The Best and Worst of Stargate Universe: Season 2

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For previous installments of Stargate SG-1:

For previous installments of Stargate Atlantis:

 

When I think of Stargate Universe, I think of this clip from Stargate SG-1‘s episode, 200, with the younger, edgier group. The premise of the series is best described from the Everything Explained article, “Stargate Universe Explained“:

The Stargate program has founded Icarus base on a remote planet whose Stargate is powered by large naquadria deposits throughout the core. The team, led by Dr. Nicholas Rush, postulate that the power from that core could allow them to use a 9-chevron code to “dial” into the Stargate, allowing them access to locations far remote from their galaxy, but lack the means to translate the writing of the Ancients to understand how to dial this properly. Dr. Rush designs a video game used across Earth to find brilliant minds to interpret the puzzle, which Eli Wallace, a young mathematics genius, is able to solve. Eli is reluctantly brought to Icarus base along with a contingent of guests of honor aboard the Hammond, a Daedalus-class starship battlecruiser; the guests include Senator Armstrong, who funds the Icarus Project, and his daughter Chloe. They are introduced to the base’s military staff, led by Colonel Everett Young, Colonel David Telford, First Lieutenants Matthew Scott and Tamara Johansen, and Master Sergeant Ronald Greer.

Dr. Rush and Eli work together to discover the means to dial the ninth chevron, just as the base is attacked by members of the Lucian Alliance. Colonel Telford aids in an aerial assault of the ships with the Hammond, while the base starts dialing Earth into the Stargate, finding that the planet’s power core is about to explode. Dr. Rush realizes that the explosion would follow them through the base back to Earth, and instead redials the Stargate with the ninth chevron, successfully opening a wormhole. The surviving Icarus Base members flee through the wormhole before the planet explodes. They find themselves aboard an old abandoned spacecraft made by the Ancients, which Dr. Rush finds was named Destiny. The eighty-some survivors begin to assure the safety of their team, Senator Armstrong injured and realizing he might not have long, sacrifices himself to seal an air leak in one of Destinys shuttles.

As the rest of the team works to make the ship hospitable, Dr. Rush, Eli, and other scientific members of Icarus Base start to understand the function of Destiny; they are not able to directly control the ship, and find that it will drop out of faster-than-light travel to allow its Stargate to connect to a number of nearby worlds for a fixed period of time before it continues; it fuels itself by diving into the outermost layer of a nearby star and collecting energy from it; the first time the Destiny did that, the crew feared the worst, until they understood why it happened. The crew is able to remain in contact with Earth via a set of Ancient communication stones that Dr. Rush brought, and are told to continue the Stargate mission of exploring that galaxy, while searching for a way to return home.

Of course, this differed quite greatly from the previous Stargate series, SG-1 and Atlantis, as according to the Chicago Tribune review:

This drama, which follows a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians stranded on an alien ship very far from Earth, is supposed to be the “edgier” “Stargate” TV series (that’s Syfy’s word, not mine). It would allegedly be more like “Battlestar Galactica” than “Stargate SG-1,” which, at its best, had an team of exceedingly watchable characters take on any number of alien threats armed with advanced weapons, acerbic humor and a great deal of pluck.

I come to “Stargate Universe” with no axe to grind against it; in fact, I’ve seen every episode of “Battlestar” and most episodes of “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis.” As a sci-fi fan, I celebrated the different things these shows brought to the genre party. But so far the gloomy, underwhelming “Universe” seems to have ditched many of the elements that the previous “Stargate” shows had, notably camaraderie and a sense of adventure, without adding much in the way of narrative suspense or complexity.

Despite its laudable ambitions, “Universe” has little of the compelling ambiguity that made shows such as “The Shield” and “Battlestar Galactica” work. “Universe” has shakier camera work and a darker color palette, but those aren’t the things that made those other shows great. Those kinds of acclaimed shows have richly drawn characters who are interesting and flawed, and they also regularly feature crackerjack plots that not only have provocative moral dimensions but keep you guessing.

Not to beat the “Battlestar” comparisons into the ground (and I promise this will be the last one), but the rag-tag fleet on that show frequently encountered situations in which individual survivors or whole ships (and their passengers) faced extermination. Many of the episodes in “Stargate Universe’s” early going are predicated on the idea that the alien space ship on which the survivors are stranded could stop functioning and thus kill everyone. If that’s really possible, I kept thinking as I watched the first few episodes, then Syfy spent a lot of money on those sets for nothing.

The other “Stargate” shows typically faced threats from standard-issue (yet sometimes interesting) alien bad guys. Beyond its competent but unexceptional pilot, it appears that “Stargate Universe” is attempting to tell, as so many classic sci-fi films and TV shows have, an “enemy within” story, in which paranoid and fearful survivors either turn on each other or bond in the face of adversity.

There are a couple of problems with that when it comes to “Stargate Universe.” The stories aren’t particularly dense or surprising, and some of the conflict feels quite contrived (as in the problematic Oct. 9 episode, which features a strained plot and an awkward, preposterous attempt to fill in a character’s backstory). And you have to care about the characters before you can become invested in their interpersonal drama.

Perhaps the intention was to have Master Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) come off as a rebellious yet courageous hothead, but the character is just a one-dimensional, obnoxious idiot. Then again, at least he registers, unlike the dull Col. Everett Young (Louis Ferreira). As was the case so often on the other “Stargate” shows, the female characters on “Universe” are notably underwritten. But at least their makeup is flawless.

The smart slacker Eli Wallace (David Blue) and the intense scientist Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) are the only characters, who are worth following, and even if the stories get more interesting, they’d still be the main reason to watch “Universe.” Blue and Carlyle are simply terrific (and, given their excellent chemistry, it’s odd that Rush and Wallace don’t have many scenes together in the first few episodes).

It’s not that I resent “Stargate” going in a more morally ambiguous direction — far from it — but so far its creators seem to have mistaken dourness for complexity. And I wonder if the tendency to repeat the same half-dozen stories and plots, which was a problem that hampered the other “Stargate” series, will infect “Universe” too.

Those aboard the Destiny — the ship the survivors unwillingly come to call home — confide in the shipboard cameras that Wallace found and dubbed “kinos.” The kino diaries, which are occasionally funny, poignant or unpredictable, offer a ray of hope regarding the survivors and the journey of the good ship Destiny.

Of course, BingeReview from Geek.com explains it this way:

It took too long for the show to take off, and that has a lot to do with a failure to follow the formula. The only day-to-day enemy was survival, and there were just way too many people to try and learn to love all at once. It took too long to establish a core team and a core mission, and by the time the show had really come together and started to get interesting it was already too late. Which is a shame, because the potential was there for Stargate Universe to be truly exceptional.

We will always have more unanswered questions about SG-U than we do answered ones, and most of that has to do with how the show was built. This series operated under the assumption that they would have multiple years to establish long running themes with deep connections. If given the time,Stargate Universe could have been amazing, but they stumbled out of the gate and never recovered so there was no starting audience to enjoy those lasting threads.

The show was certainly younger, hipperdarker, edgier different kind of Stargate, but was it an improvement? I would say it definitely was and cancelled far too early before it could be completely fantastic. Oh, what could have been!

So how did it do in regards to women characters? I would look at “Meta: The Unrealised Potential of Stargate‘s Female Characters“:

It’s difficult to judge Universe in part because of its short life and in part because it was an attempt to change the style and format of the franchise from short-term plot driven episodes (albeit sometimes combined with medium-term plot/character arcs) to a serial character driven show; from adventure of the day to character relationships; from characters who were inherently heroic figures (albeit with foibles) excelling in all challenges to characters who were flawed human beings struggling to rise to the challenge. Keeping that in mind, the potential of the female characters can still be assessed…and found wanting.

Universe elicited much criticism at the beginning of S1 for reducing its female characters to sexual objects (naked shower scenes, sex scenes, blatant camera shots focusing on female anatomy). While I would agree that Universe deserved much of its early criticism regarding the usage of female characters, it did turn things around for me in the latter part of S1 and through S2 to a large degree, although found itself restricted because of the roles they had assigned to the regular female characters: an IOA human resources manager (Camile Wray), an Air Force medic (Tamara “TJ” Johansen) and a Senatorial aide (Chloe Armstrong). Most of the issues with the female characters stem from this initial decision not to create or give one of the more dynamic roles that was central to problem solving scientific/technical/military crises (Math Genius (Eli), Commander (Young), Second-in-Command (Scott), Lead Bitchy Science Genius (Rush), or Experienced NCO (Greer)) to the female characters.

Of the three characters, TJ possibly comes out ahead in being established as a compassionate and competent young woman trying to deal with relationship mistakes, choices and consequences. Additionally, the unplanned pregnancy and the subsequent death of her child were explored. Unfortunately, there were issues with the other two main female cast members in establishing the core of their characters. Camile’s depiction through S1 was inconsistent and she faded into the background in S2 for me, although I thought the exploration of her personal life was well executed. Equally, Chloe was never successfully established, and her alien possession arc didn’t really cure that. Further, there was very little interaction between the women until towards the end of S1, and even then scenes of female friendship were rare compared with the number of scenes which depicted them with the men.

