There’s just no getting around the fact that this week’s STARGATE UNIVERSE suffered in comparison to the last two weeks’ worth of stories. “Blockade” felt like a run-of-the-mill, average tale that would be forgotten in a regular season, but withers under the scrutiny of being one of the precious final two episodes.
A large part of the problem with this story can be laid to the cancellation. If there were a season three, then the concept of Destiny refueling at different types of stars would carry much more weight; now it’s just trivia from a dead series. However, thanks to strong characterization, the show squeezed some mileage out of the possibility that the beloved Park might be boiled alive and/or blown out into space. However, I have had just about enough of the drones; they’re rapidly making the Lucian Alliance look exciting.
This was one of those timey-wimey episodes that takes a little concentration to follow, but rewards the careful viewer. The story and its timeline absolutely do hold up, and the story works without relying on technobabble to justify/dismiss what happens. It’s just another example of how entertaining “hard” science fiction can be when leavened with a bit of time travel and vivid characters.
The story saw Eli (David Blue) figure out a new way to dial Earth while Destiny refuels inside a star. The decision was made to give his plan a try, but Rush (Robert Carlyle) was adamantly against it, because while the math worked, conditions in the heart of a star are inherently unstable, and there were too many ways it could have gone down twisted. Young (Louis Ferreira) decided to give it a try, before they can dial out, they are interrupted by the arrival of their shuttle – carrying Dr. Rush. The Rush in the shuttle explained that he had been bounced back some 12 hours in time after Destiny’s attempt to dial home went disastrously wrong. In fact, the attempt resulted in the deaths of almost everyone except himself, and the loss of Destiny. Young had to decide whether to go through with the potentially risky procedure (armed with foreknowledge of what happened/will happen). The discovery of the derelict time-jumped Destiny put the kibosh on attempting to dial Earth.
Welcome to STARGATE UNIVERSE’s version of a breathless action episode: One that features a planet-wide manhunt, gun battles, deaths, anguish and recriminations. Lots of death and recriminations, in fact. Including the death of one well-liked recurring character, and a newbie who was growing on us.
Thanks to this week’s episode, we know what happens when a body is killed while its mind is swapped out using the Ancient communication stones: Both people die. Rush (Robert Carlyle) found Ginn’s (Julie McNiven) body after she had been killed by Simeon (Robert Knepper), the loose cannon of the Lucian Alliance. (I never trusted that guy – especially since he was played by Knepper.) Ginn had swapped with Dr. Amanda Perry (Kathleen Munroe), who was reported dead back on Earth.
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.
Eli and Camile got another chance to go home on STARGATE UNIVERSE this week, and once again their personal stories proved to be gripping. Eli and Camile have the most fully fleshed-out family backgrounds.
When Eli (David Blue) got word that his mother was ill, he rushed to use the stones to return to Earth. We learned that Mrs. Wallace (Glynis Davies) is HIV-positive, and suffering from depression ever since the military took her son away. And a visit from Eli’s consciousness in the body of “Airman Tracy” was no comfort. It was heartbreaking to watch Eli in such pain while his mother wasted away before his eyes. Blue really excelled at showing Eli’s anguish and frustration at being unable to properly comfort his mom.
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.
The second episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE’s second season was a marked improvement over the season premiere – even though the opening installment was quite good on its own terms. SGU is building on strength.
Two startling developments dominated this episode: Dr. Rush found Destiny’s bridge (but refrained from sharing that news with anyone else), and Col. Young smothered a fatally injured Hunter Riley to death.
“Out here, on the edge of the universe, who you are and what you believe is everything.”
– Robert Caine
STARGATE UNIVERSE set itself quite a task: resolve not just one cliff-hanger, but several, featuring different types of tension. I am happy to report that SGU pulled off this stunt in stellar fashion.
When last we saw our friends, Destiny had been boarded by the Lucian Alliance, a loose conglomeration of criminals and terrorists looking to plunder the secrets of the Ancients hidden aboard the ancient ship. The scientists had been separated from the Stargate personnel, who just about to be executed; bullets were flying, leaving pregnant T.J. (Alaina Huffman) bleeding out; Eli (David Blue) and the wounded and delirious Chloe (Elyse Levesque) were isolated at the bow of the ship; and Scott (Brian J. Smith) and Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) were outside the ship, desperately trying to outrun a deadly pulsar radiation burst.
STARGATE UNIVERSE is wrapping its surprisingly strong first season with a two-part finale that pits the Destiny crew against the Lucian Alliance, the baddies responsible for the expedition being trapped on the Ancients starship to begin with.
The Lucian Alliance has never been one of my favorite foes from the Stargate mythos – I just can’t get excited about a conglomeration of interstellar thugs, smugglers and assorted criminals. (I do, however, find the Genii to be even more boring.) They seem somehow “beneath” our heroes in the Stargate program. It’s the same feeling I get whenever Superman would go up against bank robbers in the comics; this is supposed to be a threat?
Well, in my book, the Alliance has now graduated to the big leagues and become a legitimate threat. I still don’t like ‘em, but at least they are a real challenge. Led by Rhona Mitra’s Commander Kiva, the Alliance located another Icarus-class planet and set to work with stolen ninth-chevron tech fed them by the brainwashed Col. Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips). That’s showing some initiative, Kiva. With the help of Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle), the Alliance dialed up Destiny and invaded. In a very real sense, the series has come full circle, with the return of the Alliance, and the destruction of another planet used to power a stargate. Only this time, the goodies were attacking the planet, trying to stop a mission to Destiny. It’s almost like the-powers-that-be planned it or something…
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.