EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Pain” (Season 1, Episode 17)

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Ok, yeah, I’m just not feeling it tonight. We’re coming off a really solid five-episode winning streak for SGU, so I suppose we were due for a downturn. This is just a fumble, it’s not a complete failure, but, of course it’s not a complete success either and…well, I just kept waiting for the big twist that never really showed up.

The Destiny is in a brand-spanking new galaxy (Really? We jumped between galaxies in the space between episodes? In fact they’ve already been here for a while, since they’ve evidently resumed gate missions *before* this episode started. Weak, man, weak. Can’t we at least get one episode of them in the middle of nowhere? Sheesh.)

Lieutenants James and Scott are having some extremely vigorous sex - actually kind of shockingly overt, given this is a basic cable show - and it turns rough, and James kills Scott. Soooooooooo right off the bat, we know this is another one of those spooky ‘everyone has a hallucination of their own worst fear’ kinda’ episodes, since they’re clearly not going to kill off a principle character like Scott.

I’ve got nothing against Carl Binder, who’s an executive producer for Stargate, and wrote about 25 episodes of SGA, but he does have a thing for these ‘twisty-turney-reality isn’t what you think it is’ eps. He’s good at it, don’t get me wrong - I mean, it’s not like the guy is Brannon Braga, or any miserable hack like that - but, I dunno, I just felt like it wasn’t “A-game” time tonight. The music was pleasant enough, but the hooks just weren’t there. I also felt the murky and choppy editing was working against them, too.

So anyway, everyone is hallucinating various character-developing things. Greer hallucinates that Camille and Rush are again conspiring to take over the ship; Chloe hallucinates that her dead daddy is hanging around; Scott hallucinates his illegitimate son is running around the ship; Dr. Volker hallucinates that the ship is attempting to entomb him; Lt. James, of course, hallucinates that she’s still with Scott; and Rush believes the aliens are coming, the aliens are coming. It’s all pretty ‘meh.’ The only scenes that have any real heft to them are Volker’s constantly-shifting ship design, and that “What tha…?” moment when James brained Scott, and then *didn’t* immediately go get help. I knew he wasn’t going to die, but I was still surprised by her reaction.

There’s some good stuff in here - James’ hallucinatory version of Scott is kind of a surly jackass, presumably because he kicked her to the curb to jump on the Chloe train. I like that most of the characters figure out it’s a hallucination on their own, without having to be told. Chloe, for instance, isn’t fooled at all by her dad being there, but she enjoys talking to him just the same. On the whole, however, it was a pretty simple cut-and-dried plot that was resolved without much difficulty. Some good face acting on Scott when his kid asks “Why did you leave us?” I think Greer over-sold the psycho angle a little. I liked Eli’s concern for Chloe, which ultimately overrode his friendship for her.

In fact, it feels like an SG1 script from somewhere in the first three seasons, which was “Galactified” (“Gloomified?” “RDM-ified?”) to fit the tone of SGU. It’s just too simple, and too lacking in the morally nebulous area that this show generally plays in. There’s usually a bit of subtext here, but in this episode, what you see is what you get. And what you see just isn’t that inspired.

Here’s what I *THOUGHT* was gonna’ happen: I thought that Greer’s hallucinations would turn out to be real - Camille and Rush really *were* planning on mutinying again, and were using the hallucinations to their advantage. Alas, nothing so clever here.

I admit some wonder about the as-yet-unnamed alien antagonists. Was this episode just an attempt to amortize the development costs of the CGI models, or will we really be seeing them again?

They’ve done better before, and they’ll do better again, and it wasn’t a disaster, just kind of a disappointment.

WARNING: Do *NOT* watch the previews for next week’s episode! They completely give away the plot in one of those terrible “And imagine your shock as you learn that Rosebud was his boyhood sled!” kinds of trailers. Why do they do that? I hate them. Hate, hate, hate.