Of course, had the show secured another season, the issues I describe may have been tackled and addressed.

Turning specifically to the characters themselves:

Tamara “TJ” Johansen

TJ, the uncertain medic

While it wouldn’t be fair to say that the show didn’t tackle the issue of TJ, a medic, having to step up and become the doctor of Destiny despite not having the medical training and skills necessary at all, the show didn’t truly capitalise on this aspect of TJ either. Possibly the S2 episode Hope tackled it the most by having TJ have to do a kidney operation but it wasn’t a great episode. The majority of the time TJ handled being the medic with competence, compassion and skill. The latter was great in establishing a woman who could do her job but not so great in terms of exploring her fears and failures.

TJ, the Air Force officer

Unfortunately, this aspect of TJ was rarely explored. In some respects, the combination of Air Force officer and medic ensured that the latter would always come first (as in the case of Janet). When they did explore it to a small extent (Water and The Hunt) the stories had to be very contrived (the two senior officers going off-world which made no tactical sense and TJ being captured by a sentient animal). The glimpses here and there though were intriguing and it would have been nice to have explored this aspect of TJ more.

TJ and the affair with Young

Much of the exploration of this in S1 and S2 was from Young’s point of view, firstly through his problems with his wife and secondly, through his jealousy at TJ’s growing closeness with Varro. Only the pregnancy arc explored the arc from TJ’s perspective. In some respects, I think this was a blessing for the character because it meant that with the majority of scenes being TJ at work rather locking lips with Young, it helped establish her as separate to him. However, the essential issue – that a senior officer had an inappropriate relationship with someone under his command – was never addressed which was wasted potential of the set-up.

Camile Wray

Camile, IOA Power Play vs People Person

Fundamentally, Camile’s characterisation from the very beginning was flawed. On the one hand, in her relationship with long-time love, Sharon, she was depicted as a very loving and soft-hearted woman who enjoyed red wine, cooking and sketching. On the other hand, she was meant to be a power-hungry IOA representative who was happy to go toe-to-toe with Young and Rush for control of Destiny. While I suppose it’s not impossible to have the two personas in one character, it didn’t work for me – not least because Camile was overshadowed hugely by the enmity written between the two men. Ultimately, the contradiction couldn’t stand and while Camile did end up being part of the executive trio that ran Destiny, she faded into a more pseudo-psychologist role that played out in an alternative timeline as everyone’s favourite aunt. That concept had potential to explore if the show had lasted another season.

Camile, the first openly gay Stargate character

Personally, I loved the portrayal of Camile’s relationship with Sharon. It was introduced as the only non-dysfunctional romantic relationship. Even in S2 when it was acknowledged that there were issues of the long separation and Sharon waiting alone on Earth for Camile to get back, the issues were dealt with in a very grown-up way. However, the show seemed to me to whitewash over the very real issues for homosexuals that exist in our society regarding the pressures of living in a hetereonormative culture with continuing equality right debates. There was a potential to explore this in among the character dynamics – one character on Destiny disliking/harassing Camile because of her sexuality and Camile having to deal with this, would not have been unrealistic. I can understand why politically the show maybe didn’t go there but the potential was there.

Chloe Armstrong

The purpose of Chloe

Just as with Camile, Chloe’s characterisation was flawed from the beginning for me. Introduced seemingly as the female-fish-out-the-water equivalent to Eli, the premise did not work because a rich girl who was lucky enough to work for her father in the rarefied echelons of politics isn’t all that every-day and relatable to a large majority of the audience. And despite their efforts, for me, the writers never quite managed to turn this into a young woman finding herself story. Chloe remained adrift and without purpose with ever increasingly desperate attempts made to give her purpose (including the eventual alien possession). An easy solution to the problem would have been to actually have assigned Chloe a role on the ship – even as Young’s administrative aide or as a soft-sciences expert exploring the database for historical information to help the expedition with its problems. Maybe instead of Eli being the one who wanted to make a historical kino record, Chloe could have assumed that pseudo-journalist-outside-commentator role. By giving Chloe no role, the show severely restricted her potential to get established and grow.

Chloe, the hybrid alien

While aspects of Chloe’s alien arc were done well – the issue of safety of the crew versus her personal freedom and rights, the potential of the arc was far greater than that explored. Again, just as it got interesting with her take-over of the Destiny to ostensibly save them, she was ‘cured.’ Perhaps the potential of the cure being reversed or the legacy of the alien possession would have been explored had the show gone on further.

Chloe, the love interest of Scott

The other issue for Chloe was that her character was defined through her relationship with male characters – first, her father, and then immediately after his death, her hooking up with Matthew Scott. Just as with Vala and Jennifer, once Chloe was in this relationship, the show failed to establish her as a character beyond the relationship. Much of her alien possession arc was told in respect to Scott – her healing ability (Cloverdale), her position on the ship (Trial and Error), and her being cured (Deliverance). Except for a couple of scenes with Greer, Rush and Young, all of her scenes in this arc were with Scott. It’s fair to say though that as much as Chloe’s character was defined by her relationship with Scott so too was his character defined by her, but either way the focus on their relationship did severely limit the potential of both characters.

So just how is Camile Wray’s depiction overall in terms of her being a lesbian? I would go with this AfterEllen article, “Camile gets lucky on “Stargate Universe”“:

On Friday night’s Stargate Universe, Camile Wray returned home to visit her partner in an episode we’ve been hearing about since SyFy first announced that Ming-Na would take on the role of a lesbian IOA officer in the newest incarnation of SGU. Camile’s scenes with her partner Sharon (played by Reiko Aylesworth) only account for about four minutes of the episode, but Ming-Na and Aylesworth infuse their characters with such warmth that their limited screen time together is quite affecting.

The article continues:

Yet despite the sparse dialogue and minimal moments together, “Life” is an extraordinary landmark in lesbian television.

Science Fiction, generally — and SGU, specifically — almost always places its emphasis on fantasy and nanotechnology, not on love and affection. Sure, there are plenty of epic romances set in space, but they always feel like an afterthought.

Stargate Universe has chosen to frame Camile’s entire story within the context of a loving,committed relationship with another woman. And because Sharon and Camile’s relationship is given the most gravity of any on the show, it is the story-telling device that is used to anchor the entire crew of Destiny to Earth. Which is to say that the audience is supposed to connect with every character’s humanity because two lesbians’ hearts are breaking as they are forced to live light years apart.

I thought Ming-Na and Aylesworth really nailed their scenes together: the deep affection and attraction, the moments of savoring one another’s closeness, the taking it turn to be strong. It was authentic and poignant, and frankly, it was the only time I’ve ever cared about people being trapped in space. (Sorry, Starbuck.)

When Camile is getting ready to return to Destiny, she and Sharon have this moving conversation:

Sharon: You are going to take a deep breath, OK? You are going to go back to that ship. You are going to work with those people, motivate them, do whatever you need to do to get yourself back home. I am going to be here. I’m not going anywhere.
Camile: Promise?
Sharon: I did that 12 years ago. The only thing that won’t be here when you get back is that stupid chair over there. I love you.
Camile: I love you, too.

Sniffle! I love both of you guys!

After years of having no LGBT characters on the show, I can honestly say for the first time I felt included in the show, that I was represented, and that felt good.

It was during the mid-season break, that SyFy decided to not renew Stargate Universe, as according to the Den of Geek article, “Stargate Universe cancelled“:

It’s the end of the road for Stargate Universe, and quite possibly the broader Stargate franchise for the time being, as SGU is not being renewed for a third season.

Syfy has announced that the current series of Stargate Universe, which is on its mid-season hiatus, will be the last. Stargate Universe will not be renewed for season three.

This leaves the second half of season two still to be screened, and the remaining ten episodes will be shown, starting in the spring. Once they’ve been shown, that might just be it for the Stargate franchise, for the time being at least.

Syfy will be looking to the American remake of Being Human as the show’s replacement in the schedules, but with no plans for a fourth Stargate television series, the demise of SGU will leave the schedules Stargate-less for the first time in well over a decade.

