Levesque) made it clear that he will never escape the Friend Zone (in fact, she would literally rather kill herself than be with him), found a kindred soul in Lucian Alliance techie Ginn (Julie McNiven), another ginger beauty. One who actually understands and admires Math Boy – one might almost call her a groupie for his equations. After all her shameless flirting Eli finally opened his eyes. Good for him. Good for both of them.
After weaving a pretty interesting story out of last week’s nirvana cliché, this week STARGATE UNIVERSE busied itself telling a pretty compelling tale around the apocalyptic vision cliché. You know the trope: someone repeatedly foresees a future that ends in disaster no matter what measures are taken to head it off.
The basic scenario had an overwhelming force of blue aliens arrive and demand that Destiny turn over Chloe (Elyse Levesque). No matter which course of action Col. Young (Louis Ferreira) took – fighting, powering shields or placidly surrendering Chloe – the blues end up destroying Destiny. Most of the impact of the disaster comes from the repetition of the doom, with each detonation amplifying the hopelessness of the situation. But I give SGU major credit the first time around, because the scene of Scott (Brian J. Smith) getting blown out of the observation deck made me shout, “Holy frak!” at my TV – before I realized what was going on, of course. (BTW, the effect looked really thrilling, with Scott tumbling amid shattered glass…)
Greer\’s long, dark night of the soul
Okay, I do not believe anybody saw the end of this episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE coming – I mean, Scott, Eli and Chloe left behind again? And this time, Destiny is leaving whichever galaxy it was in…
This was a great episode for Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker Smith), as viewers really got a peek inside his head. It was also a significant episode for T.J., as she finally told Col. Young that he is the father of her baby.
Setting the stage, Riley helpfully explained via kino that Destiny’s stargate is much more primitive than the gates used in the Milky Way (or Pegasus), which is why each time Destiny drops out of FTL, it is only within range of a limited number of other stargates. Unlike the gates viewers are familiar with, the Destiny’s does not have the capability to dial any desired gate in the galaxy. That helped set the stage for the race to locate Lt. Scott, Sgt. Greer, Eli and Chloe before Destiny moved out of range. But then it was determined that the ship was leaving the galaxy – meaning no more gates at all for possibly a very long time.
T.J. is able to ignore Caine.
Far and away the best part of this week’s STARGATE UNIVERSE was that it focused on T.J., finally giving Alaina Huffman
a chance to show off her range. (The worst part was Dr. Caine’s alien worship, but the less said about that, the better.) I know with such a big cast that characters have to wait their turn, but I have been impatient for Tamara Johansen to take the spotlight.
Up until know, T.J. has been subsuming her personal desires for the good of the crew stranded aboard Destiny. She has been forlorn at missing her chance ‘gate back to Earth from the Icarus planet and attend medical school in
San Diego Seattle. As a paramedic, she is the only trained health professional on the Ancient ship, and has to perform duties above and beyond the call of duty. But every now and then, we catch a lost look in her eye, like she is dreaming of something that might have been. And then there are those lingering glances at Col. Young; the unspoken details of what passed between them.
“To put it bluntly, we’ve taken the ship.”
TJ, Camile and Chloe
With those civilized yet ominous words, STARGATE UNIVERSE’s Camile Wray basically declared war on the military contingent aboard Destiny, igniting a conflict that has been simmering since the first episode.
Camile (Ming-Na) and the “science/civilian” faction plotted to isolate the Stargate personnel from most of ship so she could seize power by controlling the ship’s functions and the stargate. However, the execution did not go as planned, and Col. Young (Louis Ferreira) was left in control of life-support functions, giving him a bargaining chip for negotiations. Not that he really needed it, since Young swiftly took action to regain command of the ship.
Am I blue?
STARGATE UNIVERSE returned to our screens with a taut, action- and emotion-filled episode that revealed Dr. Rush’s surprising fate — and the torment experienced by Col. Young over marooning the scientist on a wasteland planet.
TJ (Alaina Huffman) tried to get Young (Louis Ferreira) to talk about what happened, but the commanding officer was understandably hesitant to expound on his feelings. Young claimed that Rush (Robert Carlyle) was killed in a rock slide, but the truth is Young beat Rush unconscious and abandoned him in the midseason cliff-hanger. Two points made this scene significant: It demonstrated that Young felt remorse, and showed the Young/TJ relationship ran pretty deep. We know it was not just a sexual fling; the pair clearly care for each other.
With each successive episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE, I like the abrasive characters more and more.
