EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Cloverdale” (Season 2, Episode 5)

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God bless Stargate. Seriously: after about 335 episodes and 3 movies, they’re still coming up with new things that touch me. Conversely, most other SF series basically bang the same two or three gongs over and over and over again. The underlying plot of the episode wasn’t spectacularly new, but the meaning and feel and cleverness and the final sequence pretty much declare everything I love about this franchise.

PLAY BY PLAY

We’ve got your basic “Inner Light” TNG plot here: Scott wakes up in a place and a life he never had, back on earth. He’s on leave from the USAF, engaged to Chloe, and came home for their wedding. He gets hit by a car, shakes it off, hangs out with his family and Sgt. Greer (Best man) and blacks out several times. He begins to question the nature of his reality in this situation, and asks his dad - Colonel Young - for advice. “Wake up” he says.

MEANWHILE, on Planet Cascadia, Scott is infected with some kind of crusty blue alien gunk that’s killing him, and the party is being chased by ambulatory plant things. Triffids, essentially. It gets so bad that they seriously consider chopping off Scott’s arm to save his life, but he’s already too far gone by then. Greer insists on holding out against the predatory plants for as long as they can to give Tamara every chance to save Scott’s life. She fails, however Chloe realizes she’s effectively immune thanks to whatever the aliens did to her. She allows herself to be infected to prove it.

The final sequence - which is beautiful - intercuts between their fantasy world wedding sequence and the transfusion in a way that is both really clever and pulse-pounding. Back on the ship, the two of them stand alone, holding hands the way they did in the imaginary ceremony, the Stargate itself posed tableau-like as a wedding ring.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

There are two very obvious precursors for this episode: the TNG one that I cited above, and the Justice League Unlimited episode, “For the Man who has Everything,” in which Superman is infected by a plant called “The Black Mercy” which shows him what he most wants while locking him in a coma. There are also countless “Mind Frack” episodes of the ‘Gate shows in which people are subjected to unreal worlds by various means.

There is absolutely positively nothing new here, and I’ll be the first to admit that, but man it was well done, wasn’t it? It told us lots about the characters, and Scott, and how he views the characters. It also tells us a lot about how he feels about Chloe, and the ‘real world’ stuff tells us a lot about how she feels about him. In essence, after this episode, they *are* married in everything but name. Their lives are bonded together both by reality and dream. It’s nice. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in their interactions with everyone else.

Most immediately, Eli seems pretty upset by it. His “Bye” to Chloe seemed borderline-disgusted. Curiously, his goodbye to Scott was far more involved. It’s a neat little love triangle here, in that Eli is fully aware of how screwed he is: He genuinely loves here, and he genuinely likes/admires Scott. Yeah, we’ve seen this in Camelot, but it’s a bit less cartoony here.

Arguably, the *real* science fiction in this episode was when Scott and Chloe go to see an MGM movie in a theater. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! That’s just crazy talk, like an honest politician or a lucid Democrat: Everybody knows there’s no such thing as an MGM movie anymore. In fact, insofar as I can tell, the only thing MGM is still making is Stargate, and I remain confused as to where the money is coming from. This week I think Syfy is paying for it.

Scott sees Colonel Young as a father, Chloe as the love of his life, Greer as his best friend, Eli as his brother, TJ as a somewhat distant figure, Lt. James as someone he still has some lust for, and Telford as The Law. He sees Rush as a somewhat inscrutable bastard, but not inherently evil, or even particularly bad. It is curious that even though he clearly is in love with Chloe, he’s still a bit frightened and not totally at ease with the situation. It’s touching, but there’s an element of reserve that keeps the romance from being cloying. I particularly liked the freakout scene in the end when she smiles at him, and the awkward is-he-joking-or-not scene when he hits on Lt. James.

It’s interesting to me that it was a Justice of the Peace wedding, since Scott is *Very* Catholic. It’s also interesting to me that in his dreams he’s reputed as something of a playa’ when the actor himself said in a first season interview that he personally suspected Scott had only been with three women. The distancing of TJ is also interesting in that she, he and Greer were portrayed as being almost a troika in the early episodes.

I assume the “Sheriff” nature of Telford is probably foreshadowing, though if that’s his capacity on the show, doesn’t that mean he’ll basically be duplicating Camille’s function?

This was the second appearance of what I like to call “Planet Cascadia” in the run of this show; a kind of generic pacific northwest setting. All the other planets we’ve seen were either exotic locations or studio sets. In general they’ve tried to avoid doing that here, as the main complaint about ‘Gate has been how similar all the planets seem.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Sure! Positive portrayal of the military, nothing to dislike there.

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