 

The Best:

Intervention, Aftermath, Awakening, Pathogen, The Greater Good, Malice, Resurgence, Deliverance, Twin Destinies, Alliances, Seizure, Common Descent, Epilogue, and Blockade

DestingFrontAttackResergence

Quite briefly:

  • Intervention follows Incursion, where the Lucian Alliance makes it on board Destiny;
  • Aftermath sees Dr. Nicholas Rush discover the bridge of the Destiny, but tells no one;
  • In Awakening, the Destiny docks with a Stargate-seeding ship, but the ship has other passengers;
  • Pathogen sees Chloe acting strangely following her previous alien encounter;
  • The Greater Good sees the Destiny encounter an abandoned alien craft, meanwhile, Dr. Rush has Ginn travel to Earth in order to bring Dr. Amanda Perry on board;
  • In Malice, Simeon, who just killed Ginn/Dr. Perry tries to escape Destiny, but is pursued by Dr. Rush;
  • Resurgence and Deliverance features a terrible decision of the crew to investigate a faint energy reading in their flight path, and engages with a cluster of drones;
  • Twin Destinies sees a future version of Dr. Rush contact and board the Destiny;
  • Alliances finds Sargent Greer and Camille Wray trapped at Homeworld command through the Ancient communication stones, but an enexploded naquadah bomb has been detected;
  • Seizure features an appearance of former Atlantis Expedition Commander Richard Woosley, and the Destiny Expedition tries to stage a coup in order to get back to Earth;
  • Common Descent and Epilogue is one of my favorite stories throughout the entire series as a continuation from the earlier Twin Destinies, the Destiny Expedition discovers the planet, Novus, where the crew of the other Destiny built a massive civilization; and,
  • Blockade features the Destiny Expedition has to recharge inside a blue supergiant star because drones set up a blockade meanwhile the crew gates to a local planet where the ship from Novus made their new home.

According to the Den of Geek review of Intervention:

Unfortunately, something a character says in the first scene of the episode rings true of this episode: “It’s a lot to process.” Stargate Universe has returned, and with a bang too.

We pick up where we left off at the end of last season, with the current crew of the Destiny in varying degrees of anguish. While Lt. Scott and Sgt Greer run along the ship’s hull, trying to make it to the only available entrance before a pulsar kills them, Eli was doing the same on the inside, running to open the door to let the two of them in.

Many characters were left shot, including Chloe, Lt Johansen, Col Telford and The Lucian Alliance’s Commander Kiva. Dr Rush and Mr Brody were desperately clinging onto any control over the ship they can get, refusing to let the Lucian Alliance completely take over.

With much of the crew being held at gunpoint by them, however, it isn’t looking too good for our crew of misfits.

While most of this is dealt with in one way or another fairly quickly, the Lucian Alliance is still in charge of most of the ship. And there’s Varro and Dannic fighting for control of the Lucian Alliance, too. With Varro seeming to be the most diplomatic of the two, of course he is going to lose this argument. We’ve watched enough genre TV to know that. However, he’s not losing before bringing in some medical experts via the communication stones, for his own men and Lt Johansen.

Speaking of our favourite injured medic, her part in this story seems like the one that is setting up most of an arc here. She experiences some kind of out of body experience, waking up in a cabin with a familiar face.

Cast your mind back to the thirteenth episode of season one Faith, in which the rather interesting character, Dr Caine, and a few unknown crew members decided to stay behind on an planet similar to Earth, believing the planet’s original inhabitants would return and be able to return them to earth. Fast forward to now, and the man in question turns up in the cabin with Lt Johansen and tells her that the aliens saved her and her child from death by transporting them there. The big question is, how real is this experience?

This part of the episode beings up a lot of questions, in fact, about both the forthcoming story and the writers’ motivations. For instance, are these the aliens we have met previously or a new one we have yet to meet? Did the writers plan this into the story back when they penned Faith? Remember, this episode was not only when Caine left Destiny, but also when we learned of Lt Johansen’s pregnancy. These questions and more may be answered in the coming weeks and months, as even at episode one, we’ve already picked up a few more mysteries to ponder over.

The Lucian Alliance, meanwhile, has sent the rest of the crew to a barely inhabitable planet, but not all of them agree that this is the right idea. A few more Alliance members make themselves seen in this episode, including Robert Knepper’s Simeon, who is highly effective as a sneaky bad ass, and Julie McNiven’s Ginn, who comes across as a lovely cast addition whose character seems of sound mind.

It’s wonderful to see a brilliant show like Stargate Universe flourish and delve even more into darker storylines as it enters its second season, when it could easily have taken the easy road, and miraculously saved the crew of the Destiny.

While this episode may have had some flaws, it was still a welcome return for an impressive show. It brought in fresh blood, closed a few storylines and opened some new ones up too, which is all you can ask of a returning show. Anything more is a lovely cherry on top.

The new additions to the cast seem like smart casting decisions, and everyone is given a chance to shine, while the returning cast are given an ample chance to remind us why we came back, and prove that this is a show worth watching.

Highlights here are Alaina Huffman’s Lt Johansen, who deals with some very tough and touching scenes greatly, and Mike Dopud’s Varro, who proves an ideal and interesting cast addition who should get to come into his own even further over the coming weeks.

It’s a tightly scripted episode that deals with a lot of heavy stuff very quickly, without it feeling too rushed. However, the Lucian Alliance’s internal power struggle is a little too quick, in my mind, and it may have benefited from a little bit more depth. That’s just nitpicking, though, as the episode gets us from A to B in an interesting and insightful way, while still retaining what made the show interesting in the first place.

The effects team don’t slack off either, as, even though we don’t see any new sets from the interior of Destiny’s ship, the VFX is still as impressive as it ever was, creating an effect for the final scene that simply looks incredible. Exterior shots of the ship, too, look increasingly sophisticated and the budget again proves itself to be highly useful.

Overall, this is a good closer episode for the superb season one multiple cliffhanger that tied up some loose ends very well, but more importantly, started new and interesting story threads that will keep us all on the edge of our seats throughout the season.

According to the Den of Geek review of Aftermath:

I’ll be upfront about this. There’s not much point tuning in to Stargate Universe this week. Not a lot happens. Well, not unless you count some of the biggest moments in the show so far, culminating in one brilliant episode.

It opens with a major event that was almost destined to happen since the show began just over a year ago, as Dr Rush finds the ship’s bridge. He quickly becomes familiar with a few of the ship’s systems, including how Destiny picks the planets it stops within range of, with a little help from his friends.

His dead wife Gloria and the missing Dr Franklin appear to him and help him figure out what to do now that he has found the controls to Destiny’s key systems. I think this is key to understanding how the show will progress, and what Destiny, as a character, brings to the table. Is the appearance of these characters onboard just something that is in Dr Rush’s head? Is the ship manifesting these people to help him? Is it a more physical appearance, or are they, in fact, ascended beings?

Whatever it may be, they help him to try and figure out what to do with the new powers he has found. In fact, he uses the ability to stop Destiny wherever he sees fit and decides to have the ship stop in shuttle range of a planet that may be the answer to their low food supplies.

The stargate that was placed on the planet is not functioning and the computer shows a big red x along with the information Destiny has about it. As Gloria says, “Big red X generally means danger, don’t go there, doesn’t it?” As such, the shuttle that heads down to the planet is in for a dangerously bumpy ride.

Meanwhile, the remaining Lucian Alliance members are being held like prisoners on board, and the way they are being treated is not exactly filling the Destiny crew with confidence. They begin a fight with their guards and, as you may have guessed, many of them don’t make friends with the guys we’ve come to know over the past year. However, Varro and Ginn continue to make a good impression on the viewer and it’s clear they are being groomed for a possible main cast role.

There are a lot of good things going on during this episode, but the main thing to note here is the wonderful characterisation and writing that fans of the show should be well accustomed to now.

Robert Carlyle has some great scenes to get to grips with, as Dr Rush struggles with his own conscience as to what to do with his newfound control over Destiny. His final scene on the bridge in this episode is a character defining moment, and one that contains a decision that puts him in the role of the crew’s protector, no matter how undeserving of it he is.

However, Louis Ferreira has the best scene of the episode, possibly of the entire series so far, to deal with. His character goes through a lot in this episode in quite a few scenes, but trust me when I say that the events of this episode will come back up in his story again and again. He plays the scene and the entire episode perfectly, and helps create a pivotal scene for his character. Everything about it is entirely perfect, the low lighting, the empty spaces of sound and the reaction. It is, without a doubt, the scene that everybody will be talking about for weeks to come, and is not only a character defining moment, but a series defining moment too.

The background characters of Destiny get more work here too. Patrick Gilmore’s Dale Volker and Peter Kelamis’ Adam Brody are brilliant as the shows ‘other guys’ and shoulder a lot of good scenes together, while Jennifer Spence’s Dr Park gets a few scenes to explain a bit more about her character and what she is thinking, and, of course, the always brilliant Haig Sutherland absolutely shines in his scenes as Sgt. Hunter Riley.

It’s always good to see these characters get bits and pieces to do, as it gives weight to the idea that this is a real situation, with consequences to people’s actions far beyond that of the few in the main cast, and here is no exception.

The effects team have a few things to prove here, too, and they more than rise to the occasion. When the shuttle heads to the planet, we get to see them do their best work, and it is truly stunning. When the shuttle has a little collision with the side of a mountain, it’s clear that they relish these kinds of scenes, as every second of it looks beautifully produced.

As for the more physical elements of the effects team, the creation of the bridge is something that was an obvious money drainer for the show, but is truly well spent. From the intricate double doors, to the smallest details on the consoles, the bridge design has been well thought out and lovingly executed and I look forward to seeing Dr Rush toiling all over it in the coming weeks.

