EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate: Universe : “Space” (Season 1, Episode 11)

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SGU returns, and really not a moment too soon. Actually, I don’t know what I mean by that, it just came out. Certainly I’ve been missing the show, certainly I’ve been looking forward to seeing new episodes, but there is a strange feeling of relief involved in the show coming back which I hadn’t realized I had until now. I wonder why that is? Certainly there’s no shortage of other SF shows on the air right now.

Ah well.

I’m assuming you’re all up to speed on the series to date, owing either to your phenomenal memories or simply to the marathon Syfy ran today (Good for them! A marathon that actually made sense for once!). So was the episode good enough to warrant my weird feeling of relief upon its return? Read on and find out!

PLAY BY PLAY

It’s a day or so after Young stranded Rush on the alien world with the alien ship. There’s some suspicion among the scientific staff that Young killed him, but the military personnel generally seem to believe Young’s story. There’s a lot of chatter about it, though, and obviously opinion is greatly divided.

Young is about to report in using the Ancient Communication Stones. Camille informs him that when she reports in later in the day, she’s going to basically tattle on him (Without proof) to the SGC and IOA. Young basically calls her a coward and wishes she’d confront him directly, but she doesn’t. When he uses the stones, he appears not on earth, but in an alien ship in the body of an alien. Meanwhile, back on Destiny, the alien in Young’s body freaks out and tackles the gate room crew. The connection is broken by the new Dr. guy that we’ve never seen before, though we’re supposed to believe he was there all along.

In light of this, Young orders no more stone-contact until the problem is resolved. Camille thinks he’s trying to stonewall her.

An alien ship shows up outside. They try to communicate, and the aliens send back one word in English. Then they launch fighters. Young has Lt. Scott and Sgt. Greer take off in their one shuttle once the aliens launch fighters. Eli gets the weapons running. There’s a lot of shooting and exploding. An alien ship docks with the Destiny, cuts a hole through the hull, and kidnaps Chloe, then they break off the attack. Chloe awakes in a water-filled tube on the ship, with a breathing mask on her face. Meanwhile, back on the ship there’s a lot of people getting hurt, and one hallway inexplicably becomes electrified. Lt. James manages to shut off the power, saving everyone.

Once they realize Chloe is gone, Young uses the stones to get on board the alien ship. He has his own crew tie him down before he makes contact so he won’t trash anything. He skulks around the alien ship for a time, then gets locked in a room with another water-filled tube. This one has Rush in it. Young breaks off a pipe and smashes the tube, but of course Rush doesn’t know it’s Young in the alien’s body. He hooks up a telepathic chip to the alien, ostensibly to contact, but either by accident or design it starts really hurting the alien, and Young breaks contact. The alien, back in his own body, immediately attacks Rush, but rather surprisingly Rush beats him to death. Young attempts to regain contact, but with the host body dead there’s nothing he can do.

He orders the big guns to attack the alien ship. Scott and Greer decide to launch an unauthorized rescue mission for Chloe. Rush breaks Chloe out, commandeers an alien fighter shuttle dealie, and heads back to destiny before Scott and Greer can leave. The aliens break off and fly away via hyperspace.

Back on the ship, Rush covers for Young, saying that Young thought he died in the rockslide (He found out about that cover story from Greer). Rush goes on to say that he got the alien derelict running, and was captured by the aliens. They were probing his mind, but he was able to resist and use the neural probe against them, to get info about the ship and stuff. He thinks they want Destiny, and have no real interest in the humans excepting as a means to that end.

Young and Rush meet privately, both of them regretting what they’d done before, and they agree not to do anything about it for the good of the crew. After the obligatory end-of-show musical montage of people going about their business on the ship - including Lt. James crying her eyes out in bed for some reason - we see Rush and Camille in hydroponics discussing their next move against Young.

OBSERVATIONS

With the exception of the time loop episode, I’d say this was the best one of the series to date. We get some excitement, some traditional Stargatey crash boom bang, and an alien race who seem genuinely alien. They’re entirely alien. Man. Remember when CGI characters were unbelievably cutting edge? The Nakaleen Feeder from a first season episode of B5 was the first one, and it was such a huge thing at the time. Now, here we are 15 years later, completely taking this sort of thing for granted.

