EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Twin Destinies” (Season 2, Episode 12)

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The Destiny is falling apart. Granted, she’s always been falling apart, but following the pasting they took in the mid-season two-parter, they’re much more aggressively falling apart. This is hampered by a lack of spare parts and also a basic lack of understanding of what the parts do in and of themselves. The ship is barely functional, and will not keep together for much longer at all. Reluctantly, Young decides to use Eli’s plan to gate everyone back to earth while they’re inside a star refueling (Yeah, that works now, apparently). Rush is put off by this, but - surprisingly - Young and Rush work out a compromise: Everyone will gate through to earth while Young and Rush stay on the Destiny with ten volunteers and attempt to finish the mission.

Greer, Scott, Chloe, TJ and Eli decide to stay - essentially the whole primary cast, as well as Lt. James, Brody, Park, and Volker. I blinked and wasn’t sure if Camille was going to stay or not. Oh, Varro, the one remaining Lucian character also volunteers to stay. In any event, Telford says this is madness and he’s considering removing them to earth by force.

“Good luck with that,” says Greer.

They dive into the star and make the connection. Telford goes through first, then the gate gets skitchy. Eli and Rush are able to hand-steer it, and everyone else dashes through, leaving Rush alone once the gate shuts down. He contacts earth with the communication stones, and discovers that only one person made it throug - Telford! The wormhole went through a solar flare, which projected the entire ship back in time half a day. While pondering what to do, an earlier version of Destiny drops out of FTL. Sensing a chance to undo the mistake, Rush takes a shuttle and flies over to the *other* destiny, and tries to warn them off.

Telford and Camille attempt to force it anyway, insisting Rush version 1.0 give them detailed instructions of what went wrong. Eventually Young makes the right call, and they call off the whole experiment. As Destiny version 2.0 cruises past the flaming, twisted wreckage of Destiny version 1.0, they decide to gate over to the other/earlier ship and raid it for supplies so as to fix the broken stuff on their iteration of the ship.

This goes about as bad as you’d expect, with Rush 1.0 accidentally killing Telford, then running away as the burning, twisted, wreck becomes even more…uhm…burning and twisted. Rush 2.0 tracks him down in the Education Chair room, and plugs him in to be eaten by the chair just like Franklin. 2.0 makes it back to his version of the Destiny. Young asks him what happened, and Rush lies. Young suspects something’s up, apparently suspects the whole thing might have just been a ruse to continue the mission.

The End

OBSERVATIONS

This is effectively the ‘Gate version of a “Transporter Malfunction” with Good Kirk/Evil Kirk running around, or maybe Boring Riker/Slightly hairier-but-just-as-boring Riker. That’s been done eleventy jillion times in various variations (“Tuvix”), but Stargate has resisted doing it. As with every cliché of Trekdom that Gate has chosen to appropriate, however, they did it far, far better than the source material.

Which is actually one of the neater things about Stargate: it’s not a question of whether or not they’re being completely original. Nobody is. Trek ripped off Forbidden Planet and Gulliver‘s Travels; Forbidden Planet ripped off “The Tempest,” and Shakespeare himself ripped off bits from Erasmus and Peter Martyr and William Strachey when he cobbled together that play. So it’s not a question of originality since there really isn’t nearly as much of that as everyone assumes anyway. No, the neat bit about Stargate as a whole is this: whatever they rip off they use better than the people they stole it from. Theft it may be, but it’s inspired theft!
Which isn’t to bag on Trek, but just the same, when something screwy happens like a time loop or a transporter malfunction or whatnot, it’ll always resolve itself in a predictable Trekian fashion. On this show, and to a lesser extent on SGA, you’re never quite sure how it’s going to play out. The Gateverse isn’t as safe as the Trekiverse, for characters or for writers.

Rodney McKay gets a name check tonight as one of the “Big names” of the SGC. Evidently the ladies don’t like him very much, and they breathe a kind of collective shudder when the subject comes up. Dr. Lee makes an actual physical appearance. Say, is it just me, or did this show finally develop a sense of humor? Rush even gets in a few good lines tonight.

I love the whole literal “Robbing from yourself” way they fixed the ship.

I told the story in a more linear fashion than it happened on screen, but I thought it was pretty cleverly blocked out so that we got to see what *would* have happened in the interrupted scene where Rush speaks to the crew. By the way, Rush’s nervousness was very palpable in that sequence, and interestingly played. We all know the guy’s a bastard, and kind of ruthless, but it’s easy to forget that he’s actually kind of afraid of all these people. Note the sudden flash of incomprehension, then shock, then hope that passes his face in about a microsecond when Young announces he’s staying. Robert Carlyle doesn’t have the most expressive face in the world, but he gets a lot out of a little in scenes like these.

So how many Lucians are left? Varro is the only identifiable one. Is he all that remains, or do they still have some prisoners? And when are we going to get some payoff on the whole lingering “Attack on earth” thread?

The Telford who went through the gate to earth is still alive. Everyone else who went through the gate is dead. Rush 1.0 was definitely hiding something, but what it is remains unclear. Rush 2.0 suspects, but doesn’t know.

I was a little fuzzy on why the principle cast jumped through the gate to earth even though they’d said they were staying behind. I assume it was because the ship was really-and-truly going down for the third time, but that wasn’t clear in dialog, at least not to me.

Brainwashed or not, Telford remains sort of a wad. He's functioning as XO tonight, which makes sense, but there's still a lot of hard feelings between him and the crew despite them knowing he wasn't responsible for his previous behavior. Specifically Rush and Greer both have it in for him.

Man, Chloe was suddenly pretty cool in this episode, wasn’t she? No longer mopey, no longer dying, she only had a couple scenes, but she oozed charm. I like that Eli isn’t pinin’ for her quite as much as he was, too. The whole bit with Eli not realizing how important he was, and how his future with the SGC was secure was kind of a nice touch. I though his guilt over killing the other versions of the crew was a bit much, though.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

I see no reason why not. Socons and Fundamentalists might chafe at what the techno-temporal-doppelgangers imply about the nature of the human soul, but the episode chooses not to deal with that beyond a plot device. In other words, it’s a storytelling technique, not a sacrilege.

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