All in all, Aftermath joins Time as one of the outright best episodes of the series so far, and if the quality level can keep hitting as high as this episode, Stargate Universe is a show which will only continue to impress, and I will continue soaking in it’s brilliance for a long time.

According to the Den of Geek review of Awakening:

The prior episode of Stargate Universe ended with our beloved vessel heading straight for an unknown object. After leaving you guessing for a whole week, it’s quickly determined that it is a ship, much like Destiny, of ancient design and age. In fact, it is one of the heavily referenced seed ships which were sent ahead of Destiny’s launch to plant stargates on every planet in the solar system.

The ships automatically dock with each other when in range, and Dr Rush jumps at the chance to explore it, but when Col Young finds out that the ships are exchanging data, he uses it as an excuse to keep him on board.

An away team of Lt Scott, Sgt Greer, Adam Brody and Dale Volker head over to the ship to explore it. The slightly creepy tone of the music in the exploring scenes should tell you that something interesting, if not odd or bad, is going to happen, and as the ship’s systems come online, that very thing occurs. When it intersects with the main storyline, it’s wonderfully executed, prising the overall arc of season two wide open.

Of course, Dr Rush makes his excuses and shuffles off to the bridge to monitor the ship much more closely, and makes an interesting discovery that puts him in the role of decision maker yet again. By the end of the episode, it’s clear this role lays heavy on his shoulders, and most folks should be able to see some kind of explosion of character in the weeks ahead for Dr Rush.

Meanwhile, Chloe’s leg wound is rearing its ugly head again, or rather it isn’t, as it is now completely healed. It hasn’t been focused on a lot in the first three episodes, which leads me to think the writers are going to continue building on the story until it all blows up in the crew’s faces. As well as this, the episode manages to fit in a little time for a few scenes with of the Lucian alliance.

While they have taken a bit of a back seat in this episode, we do see Ginn, Simeon and Varro interacting with the Destiny’s crew and ,while it might be a few weeks before the two teams get fully integrated, it’s good to see that they haven’t already been forgotten about.

Robert Knepper’s Simeon, who has spent a lot of the last two episodes hidden, gets some well-deserved screen time to expand his character, especially in a scene with Lt Johansen. Let’s not forget that, when the Lucian Alliance came through the gate, they brought the previously stuck on Earth Col Telford, who has already integrated well with the Destiny’s crew, and signs himself up to be one of the few to head over to the seed ship, although he may end up regretting that decision.

The new ship scenes look brilliant, and add a whole new sense of depth to an overall story that brought this entire show to fruition. Obviously, the ship is of older design than Destiny and, as such, has a more steam-driven design that looks fantastic on screen. It’s something that the effects team have clearly taken a lot of pride in and created something brilliant and new for the show that still fits within the parameters of the world.

While I’ve never touched on it before, I’d like to give a special nod to the sound department, who do a good job here of keeping suspense up. They also give a great little homage to the original Stargate SG-1 theme when we see the many stargates hanging up in the manufacturing part of the seed ship. It’s just a little thing, but it’s a great little nod to the show that made this all happen in the first place.

It’s a fantastic episode that serves to further steep us into the murky past of Destiny and its sister ships, as well as introduce us to a new alien species, and give us gentle nudges in both directions of what to think of them. It also broadens the world of Stargate altogether, while not getting too deeply imbedded in an hour-long Stargate history lesson.

All in all, it’s a great episode that is brilliantly executed and sets up a few strong story threads that will most likely be re-visited in the coming weeks and months.

According to the Den of Geek review of Pathogen:

Episode 3 left us with Col Telford abandoned by Dr Rush, who has more control over Destiny than anyone else knows. Although by now, more people than just Col Young have started to notice that Rush has been running off at odd times and keeping himself to himself. Both Dr Park and Adam Brody remark on how weird he has been acting recently, and how tired they are with it.

This episode also gives a chance for members of the crew to interact with the Lucian Alliance, who have been given the opportunity to mix with the crew. While most of them seem to get on with each other, Robert Knepper’s Simeon quickly runs into conflict with the not only his own crew but that of his own team and gets re-confined to the brig.

However, this episode, without feeling too heavy, manages to fit in much, much more stories than you’d think they’d be able to. Eli has to deal with his mother, who has stopped taking her HIV medication because of her depression in not seeing her son for over a year and a half. Camile deals with her partner’s overly obvious drinking problem, and her lack of faith in seeing her ever again.

Not only do Eli and Camile have their trip home to deal with, but also Chloe’s life has taken an awful turn that will surely affect the upcoming episodes. She has begun sleepwalking, and waking up in different parts of the ship, unsure of how she got there. As soon as someone realises it’s happening, it’s almost as if they are tugging on a string, and they can’t stop themselves until Chloe is a completely different person.

There is a brilliant balance of story here that is handled excellently, and if you were to compare a story like this to what you would usually have gotten in SG-1 or Atlantis, you would see a massive shift from one main story strand to many at a time.

In the case of this episode, you have five concurrent threads overlapping and intersecting here, there and everywhere, and in the hands of a less capable crew it would seem very messy. The Stargate Universe team prove that they can handle much more than you would think, and juggle the storylines to an excellent effect, without losing anything from either story.

There are some brilliant scenes here, too, which help to define each one outright from the other storylines. For instance, there is a particular scene with Eli and his mother which was just a delight to see from start to finish. Whether it’s the camerawork, the expressions on their faces, or the way David Blue plays the scene, everything about it shines perfectly.

In addition, there is a scene in which Dr Rush confides a little in Chloe, and shows her a secret he has been keeping from everyone. Everything within the scene is great, the incidental music, the lighting, the way Robert Carlyle’s Dr Rush manipulates Chloe ever so subtly.

Simeon also slips himself into a few great scenes too, one with Varro that defines his character’s stance, and one with Sgt Greer that gives fuel to the snaky ‘bad boy’ angle Robert Knepper seems to fit so well.

It’s also time for a first here on Stargate Universe, as Robert Carlyle steps into the director’s chair. At first, it’s quite subtle, and you’d be forgiven for not noticing much of a difference, but in certain scenes it’s easy to pick up his experimentation with the camera.

There are some brilliant uses of the camera in a few scenes, including one which has Dr Rush hand over responsibility of Chloe to Lt Scott and another which ends in the final shot of the episode. This is not only a first for Universe, but also for Robert Carlyle, as this will be his first paycheck as a director. As an experiment, it’s highly successful and should hopefully garnish him with a few more IMDb credits.

It’s clear from the outset that this is more of a dramatic and story pushing episode than usual, further setting up storylines that will be coming to a head in the next few weeks. Where this will take us, is the most interesting question yet to be answered, and finding out will determine if current fans will remain as such for the rest of the season.

As fans of Lost know, setting up questions for you to ponder over for weeks and months, may not yield the answers you were hoping for.

Honestly, this is an episode which has a lot of brilliant moments held within it, but isn’t perfect. A few little pieces of editing don’t hold up well, and occasionally the camera angle may make you think something different is going to happen than what does, but from a writing and story point of view, this is as good as it gets.

Not only does it weave the emotional storylines into a very sci-fi concept, it does it with style. Stargate Universe continues to deliver every single week, and while not reaching perfect, this episode comes very close to it.

According to the Den of Geek review of The Greater Good:

I wouldn’t want to fool anyone into reading this having not seen the episode, so be fair warned that I cannot discuss this episode without going into detail. If that means that you can’t read on, just know this – it’s really quite good.

This episode opens, and you could be mistaken for thinking that it was the same one that was on just a few weeks ago. Destiny stops within range of a ship, and a few of the crew are on the observation deck to see the ships come to a stop next to each other.

Episode three of this season (Awakening) opened with almost exactly the same thing happening, only the ship was not of alien origin, but was in fact a seed ship. Now the tables have been turned, and the aliens who were encountered on the seed ship seem to be destined to make reappearance, as their pods are found when Col Young and Dr Rush use their suits to jump over and investigate.

Unfortunately, when they fire up the power on the alien vessel, propulsion kicks in, and it slowly drags the two ships further and further apart. There is no way for Col Young and Dr Rush to get back unless the two ships can realign, and since the only person who can drive the ship isn’t on board, it’s going to be a tough job. So, who you gonna call? Dr Amanda Perry, of course.

You may remember Perry from the season one episode Sabotage, in which we learned about her and Dr Rush’s relationship with her. She was a great character to have in the series, and it gave Rush’s character more credence to see someone who has known him for a long time. It’s brilliant to have her back on the show, and I can only hope that she returns again and again.

The scenes and sentences we have been hearing in the ‘previously’ at the start of every episode since what seems like forever finally make sense here, as the storylines come to a head.

For those of you who may not know them off by heart, it goes a little something like this:

Rush: “This is what Destiny intended from the moment it entered the star system
Young: “That ship is the best chance we have of getting home.”
Young :“Are we done?”
Rush: “We’ll never be done.”