Since they were first introduced in SG1 (Season 9) the Communication Stones have always seemed rather capricious to me. While we know how they’re supposed to work - essentially your typical Gilligan’s Island brain switch (which is always comedy gold, by the way) - but they frequently don’t, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to that. Why did Daniel and Vala end up in those people’s bodies in the Ori galaxy? They didn’t have the stones. Why did Young end up in the alien’s body? Clearly he didn’t have a stone. Why did contact with the aliens, who had no stones, supersede contact with a host on earth who clearly *did* have stones? Once the alien host was killed, why couldn’t Young establish contact with *another* alien on the ship? We won’t get answers to any of these questions, since the Stones are constructed of pure Plot Deviceium (“The Plot Device Molecule”), which means they’ll do whatever the writers call on them to do without any real concern to consistency. I’m not complaining, just pointing it out.

The aliens would appear to be fairly weak physically if Rush could kill one. Granted he took it by surprise.

Did Rush know it was Young that let him out of the tube? It seemed like he did from the Neural interface, but that wasn’t entirely clear.

It seemed to me that there was a whole lot of lying going on in Rush’s little info-dump in the galley. I can’t point to anything as specifically false, but it seems the actor chose a deliver in which it didn’t ring true. Or it might just simply be “How can you tell when Rush is lying?” His lips move.

Why wouldn’t hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries taste normal? There’s nothing synthetic or wonky in them, they’re the normal plants, just grown without soil.

When the series started, they mentioned that there was battle damage to the ship already. Rush said the aliens want the Destiny. How long have they wanted it for? Did they cause the damage, or was it someone else in the remote past?

Why was the derelict on that planet anyway? If Rush could pull a Starbuck (Chick version) then clearly the aliens could, too. Was it a trap? In any event, now the Destiny has two working ancillary spacecraft: their shuttle and the alien vehicle.

Why was Lt. James bawling her eyes out in bed? I remember her having a whole bunch of sex in it in the opening and closing musical montages of previous episodes, but I was under the impression it was just recreational sex with anybody who was handy, I didn’t think she was in a relationship. Somebody remind me who it was, and what apparently happened to ‘em? Did anyone die in this episode, or is she just really upset because he got hurt, or what? It was a powerful scene - crying, lonely women always are - but I’m not sure what it was supposed to be connected to.

Speaking of the musical montages, what are you guys’ take on ‘em? Personally, I thought it was a nice change of pace when they did it the first time. A little goes a long way with that, though. Now it’s starting to feel a bit Ally McBeal to me.

For the record, these aren’t the first aliens we’ve seen on the show. The Dust Devils count, and they appeared to be at least semi-sentient.

So now the Destiny has two holes in the hull, plugged up with a force field for now. Given that they lost the Senator to a leak and a faulty shield, and given that they dive into stars to get fuel, I’d think they’d be a bit more freaked out by that, but we’ll see. Maybe it’ll turn up again.

I don’t mind them introducing a new guy 11 episodes in and saying he was there all along. That’s fine. There’s like 80 of these people, and we certainly haven’t met all of ‘em yet. The actor was fine with the part, he interacted well with the rest of the crew. I did feel the scene with Lt. James talking about how hot he is seemed a bit forced - so much so I assumed it was an attempt to distract Eli for some reason - and it seemed more forced to me because - as I said - Lt. James seems to be fairly promiscuous, so it doesn’t really make sense that she’d be rambling on about how she’s excited by guys who can “Make a commitment.”

OH! I get it! James was crying alone in bed because she wanted to knock boots with Dr. New Guy, and he spurned her! Ah!

We get yet another reminder of the Young/Tamara affair.

Have Rush and Camille been conspiring all along? Was Rush maybe hoping to pick a fight so he could leave Young on that planet? Was she in on Rush framing Young?

Anyway, back to what I was saying: I don’t object to the new guy who’s always been there but we never noticed him before. What I *do* object to is how integral they made him. He had five or six scenes, and it felt like they were trying to force him on us a bit too much. Again, it felt forced. Hopefully they’ll crank that back a bit in the future. I don’t want them to get all Nikki and Paolo on us.

One last bit of confusion about the Alien Communication Stones: If Young was in the alien’s body, then he was using the alien’s brain to see, hear, think, etc. If that’s the case, then why couldn’t he understand the alien’s language? I mean, our brains translate a learned audio language into electrical signals our brains can understand, with meaning based on a vast stored repository of memorized word meanings. If the alien body was listening to aliens talk, then the sounds should have filtered through the alien’s memorized language and automatically been translated into something Young could understand. Young in his own body wouldn’t have been able to, of course, but Young in the alien body should have been able to do it just as easily as he could speak or talk in his native tongue.

Bottom line: Yes, my sense of relief was fully rewarded. The show’s back, this was a really good episode all the way through, and it feels like all the setup is finally starting to pay off.

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