EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Blockade” (Season 2, Episode 19)

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You know when the president (The current one, or just pick one you like) makes a State of the Union address, and then, when it’s done, the commentators basically tell you everything you just heard, as if you didn’t just hear it? I’ve sort of waxed and waned about how detailed my synopses should be. Generally I’ve erred on the side of comprehensiveness, but I’ve increasingly soured on that. I mean, I’ve gladly done it for going on three years now, but it’s tedious to do, and I imagine kind of boring to read. But more to the point: I think all you fine readers out there in E-land have good enough memories that I don’t need to treat this like a State of the Union post-game show.

From now on, I’m gonna’ concentrate on the observations in the theory that that’s what you’re coming here for anyway. If not, let me know, ok?

PLAY BY PLAY

Destiny is cruising along at 40% power, about to dive into a star. They get intercepted by Drones, but manage to escape. They decide to go to another star, but the Drones are waiting for them there as well. Eli hatches a desperate scheme to dive into a really big super-deadly star in the theory that the Drones wouldn’t expect it, and wouldn’t have blockaded that one. All the crew, save Eli, Rush, and Park evacuate to the nearest habitable planet via gate, and this turns out to be one that was colonized by the Descendants.

The planet is abandoned, heavily bombarded, and seemingly dead. They find evidence of a drone attack. Shortly after that, they find drones, and basically fight to buy time until they can gate back to Destiny. This goes pretty well, really. Back on the ship, Park is trapped in the agricultural dome during the passage through the star, and goes blind. Everyone gets back to the ship, and they head off with a full tank of gas.

The End.

Well, really, seven days until “The End,” I guess.

OBSERVATIONS

Not as good as last week, but better than the week before it, I reiterate this show really has hit its stride since it died. The scenes of the crew poking through an abandoned 1950s-styled city of considerable size were really cool and effective, and I found myself wondering where they’d shot it. It was too big to be a simple backlot. Did they film it in an actual run down part of the Seattle/Vancouver area, or did they actually send a massive second unit team to Pittsburgh as an elaborate in-joke?

Remember that all the Descendants are derived from a crew that spoke English. Hence all languages in this galaxy are derived from English, gradually evolving over time just as English and German and Dutch and Frisian and the Scandanavian languages evolved from a common Germanic ancestor. We see some of that tonight: the writing on the newspapers and signs in the city are obviously English, but the spellings are different, as are the shapes of a couple of the letters. In general English on this world appears to have grown in a more phonetic direction. (And isn’t it a bit hypocritical for “Phonetic” to be spelled that way?) This wasn’t apparently the case back on Novis, since the crew could read the records with no difficulty. The Novans, evidently, preserved standard English precisely, though that’s not too likely. (Perhaps it became like a liturgical or scientific language, and people used some English-derived tongue for day-to-day informal use?) On this planet, the language was understandable, but dialog implies it was difficult to do more than pick out bits of what was written.

“What kind of city doesn’t have a gun store?”
“Maybe they were Canadian?”

In last week’s episode we saw that Brody was the guy who put the Settlers on the road to iron tools. In this episode, Young suggests that he could make new bullets, since the crew is almost out of ammo.

Varro has healed up nicely. Still a limp, not in fighting trim, but much better than you’d expect after taking a sixty-foot header down an elevator shaft last week. He saves the day. Interestingly, Young thanks Lt. James for killing the drone, but *doesn’t* thank Varro when she explains that he did it. Varro takes this in stride, like he didn’t expect it. A little bit of tension there, I guess, what with both of them in love with the same woman and all. And Varro’s attempt to, you know, take of the ship and kill people 20 episodes back, I guess. But mostly the girl thing. Ain’t it always the way?

Speaking of girls: A whole lot more of ‘em in this episode than we’ve seen before. Like I said last week, I’d estimate the Destiny’s crew to be between 50 and 60, and the female compliment to be between 15 and 20, just based on crowd scenes. This time out, we get lots of crowd scenes showing extras we’ve never seen before, at least 40% of whom are women. Inconsistent, though I understand why they did it.

“There aren’t enough chairs in this room.”
“Here, take mine.”
“No, that’s…uhm…that’s your…the…uh…”
“What am I, Captain Kirk? I need to stretch my legs anyway.”

Rush actually doesn’t screw anything up in this episode. He plays everything above board and honestly, and he does everything right: He asks Eli who should pilot the ship, and when Eli says he wants to do it, Rush trusts him. When Park gets trapped, and is distracting Eli, Rush explains the situation to her, and tells her how to survive, thereby containing it. He *may* have been lying about her chances of survival, but I doubt it. At the end of the episode, he seems genuinely pleased (If not happy) to see Young, and even praises Eli’s genius (Albeit surreptitiously).

Poor Dr. Park. I really expected she was going to die. I’m glad she *merely* went blind, but I hope that’s temporary. Interesting to see how Greer will handle this. We got a quick flash of concern, and that was that. The scenes of her in the Arboretum underwater, freaking out while the water boiled were really well done and nervewracking, as was that great tracking shot of the dome from outside, lit by interior fires. And I’m just going to come out and say it: Jennifer Spence, who plays Park, is just cute as hell. I’m hoping she gets a good job after this one. I like her.

I always assume the arboretum is in the front end of the ship, and I can only assume this is because I watched “The Black Hole” too many times as a kid. I’m not sure why I keep conflating the Cygnus with the Destiny, but there it is. On Destiny, the dome is located forward and to the right of the main tower.

Man, those 3-million year old space suits are pretty tough, huh? Harder than hull metal, apparently. I’m not really buying that.

The Novan Descendants from the last two episodes were dropped off on the planet the Space Arks from Novis were heading to. This took place between the episodes, and was a little abrupt. Dialog implies this episode starts at least 10 days after the previous one.

“You’re not wearing your space suit.”
“There’s plenty of time to put it on yet, and we can work better without them until then.”
“But now I look ridiculous.”
“Yeah.”

Why didn’t they fire off a shot of the Destiny’s Big Gun in the start of the episode? It couldn’t have hurt.

The scene where Rush makes Eli realize how lucky they got was very well written, acted, and directed. It conveyed a TON of information very quickly and elegantly, without a ton of set up, exposition, or special effects.

It stands to reason that contact with the Drones must be fairly recent, since the city clearly hadn’t been abandoned all that long - a decade at best - and the Descendents we first met had no knowledge of them. They left only 30 years prior, so the “Drone Plague” (As I choose to call it) only hit human space in the last 20 to 30 years, possibly quite a bit less, given it evidently didn’t affect the evacuation of Novis by space ark.

What’s the Drone’s motivation? We’ve been told they were created as berzerkers in a war, which they evidently won. It’s more-or-less expected that Telford’s aliens were one part of that war, but we don’t know for sure. Were they simply weapons? Why go after foreign tech only? Do they try to kill people as well, or are we just collateral damage? Is a man with a radio a threat, but a naked man with a pointy stick* something they’d ignore? Is the war going on? What became of the winners? I get the Fred Saberhagen hunch they’re dead, too. Were there Anti-berzerkers from the other side of the conflict?

And where are our alien friends? I’m assuming they’ll turn up again next week to save everyone’s bacon.

Speaking of which: only one episode left. We’ve been promised that it’s a fairly good ending. It’s not a conclusion to the series, of course, but it’s a fairly solid end to the chapter. We shall see. And then we shall see nothing.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

And how! Marines and USAF types fighting alien machines? Heck yeah!

*- no, that is not a double entendre

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