There are a few more, but those ones have been on the go for at least 17 episodes, and only now have they come back to it. You may think I’m annoyed here, but I actually think that it’s great that they can let a story like this fester and grow for a long time, as the inevitable moment when shit goes down is much more worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Dr Perry is tasked with keeping Dr Rush’s secrets via a series of coded messages that everyone else thinks are instructions for controlling the ship without having to find the bridge. With one more person now involved in the lie, it only gets trickier to keep it.

The other storyline we touch upon here is one that centres on Ginn, who has recently become involved with Eli. When Ginn exchanges bodies with Dr Perry, she is taken out of the story, but Simeon has something he wants to talk to her about, and he isn’t taking that as an excuse, which leaves us on a very interesting, if worrying ending.

This episode seems like the perfect little stepping stone from last week’s episode to the next. While the whole fact of finding an alien ship seems like a MacGuffin, everything that seems that way in this show finds some way of coming back to haunt the crew of Destiny somehow.

Even at that, it really is something to just drive the plot forward, to the point that Dr Rush may have to spill the beans. In fact, there are a few things here that can be classed as MacGuffins, including when Rush and Young are informed that they should take their suits off, as they “drain power”, when really it’s just so they can knock lumps out of each other. You could even argue that the engines firing up are purely just to drive the plot to the point that Dr Perry must use the bridge, and expose Rush’s secret.

The effects team are given some big jobs here, one of which is creating the two ships, and having the two suits worn by Rush and Young travel between the ships twice. It’s done brilliantly, and their team puts the effects of other shows on the air right now to shame. As well as this, they created an entirely new set design for the alien ship, and although it may only be one or two corridors it is brilliantly presented.

The performances on show here are superb too. The focus is back on Dr Rush and I for one am very happy about it, as he proves himself yet again, to be the best character that has existed in the entire Stargate universe, and Robert Carlyle is part and parcel of the reason that he is that good. Col Young is especially great within the fight between him and Rush, as it seemed entirely possible for a moment that Rush wouldn’t return to Destiny ever again.

It all comes down to the two of them coming head to head again, and it’s great, but even Young knows that it can’t always be like this, and when he gives up, you can see the resolution on his face. He must keep Rush alive in order to get home, and he must play to Rush’s ego to make him believe his feelings are going to be taken into consideration. It’s a particularly good actor that can pull all that off in one look, and Louis Ferreira is just that good.

And then there’s the revelation that comes from the fight, and it is a biggie. It is so huge that I dare not say it out loud for fear that some reader thought they could handle spoilers. Well, sir/madam, you can’t handle this one. It’s such a bold move for the series, especially in light of last week’s revelation, and I cannot wait to see this all come to a head in the next three episodes.

So when it comes down to it, even though the plot may be torn to shreds quite easily, it still manages to leave a credible story with brilliant performances underneath it all. As an episode that links one massive episode with another that’s going to apparently be even bigger, I can only be impressed at how strong it is.

According to the Den of Geek review of Malice:

Robert Carlyle dubbed this as one of “the best things (they’ve) done so far”, and from the opening, it may well be true. The ending of The Greater Good left us with Simeon alone with Ginn, who was body-swapped with Dr Amanda Perry, and it doesn’t pan out in either of the two ladies’ favour, as both are killed in an attack by him.

Simeon then proceeds to take out a few guards and head through the gate with Dr Park taken hostage. Dr Rush follows and the usual suspects aren’t far behind, and soon enough, the team has split off into groups. Lt Scott and Sgt Greer accompany Dr Rush as they attempt to find the snaky bastard and capture him, although that may not be everyone’s agenda.

Robert Knepper finally gets some proper screen time here to show off his evil routine, and it works pretty damn well, I’d say. When he tells Rush that he will kill him, you can hear the intent and purpose in his voice, and you wonder for a moment whether he will actually succeed. Of course, you then dismiss it, as they aren’t going to let Carlyle slip through their fingers just yet, because he is truly showing a masterclass in acting here, displaying everything you would expect of a smart man out for revenge.

Just watch him. The horror on his face when he finds Ginn dead, the anger he expresses as he searches the hall for Simeon, the stubbornness you can see when he goes charging after him, the pure heartfelt emotion when it all hits him, the resolution and blank determination on his face in the final showdown.

The direction here is hands down the best the show has seen. Robert C Cooper has so far directed the two best episodes of Stargate Universe, Time and Human, and has clearly honed his skills since then. For this is a truly fantastic example of just how good the direction of a cable show like this can be. What comes out best though are the scenes in which the slow down effect is used during explosions. In what seems like a direct nod to The Hurt Locker, it’s used to create some of the most impressive scenes like this I’ve ever seen, Cooper capitalises on this effect and creates some incredible sequences.

What’s also great is the choice of location, the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico, which is truly a stunning mass of land to be filming on. It looks superb on screen and never has the area had a better tourism film than this. With the sun making shadows look the complex landscape becomes even better looking as filming progressed. However, it brings up some continuity errors, but it’s easy to overlook by the simple fact that this episode looks gorgeous.

The performances of Carlyle and Knepper may be superb and the look and direction may be nearly flawless, but the structure of the episode got me a little annoyed. Every time the episode switches from the planet back to Destiny, the tone changes entirely and the soundtrack feels completely separated from the western edge they have tried to create.

When Col Young is trying to rally his troops into finding Simeon, the musical touches seem to speed up and get a momentum going that wasn’t previously in place. It would probably be fine in any other episode of Stargate Universe, but here, where they have clearly tried very hard to have a particular tone on the planet, it seems unnecessary and almost cuts the tension of the episode in half.

The final showdown is perfectly executed however, and makes the whole episode worthwhile, as Rush is given a superb chance to show of not only his smarts, but also his cold hearted rage that is stored up inside him. The final shot of the showdown is especially wonderful and creates puts the whole ordeal in perspective, while the shots immediately after put Carlyle’s character in focus, showing him in a brilliant series of shots.

While this episode may not be perfect, or exactly what I wanted when I heard this was going to be a western episode, it looks a whole lot better than I could ever have dreamed of, and places this flawed yet brilliant experiment high on a list of episodes brimming with quality.

According to the Den of Geek review of Resurgence:

From the opening, it seems like this episode will deal with some themes and plots set out in the past nine episodes, rather than abandon them for the second half of the season, which is almost what I expected to happen. It’s time for the mid-season finale, and it seems like a detour is on the cards.

Mr Brody finds a signal while working on the bridge, and it points to signs of intelligent life, but it’s a detour from the course that Destiny was intended to take. A plan is made to steer the ship in that direction, and when they arrive, all they find is a whole lot of destroyed battleships. When they decide to investigate one of the ships, something unexpected happens and it catches everyone off guard, but it leads to an interesting domino effect that can only be described as bloody awesome.

Meanwhile, Chloe’s infection is spreading, and she is losing control over it and succumbs to the inevitable, that some day soon she will become too dangerous to stay on board. Yet again, not a lot of time is spent on this storyline, but it becomes ever more apparent that Chloe may be the first main character to bite the bullet, although I hope that prediction is wrong.

As well as this, resident pseudo-psychiatrist Camile Wray talks to Eli about the lives lost in recent weeks, both Sgt Riley and Ginn. This is exactly what some people in the comments have been wanting (including myself) and it’s just a little confusing that this didn’t happen a week or two ago when the situation was still raw. However, it’s great that they’ve returned to it finally, given that it was such a massive event for Eli’s character.

A few more elements come into play in this episode, including an interesting (if short) chat between Varro and Tamara, which may answer a question which has caused a wee bit of debate since early in season two. What’s great about this episode is that the varied stories and large number of cast all get a good look in throughout the 40 minutes.

The background cast, especially, get a good chunk of airtime, with Brody and Volker basically becoming Destiny’s Sulu and Chekov. The bridge has now become a huge focal point of Stargate Universe, and a lot of the action takes place on that particular set, which has two interesting plot changers. The Stargate has taken a back seat, and Destiny becomes more of a battleship than it had previously been.

On one hand, it gives us something seen rarely in the previous two Stargate series, and that is battles, which not only look brilliant, but also completely fit the show’s style. On the other hand, it pulls away from the main element that has had Stargate fans watching since day one: going to strange new worlds and dealing with whatever they find there. I can only hope that it is just a sidestep on the road to SGU‘s ultimate goal, and that the Stargate will come back into focus in the second half of season two.

However, without the ‘Astria Porta’ in play, the episode is still a resounding success, as the whole thing builds up to a satisfying cliffhanger, while both answering some questions you may have had during season two and closing off plotlines. It’s exactly what you want from a mid-season finale, giving answers that needed to be given while also creating a satisfying cliffhanger to keep you guessing until the show’s return in early 2011.

That being said, there have been a few better episodes this season. So, while it is going out with a bang, it isn’t the biggest the show has had, not to mention that even while it has more lives hanging in the balance, it still isn’t as impressive as the mid-season finale from season one, which gave us the final shot of Dr Rush stranded on an alien planet. However, the final shot is a doozy and probably the finest accomplishment of the effects team yet.

