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.
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.
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.
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.
The doctors: Rush and Jackson
STARGATE UNIVERSE asked viewers to go on a journey to two separate potentially ugly places: one was a maze of dark subterranean tunnels inhabited by giant spiders, and the other a thicket of dense memories inside the mind of Dr. Nicholas Rush. You decide which prospect was worse.
Rush engaged the Repository of Knowledge, and with Brody’s help, has rigged up a buffer to slow down the flow of information and present it in the form of a semi-lucid dream based on Rush’s own memories. Rush decided to build on remembrances of the time his wife, Gloria, was dying of cancer because he would not mind if those painful memories are destroyed by the Ancient device. Since Rush was essentially having a lucid dream, he understood that his wife was not really dying, and his students were all aspects of his memories. Thus, Rush appeared coldly disinterested in his wife’s slow demise.
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.