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.
I’m guessing that there’s one aspect of this week’s STARGATE UNIVERSE episode that will be garnering the most opinions, and that is Ming-Na’s portrayal of a quadriplegic person. I am going to avoid the political aspects of the storyline – there are many people much better equipped to address those issues – except to say that I think the episode reflected positively on the differently-abled community.
The story saw Camile Wray (Ming-Na) used the long-range communication stones to swap bodies with hyperdrive expert Amanda Perry (Kathleen Munroe) after one of Destiny’s FTL drive units was destroyed by sabotage. Perry is a quadriplegic person who uses a wheelchair, and in her body Camile insisted on going home, where her partner, Sharon (Reiko Aylesworth) could lovingly care for her. (“You’re here,” Sharon said, patiently. “That’s all that matters.”) I thought Ming-Na was very subtle and sensitive in her portrayal. When I interviewed her about it last fall, she explained how she took the time to research the details (not all quadriplegic people have the exact same abilities) and come up with a portrayal that is true-to-life. And it shows. My impression was that she played the role wonderfully. I had the honor to meet Christopher Reeve several times, and based on that experience, I think Ming-Na captured the essence of someone in that situation. Her breathless speaking style was very similar to the late Mr. Reeve. (I bring him up not to drop names, but because he is the only quadriplegic person I have met in real life.) And there is another aspect to Ming-Na’s work in this episode: the brief snippet in which she portrayed Amanda in Camile’s body, and called Eli “Math Boy.” I thought she captured Amanda’s almost childlike thrill and bubbliness perfectly – a contrast her otherwise restrained work in the rest of the episode.