There are a good few questions waiting to be answered when the show returns, and I, for one, cannot wait to see the second part of this interesting cliffhanger, and what it all means for the show’s overall plot. While season two, so far, has been a little rocky, I’d say it’s fairly safe to assume that the back half of the season will make up for that.

According to the Den of Geek review of Twin Destinies:

In the last episode, we were left with Destiny nearly broken, as it was travelling through hyperspace. We pick up with a chat between the crew on just how messed up the ship really is. They’re down to the last of everything and the ship is in dire straits. To put it bluntly, they’re buggered.

Eli brings up a lovely point that may have been forgotten. He and Gin had determined a way for the crew to dial home while travelling through a star. Of course, Dr Rush has worries about the many difficulties that could occur in not knowing what the variables might be. However, with his crew in mind, Col Young decides to forge ahead with Eli’s plan.

Dr Rush gets his wish, when a shuttle that has Dr Rush on board turns up between Destiny and the sun. He has a warning for Destiny’s crew, because he’s lived through Eli’s plan once and it did not go well. How exactly can you ignore a warning from yourself? Truth is, you can’t!

That bodes well for us, as we get to have not one, but two Robert Carlyles on screen for the majority of the episode. Considering that he’s quite possibly the finest thing about Stargate Universe, this is a great experience for any fan, although knowing the franchise as well as the next man, they were going to get around to this at some point. The amount of doppelgangers we’ve seen in the past is truly baffling, with clones, robots and alternate universes just some of the versions we’ve seen previously.

There are many great things about this episode, not least of which is the consequences of the ending, which will probably play a major role later in the season.

But of course, there’s always Lou Diamond Phillips being actually great for the first time in a long time. He’s been given a bit of a bum deal on the show, what with being the only character from Earth to come to Destiny after everyone else and then be abducted by aliens, before he becomes friends with them, then gets betrayed by them, until they apologise and kill themselves. Oh, and he was brainwashed and tortured too. It’s a bit of a roller coaster of events for Col Telford, who’s turned up in the least amount of episodes of the entire main cast.

Anyway, Phillips puts in a considerable effort here and proves himself worthy of being kept around a bit more. His arguments with both of the Dr Rushs are worth their salt and are almost as good as the scenes with the two Carlyles bantering with themselves.

However, it truly is Carlyle’s forty minutes, as Rush’s devotion to Destiny’s true mission is tested, and he passes not once, but twice. He revels in the chance to have big conversations with Telford and the other Dr Rush, both of whom are equally as potent in their jibes. He had somewhat of a reduced role in the first half of season two, mainly being confined to a secret mission in one part of the ship, but now that everybody knows what he’s been hiding, he’s right back in the mix, which is exactly where his cynicism thrives.

There’s also a little appearance from a Stargate favourite, Dr Bill Lee, who’s now been in all three of the series, which only further cements Universe in the story of the gate. Although, it’s small potatoes considering the appearances set to occur in the remaining episodes.

There’s a great scene in which Dr Rush tries to convince some of the crew to stay with him and continue Destiny’s mission, instead of attempting to gate home. It brought to mind a scene in the last season of Battlestar Galactica, in which Admiral Adama makes his case for what may turn out to be a suicide mission to the whole of his crew, with a line running down the middle of the deck.

The scene here may not be as grand, but it’s where characters choose to side that is important. Even though the decisions are made silently, you can tell that some choose to go with Rush, but not for the right reasons, and although the whole experience ended up not occurring, it’s interesting nonetheless.

All in all, the episode is a triumph, and if the second half of season two can keep up this kind of quality, I’ll only become more and more frustrated that this is the end of theStargate franchise. Twin Destinies joins the list of the best Stargate Universe episodes so far, and I can only hope it’s not the last time that it happens.

According to the Den of Geek review of Alliances:

f you’ll remember, the last episode had that big scene in which everybody chose whether they were staying with Dr Rush and continuing Destiny’s true mission, or trying to go home in Eli’s experimental dialling within a star.

The first person to make his decision was Sgt Greer, who immediately chose to stay, and that decision shows us just how committed to being a soldier he is. Even without that knowledge, Camile Wray has noticed, and takes him with her on a communication stones visit to Earth.

The reason is to give the new head of off-world spending committee, Senator Michaels, and a scientist Rush used to work with, Dr Covel, a chance to visit Destiny and review recent events aboard the ship. Sgt Greer isn’t happy about being immediately taken off duty on arrival, especially since Homeworld command is expecting an attack from the Lucian Alliance.

While in the process of leaving the building, there’s an alarm and then some kind of explosion. It gives Sgt Greer enough time to throw Camile under a table, but not to save himself from the roof caving in on him. He comes out with a leg injury, but it won’t stop him from getting up and trying to walk out.

With only the two of them and a scared rookie left trapped inside the crumbling building, they have to find what caused the explosion, because it could go off again. It’s up to them to save, not only themselves, but also everybody else.

Back on Destiny, Michaels and Covel walk about the ship and pick holes in everything that Dr Rush and Col Young have had a hand in. They have to assess the viability of the continuing of Destiny’s mission, and whether they focus on getting home or finding the source of the signal.

If it’s been too long since I’ve mentioned it, the signal is one of the most intriguing things about season two, as it’s a pattern sent out by the oldest living race in space. Dr Rush wants to head toward the source of the signal, like any scientist would, but the will of people wanting to return home has been a little too strong for that to go unchallenged.

Kathleen Quinlan and French Stewart play the visiting Michaels and Covel, respectively, and you may remember Stewart from the very first outing through the Stargate in the 1994 film. Both are good in their roles, and Stewart, especially, has a good few scenes discussing how lucky Dr Rush is to be on Destiny permanently.

I’ve always thought Stewart could do more than his previous roles have allowed, and here we get to see a little of why. There is a great scene, for instance, where Dr Covel meets ‘the boy wonder’ Eli, and the other guys Dale Volker and Adam Brody, in which all involved shine brilliantly.

However, the big story takes over from these characters, and it’s the attack on Homeworld command that is at the heart of why. Camile and Greer’s relationship has been rocky in the past. It was always going to be interesting to put the two together in a life or death situation, and this was the perfect catalyst for their opposing views.

The reality of why Stargate Universe may not have worked for ‘viewers’ (don’t get me started on the Nielsen system) is highlighted here, when Chloe is asked by Senator Michaels why she hasn’t gone crazy being cooped up aboard Destiny. Her reply is simple, but ultimately wrong. “It’s not like we never get outside. We gate to planets all the time.” It’s simply untrue, and a line that doesn’t make much sense, as in season two’s thirteen episode run, so far the crew have visited three planets on screen. And one of those wasn’t even their choice.

I would like it if it were the other way around, but as it happens, some of Stargate Universe‘s best episodes are the episodes where they stay onboard Destiny.

This, however, isn’t one of them. That isn’t to say it’s a bad episode. It just lacks that kick up the backside a good episode needs sometimes. Not to mention the fact that one plotline you can see coming a mile off, and it’s an oddity that the characters didn’t clue in before they did. Still, it furthers the plot nicely and creates a little bridge between the usually deathly opposed Camile and Greer.

According to the DouxReviews review of Seizure:

… in which Rush and Dr. Perry find a way to enjoy some physical contact, while Telford enlists Rodney McKay and Richard Woolsey in an attempt to dial Destiny’s nine-chevron address from another planet’s Stargate.

My initial reaction to this one was anger. Anger at wasted potential and overlooked opportunities. Anger at the disrespect shown for a former team member. Anger at the rather trite direction they chose to take last week’s interesting conclusion. But … my lead in programming to ‘Seizure’ was the two-hour premiere of AMC’s intriguing new series, The Killing, which emotionally wrecked me, so I decided I’d better give the latest SGU a second chance before passing final judgment.

After watching a second time, the verdict is … yeah, I’m still angry. And even the always appreciated presence of Spy Daddy, Victor Garber, wasn’t enough to soothe the savage beast.

Where to even begin? How about with the Milky Way events. Obviously, we’re not supposed to think Homeworld Command made the best choices here, given the complete and utter failure of the mission. “Lieutenant, in the grand schemes of things, I think that was the best decision any of us has made all day.” That said, I just don’t find it all that believable that they would or would need to make those choices in the first place.

It was a nice bit of continuity to make Langara the planet they were attempting to use to dial the gate, because we know from SG-1 that planet has large quantities of naquadria. However, they completely ignored the fact that Jonas Quinn is one of Langara’s lead scientists. For those of you new to the Stargate franchise, Jonas Quinn was a member of SG-1 for an entire year following an accident that felled Daniel Jackson. It should have been obvious to Homeworld Command that the Langarans would want the opinions of their own scientists before risking their planet (Woolsey notes that Earth would want the same, if the positions were reversed), so why not request that Jonas attend the meeting with Ambassador Ovirda? Jonas is a trusted friend to Earth, and his presence could have made things go so much smoother. I don’t believe that O’Neill wouldn’t have considered this option (even if he was never Jonas’s biggest fan). At least give the idea some lip service! As things stood, it ended up feeling like the writers were ignoring continuity so Telford could force the “proof of concept” issue.