This week’s episode gave us a closer look at perhaps the most abrasive, Dr. Nicholas Rush, who appears to be a literal mad scientist. Robert Carlyle is best known on U.S. shores for starring in The Full Monty, but I last saw him in the horror sequel 28 Weeks Later, in which he also played a character that was difficult to like. But nothing like Dr. Rush. While the rest of the crew stranded on Destiny tried to joke about their terrible predicament – witness the cracks about Eli’s and Scott’s personal hygiene – Rush was rushing about, snapping at people. He even threw Riley up against a wall for daring to “interrupt” his work. Col. Young is willing to try to work with Rush, but Rush acts like every word he is forced to share with someone else costs him in blood or life-force. Rush recognized the cascading power failures are a dire threat, but he could not be bothered to explain it to the others, who thought the blackouts were just annoying. Rush thinks that if no one else can understand the scope of a problem, they should at least accept his assessment without question. After all, if the great Dr. Nicholas Rush thinks it’s important, then it is important. Volker, the astrophysicist, tried to help, but Rush shouted him down and belittled him like a child. I think the key to Rush was encapsulated in his rant to Young, in which he charged: “It was your reckless, pointless attempt to dial Earth that robbed me of the time I needed to solve this problem!” There it is: Rush is personally offended by all the others acting as if they might save the day. This should be his moment. After all, as he also pointed out, “I’m the only qualified person!” But then he passed out due to the combination of stress and caffeine/nicotine withdrawal, so… so much for that super brain. What a guy!
For me, it’s a toss-up between Rush and MIT-dropout Eli (more on him later) for favorite-character honors.
STARGATE UNIVERSE is the third television series to spin off from the movie Stargate. It concerns a mismatched group of explorers, soldiers and civilians trapped aboard an Ancient vessel billions of light years away from Earth with no way of returning home. What sets this series apart is its darker tone, younger cast, and much more kinetic feel. The characters barely know each other let alone like each other, and spend a lot of time in the opening story hurling accusations and blame for their dire circumstances. The whole thing feels like a mash-up of STARGATE: ATLANTIS and LOST IN SPACE, with maybe a little STAR TREK: VOYAGER (but let’s hope not much).
Kicking off a new series with edgy characters who bicker endlessly is a risky gambit to attract viewers, but my hat is off to the-powers-that-be for not serving up a simple retread. Diehard STARGATE fans will need to get used to this status quo, but there’s a chance that newcomers to the franchise will be intrigued. The gloomy lighting and quick-cut editing make the series feel more action-packed than it actually is. The premiere opened with a mad scramble through a stargate as the characters fled an alien assault with no idea where they were landing. The group was not designated to venture off-world, and thus are ill-suited to be stranded aboard an alien starship. For instance, there is no doctor, only a flustered medic (Alaina Huffman, who played Black Canary on SMALLVILLE). The expedition’s top scientist and self-proclaimed leader, Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle), has absolutely no people skills whatsoever. (Picture Dr. McKay without the personal magnetism.) Despite his discomfort with others, Rush repeatedly stresses the need for him to be the leader, while seeming dumbfounded as to why his tremendous intellect has not cowed the Ancient starship into returning them home. The frosty Rush is counterbalanced by the appealing civilian consultant Eli Wallace. Normally, I despise the “boy genius” archetype, but David Blue works overtime to make sure his character doesn’t come across as an insufferable Wesley Crusher-type. The mostly-youthful cast feels like a transparent attempt to appeal to a younger demographic, but SG-1’s Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks hitch a ride to ease the transition for veteran viewers. Lieutenant Scott (Brian J. Smith) seems too baby-faced to lead the military contingent, so it’s a good thing that Colonel Young (Louis Ferreira) survived to take over as the no-nonsense father figure. It remains to be seen who will fill the matriarch role, although my money is on Ming Na‘s IOA rep, Camille Wray. Poor Ming had no real role in the premiere, but I’m sure this will be remedied when it makes more sense for her character to step forward. (BTW, want proof SGU is still courting its core audience of SF geeks? Here it is: Chloe (Elyse Levesque), the politician’s hot daughter, actually talks to husky “math boy” Eli!)
Despite being a roomy two hours long, the premiere suffered from the usual pilot-itis: It sketched in a multitude of characters but spent more time establishing their situation and piling up problems. The most immediate of those problems was finding enough breathable air to avoid dying before they can strangle each other. Do audiences want to watch 20 episodes of a bunch of strangers arguing with each other? Realistically, no, so I’m sure the survivors will jell eventually – and the huge crowd of people aboard promise lots of red shirts to make the stakes seem high each week. The Ancients’ ship is called Destiny; let’s hope SGU doesn’t sink under the burden of its own density.