On that point, this whole hostile takeover business struck me as completely unnecessary and not a risk that Homeworld Command would really take. If everyone was so convinced that the Alliance was about to attack, why not just defend Langara to “protect the supply line” while their scientists considered the viability of McKay’s proposed solution? If Eli could quickly see that there was little chance the planet would blow up, then I think the Langarans would have come around quickly enough and allowed Earth to use their gate. Ambassador Ovirda all but opened the door for this approach. Moreover, it isn’t like the Destiny urgently needs supplies and personnel. They’ve been on their own for a year, and they just got a big re-up on supplies from Destiny Prime, so they’ll likely be fine for a few more months.

If the concern is that Langarans are in league with the Alliance, then make the “secondary objective” the primary mission and drop the whole “proof of concept” issue altogether. Better yet, accept the offer to come to Langara as a protective force and then do some subtler spy work to determine the nature of the Langarans relationship with the Alliance. Don’t take over people’s bodies, force the issue, and completely burn your bridges! What the hell made them think this approach would lead to anything but mistrust and disaster? You can’t impersonate the planet’s chief administrator and the captain of the guard and expect your allies to continue friendly interactions with you. I get why Telford would want to push the envelope, but he’s not in charge of the whole shebang, and I find it really hard to believe that no one in Homeworld Command besides Richard Woolsey would think this plan was ill-conceived.

As for the Destiny events, I’m ticked that so soon after getting Ginn and Dr. Perry back, they’ve been relegated to quarantine, and all because Rush doesn’t love Amanda the way she loves him. Are you kidding me? Moreover, I’m upset that they so quickly had Amanda go from wonder and happiness with her new existence to feeling trapped by her aching loneliness. It hasn’t been that long since the events of last week. How has she already lost that sense of freedom and become fixated on needing to be flesh and blood? Aargh. I feel like they completely undercut the power of last week’s conclusion.

I will say that, the second time through, I got a little more caught up in the pathos of the Rush and Perry story. Knowing that love was one of Amanda’s conditions for the simulation to work made it much more interesting to watch her reactions after Rush was unable to leave. It was subtle, but Amanda’s realization that he didn’t love her the way she loved him, and her subsequent devastation and embarrassment, were all over her face and body language. Good work by Kathleen Munroe. I also found myself moved by their emotional parting and Amanda’s attempts to release Rush from his various burdens of guilt. But I still can’t help feeling like the writers quickly squandered the story potential in having Ginn and Amanda coexisting with Destiny. Sigh. I suppose “quarantine” doesn’t mean completely gone for good, just gone for now. Maybe the writers planned to bring them back at some point and do more with them. We’ll probably never know. In the meantime, we’ve got another wrench in the Eli-Rush dynamic, so maybe some good story will come out of that.

According to the DouxReviews of Common Descent:

… in which the crew makes a shocking discovery when attempting to find resources on a nearby planet.

For the most part, I found ‘Common Descent’ pretty intriguing. The flow was a bit choppy at times, and the drone thread didn’t entirely work for me, but I really loved the reveal that everyone from the original timeline in ‘Twin Destinies’ didn’t die, and instead got stranded on a planet 2,000 years in the past. Just a very cool road-not-taken scenario to explore — what would have happened if they’d decided to not try returning to Earth, or to not pursue Destiny’s mission? — and a neat way to allow the crew to encounter other English-speaking humans. Moreover, if the writers wanted everyone to survive the attempt to gate back to Earth, it was a fantastic choice to send them to the past. I think letting the crew learn how their other lives played out was far more interesting than forcing them to directly interact with doubles of themselves would have been.

I really enjoyed seeing the various reactions to the discovery, especially Eli and Camille’s awe and delight at the whole thing. “Come on, am I the only person here who thinks this could be the coolest thing ever?” And I loved the occasional conversation snippets or kino videos revealing what happened to everyone after being marooned. The multiple perspective “rumor spreading” technique used for the info dump after the initial visit was much more engaging than a single person telling us all they had learned would have been, and it allowed us to see how different groupings reacted to the knowledge. I really enjoyed the science B-team’s reactions, particularly the running gag with Volker and Park teasing Brody about the name ‘Futura.’ “Seriously, isn’t that a font?”

According to the DouxReviews of Epilogue:

… in which the alternate history for Destiny’s crew is revealed.

This one really had it all. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it briefly made me seethe with anger. Best of all, it offered something I doubt the actual series finale will: closure. I know that for many, Stargate: Universe is the story of Destiny. They want to learn more about her history, her capabilities, and her mission, and are deeply sad that when the show ends in two weeks we’ll be left hanging on so many of those questions. I’m sure that when the time comes, I will share many of those sentiments, but for me, SGU has always been primarily the story of Destiny’s crew. I want to learn how these characters react to extreme circumstances, see them forge new connections, and watch them make unexpected discoveries about themselves. I want to experience their life’s journey: to laugh with them, share their heartbreaks and their joy, and shake my fists in anger when cruel fate strikes; to be disappointed by their poor choices and proud of their accomplishments; to mourn their passing and celebrate their lives. When the show is over, I’ll no doubt have lingering questions about where the mythology was headed and what it all means, but I’ll most regret not knowing how the story ends for our characters.

At least that’s how I felt before seeing ‘Epilogue.’ Now, no matter what cliff we are left hanging off in two weeks, I know how the story ends. Maybe not for the characters we’ve been following since ‘Twin Destinies,’ but for a version of those characters that’s close enough. With the exception of the events of the last few weeks, the crew that got stranded on Novus are essentially the same characters we’ve been following all along. So seeing how their lives played out, knowing that they largely found happiness, accomplishment, and peace, is enough for me. We’ve followed their journeys; shared their pain, their joy, and their triumphs; and seen them through to the (sometimes bitter) end. We even got a fitting conclusion for Rush, who in ‘Twin Destinies’ chose to go down with the ship when it seemed all hope was lost, learning as much as he possibly could with the time he had left. Pursuing knowledge and greater understanding of the Universe’s mysteries to the last.

So, even though in the context of Destiny’s journey, ‘Epilogue’ didn’t accomplish overmuch — except for the acquisition of advanced archival data, some highly efficient material for the scrubbers, and a new breadcrumb to follow on the Novan evacuee trail — for me, it was time very well spent. I’m not entirely convinced I’d feel this way if we weren’t rapidly approaching the end of the series; but the situation being what it is, I really enjoyed spending the bulk of the hour finding out who ended up with whom, seeing their families expand, and learning more about the founding of Novan society. Perhaps it was a bit predictable that Young continued on as leader, Camille authored the Constitution and served as mayor for a time, and Eli founded the education system, but that doesn’t make these revelations less satisfying. Rather, it feels like their journeys were true to the characters we’ve come to know. Likewise, the continued pairings of Young and T.J., Chloe and Scott, and Greer and Park felt right in a lot of ways. And I particularly liked the grace notes for Scott (finally getting his act together and making a lifetime commitment) and Greer (becoming a daddy). Those felt like very important beats in the journeys of those two characters that paid off previous revelations and back story.

The one major surprise, unfortunately, wasn’t a pleasant one. I was absolutely crushed for T.J. as she watched the footage diagnosing herself with ALS. Man. Have the fates dumped on any of our characters more than T.J. (and by association, Young)? First, she has to cope with the notion of having a child under far less than ideal circumstances, then she loses that child in brutal fashion. Then she sees another version of herself seemingly having the life that she’s lost, but soon learns it’s only for a short time, because she has a fatal genetic disease. I know T.J. is incredibly strong and they say you never get dealt more than you can handle, but damn, writers. Must you be so unrelentingly cruel to this amazing woman?! This is starting to reach Andy Sipowicz proportions! It almost makes me glad I won’t have to watch her bravely suffering for another three years. That said, I’m very glad that the ALS cure wasn’t in the data they uploaded to Destiny. It is, of course, entirely believable that the cure for a disease that felled one of their original members would have been discovered in the subsequent 2,000 years of Novan history, but that would have been far too quick and easy a solution to a problem that has serious story potential.

Speaking of story potential, one lingering disappointment stemming from this episode is that we won’t get much chance to see how this knowledge of their alternate lives affects the choices of the crew going forward. Would Eli try to pursue anything with Corporal Barnes? Would Varro throw in the towel on T.J. and turn his attentions to James instead? How will T.J.’s “dead man walking” status continue to affect her? Is too much knowledge of the future a bad thing, or does it give you a chance to change things for the better?

According to the DouxReviews of Blockade:

… in which the crew must risk recharging Destiny in a very dangerous star to elude a drone blockade.

Hmmm … I’m a bit conflicted on this one. I liked the basic concept, it was fun to see the crew gate to a developed planet for a change, some of the visuals were very impressive, and the recharging sequence was unbelievably tense; however, after last week’s emotional catharsis, what amounted to an extremely dangerous “gas run” just didn’t have much resonance for me. ‘Blockade’ was still an enjoyable episode, but I guess this late in the game I want something more. I know that when this episode was developed the writers thought they were building to a season-ending cliffhanger, and it’s completely unfair for me to expect it to function as a series penultimate episode. But there’s no avoiding the context in which we, the viewers, are experiencing these last few episodes, and I can’t help letting it color my reactions. Truth be told, I was so satisfied with the closing notes of ‘Epilogue,’ that I almost don’t even want to watch next week’s “finale,” knowing that it will undoubtedly build to a moment that will never be complete. Aaah, well. The life of a series television fan, yes? We don’t always get conclusions, and even when we do, we often don’t get the ones we’d like.

To be fair to the hour at hand, I did rather enjoy the parts with Eli, Rush, and Park on Destiny. The atmosphere and tension reminded me of that recent sci-fi movie Sunshine, which added some unbearable dread to the recharging sequence. Plus, they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a real sense of jeopardy for the secondary players, so I was terrified for Park. I had absolutely no idea whether she’d survive her ordeal and was horrified thinking she was going to boil alive in that pool of water. I wonder if she’s going to be blind permanently? If so, will she be able to continue doing her job in reduced capacity? Will she ever be able to “lay down on the ground and look at the stars” again? What a devastating blow.

I don’t blame Rush for the accident — I actually think he was absolutely right that Eli needed to focus on piloting the ship to save the rest (good of the many versus good of the one and all that) — but I wonder if Park and Eli might blame him. It’s a shame that Eli’s developing so much resentment towards Rush, because I truly believe that Rush respects and admires Eli’s brilliance and is pushing him to take the initiative and achieve his potential. That’s why he wants Eli to stop focusing on his other past as a school teacher and co-founder of a civilization, and keep his head in the science game. Yes, it serves Rush’s own ends because he needs Eli to pursue Destiny’s mission, but, regardless, opening Eli’s eyes to his true capabilities and building his confidence are a good thing. Rush does this for a lot of characters, actually. His approach is coarse and demeaning in most cases (think Young, Brody, Volker, Park), but his attitude pushes them all to reach for something more — to show him that they are better and smarter than he thinks they are.

 

The Worst:

Cloverdale and Visitation

NUP_139333_0155.JPG

Briefs:

  • Cloverdale has similarities to Stargate SG-1‘s The Changling; and,
  • Visitation exists FTL to find the crew left behind on the planet on Eden is in a shuttlecraft next to Destiny.

According to the Den of Geek review of Cloverdale:

From the moment the episode opens, you know that this is truly going to be the oddest episode of Stargate Universe you will see for a long time. It opens with Lt Scott and Sgt Greer on a bus heading into a town called ‘Cloverdale’ and stepping off to be greeted by his ‘father’, played by Col Young, and his fiancée’s brother played by Eli Wallace. However, it’s all in Lt Scott’s head, as he is really on an alien planet having been infected by a plant that is slowly killing him.

As the world in his head progresses toward his wedding, cold feet masks his feelings that this world isn’t real, and while he begins to crack under the pressure, his real body is continuing to die. It’s a race against time as, while Lt Scott gets worse by the minute, the alien plant moves and grows closer to the team, forcing them to fall back to the gate and defend themselves there, as the organism must not be allowed to come back with them to Destiny.

In comparison to last week’s five-storyline bonanza, this week has one goal in mind. Comparing these two weeks episodes is as difficult as this article gets. However, it does show just exactly how good the Stargate Universe team are at tackling stories with varying parameters effectively.

It is fantastic to see lots of the Destiny’s crew interact with each other in a completely different setting and it’s pulled off in a great way, with a few background characters getting some of best parts here. The small town’s pharmacist, Dale Volker, has a great little scene where he plays the most unconvincing liar ever, and Adam Brody expands his role on Destiny by becoming the local bar owner.

Back on Destiny, meanwhile, Dr Park gets all the attention as the smartest cookie in the jar as Col Young turns to her for advice on the possibility of quarantining the organism on board.

I am a huge fan of the supporting characters, and it’s clear from the way the show is written that the creators of Stargate Universe are too. I can only hope that at least one of them steps out from the darkness as a main cast member in the future, as pretty much every scene they turn up in, they make worthwhile.

That’s not to say the main cast don’t earn their stripes here. In fact, Sgt Greer does a brilliant dual role job as the best man, and almost insane weapon-wielding hero. He plays each character really well, and in Cloverdale, is a perfect compliment to Lt Scott’s worried groom. Brian J Smith plays both roles superbly. Even if he does dial up being an arsehole just a smidge, it’s completely within character and only adds to the slightly odd feeling Cloverdale gives off.

In a sense, I almost didn’t enjoy this episode because it seems to further one season plot ahead by a large portion, while leaving others behind. Members of the Lucian Alliance don’t appear at all, and Dr Rush doesn’t once step onto the bridge of the ship or even consider the possibility of halting the ship’s countdown, which seems a little out of character right now.

I mean, sure they’re probably going to be the focus of next week’s episode and Rush will have a major chance to feel bad about the responsibility on his shoulders, but for a while at least, it seems like they want to ignore almost everything they’ve set in motion.

On one hand, it’s actually admirable to be able to do that and still make a great episode of television, but on the other, it’s almost an insult to watch, as not even the notion of consideration for these storylines is dealt with.

Still, it does further something set in motion and it takes it to an incredible place that I couldn’t have dreamt up if I tried.

While this episode wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it would be, it made a clear intention to stick to its goal and made an admirable leap forward in an hour of television to get there. Which just goes to prove that, even on a bad day, Stargate Universe can still deliver a solid chunk of entertainment.

According to the Den of Geek review of Visitation:

In the opening of this week’s installment of Stargate Universe, Rush tries to gauge the crew’s reaction to last week’s revelation that Destiny had been sent out to find the source of the big bang, and its creators. No-one seems as interested in that as they are in getting Mr Brody’s still fixed, which just seems to confirm to Rush that he was right not to tell everyone before now.

However, that is the least of the crew’s worries, as, when Destiny drops out of FTL, it saddles up next to a shuttle of Ancient design, which just happens to contain the members of the crew who left to set up a home on an Earth-like planet in the season one episode Faith. Col Young is rightly cautious about welcoming Caine and his deserters back to Destiny, as they seem a little creepier than I remember, especially since they have no idea how they turned up there and the majority of their memories have disappeared.

The way this is handled is interesting, as no-one really knows what is going on for a long time throughout the episode, but the episode never really becomes what it should be. The focus is pretty much on Caine, which is highly unfortunate for the character that was really very interesting in season one, but seems like a terrible bore here.

An extension of the problem in the original episode in which they left Destiny, is that they never spent a lot of time on the other characters, meaning losing them wasn’t much of a big deal in the first place. While their appearance in the opening episode of this season seemed to make them more intriguing, it would appear that this ambiguity has been completely dropped in order to serve the story here.

A second plotline comes into play here, too, as Chloe Armstrong gets more and more covered in blue scars, and begins filming a video on the Kino saying goodbye to all the people she cares for. Sgt Greer tells Lt Scott exactly what he thinks of the whole situation, and it doesn’t go down too well.

While most of this storyline plays out without fault and has a few good scenes within, Eli’s sudden worry for Chloe after ignoring her for weeks seems entirely odd, especially given the fact that this story seems to come from nowhere and could have happened last week, next week, the end of the season. Nothing especially different happens to Chloe that explains why now is the time to start saying goodbye and worrying. However, this seems like just a little bit of setup for something to happen next week, which may make the concerns for Chloe seem legitimate.

The ending of the episode leaves us in a position of faith, both inside and out of the show. Inside the show, Caine has faith from his reappearance right through to the end of the episode. Outside the show, the fans need to keep faith that this hiccup in a rather entertaining and interesting season so far will be worthwhile somehow in the long run, or at least that its mistake won’t be forgotten.

While Caine is an annoyance here compared to his previous appearances, scenes with Rush are interesting enough in terms of setting up theories about the mythology of the show, to keep the episode ticking over. Rather oddly, Sgt Greer turns up as the best character in this whole episode, in three key scenes which give us a little bit more of an insight into him.

One scene which sees him saying goodbye to Chloe in an entirely strange, but justifiable way is a lovely little scene which sees his struggle to balance being a soldier doing the right thing, and being a friend. Another scene that shows his friendship with Lt Scott coming under strain from his opinions of Chloe and their limited options on what they should do with her is also pretty divisive.

However, my favourite scene in this episode is a small piece which puts Greer and Dr Park’s relationship in the spotlight for a brief time, which is something I had been dying to see more of on the show.

For me, this episode is a pretty bland entry in season two of Stargate Universe, and while it contains some good and interesting scenes, is pretty forgettable at the end of its running time.

 

Space-Alien-SGU

The next in best and worst is Season 1.

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One thought on “The Best and Worst of Stargate Universe: Season 2

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Stargate Universe: Season 1 | The Progressive Democrat

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