EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Visitation” (Season 2, Episode 9)

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The up/down/up/down, but still generally rather pathetic overall ratings continue, with last week down about 50,000 viewers from the week before, and the previous week up about 107,000 over the week previously, which was itself down about 45,000 viewers from the weak before that. The numbers are hovering around one million a week, up a tick, down a tick. This is bad. Essentially, it means that MGM is paying about two dollars per person watching the show. A buck an eye, half off for cyclopses. Not as bad as Caprica, of course, but not far better.

So what will happen? Well, it doesn’t seem likely to me that the ratings will improve in the second half of the season when that airs six months from now. If they do, of course, then we’re fine. If they don’t, however, the show is in serious doubt of cancellation.

My prediction is that the show *will* make it to a third season. This franchise has been a cash cow for everyone, and it this series was conceived of as having a minimum three-season arc. Without a strong series finale, the DVD sales won’t be good, so they’ll take the hit, wrap it up by the end of the third season, and the next Stargate show will be a bit more swashbuckly, a bit more conventional, a bit more SG1 or SGA.

Assuming ratings are screamingly bad, I could see them cutting season 3 to just 10 or 13 episodes, but I *Do* think they’ll get a third season in some form. I’d go on about this in greater detail, but it’s late, I’m tired, I wrote a new short story today (“The Undead in Heaven”) in one sitting, so my hands already hurt, and this is my second review of the night.

On to the ‘Review’ portion of this review…

PLAY BY PLAY

Destiny comes out of FTL to find their shuttle, Dr. Kane, and all the rest of the people who stayed behind in the Artificial Solar System sixteen episodes ago. The shuttle is repaired, the people are in unexpectedly perfect health, and nobody can explain it. Kane and the rest have no memory of their time on the planet. They remember staying behind, they remember waking up and seeing Destiny out the window. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Kane takes it to be the grace of God, the others think maybe they were returned as an act of benevolence. None of them have any memory of TJ’s visit, or her daughter. She’s pretty messed up over that. There’s something creepy about the returnees, but no one can quite put their finger on it.

One of them dies horribly while talking to Eli. One moment she’s fine, the next her skull is caved in. Another dies of hypothermia while Camille has him under hypnosis to figure out what happened during the period they can’t remember. Another appears plague-ridden in her quarters. Two others appear to be freezing to death. Under hypnosis, Kane realizes that they all died that winter, aboard the shuttle. Kane himself was the last to go, just praying for deliverance, and sending out a distress call on a kino.

They realize that the aliens from the Artificial Solar System brought them back to life, and delivered them to the ship for obscure reasons - compassion? A chance to say goodbye? - but their bodies are returning to the state they were in when they died.

The man calling himself Kane realizes that he’s a simulacrum, not the *actual* Kane, and thinks he lacks a soul, which is why everyone found them creepy. He realizes the aliens on the planet were not God, just really really powerful. He still believes in God, however, and his short, sad life ends with his faith intact.

MEANWHILE, Chloe is changing faster, and Greer explains to Scott that a time will come when she’ll have to be dealt with. Scott is not happy. Greer later goes to see Chloe, and explains to her the same thing.
“Will it be you?” she asks.
“I believe it will,” he says, “I couldn’t allow anyone else to do it.”
He asks her to forgive him.
“Of course,” she says.
“Please, Ma’am, I need to hear you say the words.”
“I forgive you, Ronald.”

I sat through four years of Battlestar Galactica, and despite all the intensity, despite all the re-imagined moral ambiguity, despite all the naked chicks making out and the deviant sex, and the torture, and the self-righteous posturing, and all that crap, there was never, never, never, never, never, never a moment that had the raw, heartbreaking emotion that Greer’s scenes had tonight. Not even close. Really, few shows could come anywhere near this level of emotional intensity. Thinking on it now, I can’t really imagine another show that has come close. Certainly not an SF show.

Chloe records goodbye messages, including one asking Scott to forgive Greer, “If it had to be anyone, I’m glad it was him.” She tells Scott not to visit her anymore, thinking it’s for the best.

Meanwhile, Rush refuses to believe the message they’re going to find is a message from God, but he does believe it’s some kind of evidence that there was an intelligence involved in the creation of our universe.

OBSERVATIONS

Rush makes an important point: The message may *not* be a message from God. In fact, I’m laying odds that it isn’t. Just as Kane was too quick to assume God miraculously built the Artificial Solar System for them, I think a lot of viewers have been quick to assume God left the message. It very well could be something else. Just to drive that home, Eli hauls out the old Clarke quote about advanced tech being indistinguishable from magic.

In fact, speaking as a Christian myself, Rush made a lot of very good points: Kane and his people had no evidence of the miraculous, whatever returned them to Destiny didn’t repair them the way it/they repaired the shuttle, their memories were wiped, and that once you make up your mind that God did something, there’s little point in asking more questions. It *is* important to ask questions, so we don’t end up misguided by false messiahs like Kane was.

Camille was trained in hypnotism by the IOA. What was her job on Icarus, really? Clearly she’s not just an Human Resources manager. What was she there to spy on?

Remember how I said that the ship wouldn’t function well until the mind (Rush), body (Young,) and spirit (Camille) were all working together? They’re all working well together tonight, and things work well for everyone except Kane and the others, of course.

How long after “Malice” does this take place? Greer is still injured, but Eli and Rush seem way too stable to me, given that they both lost loves rather traumatically last time out. Eli seems his old self, and Rush is much more spry than usual. Shouldn’t they be a bit more moped out and depressed?

So is TJ’s baby alive or not? The season opener seemed to strongly imply that what happened was real - there was even a heavenly sign - but this one strongly argues against it. No one had any memory of the baby, nor TJ’s visit, but their memories were clearly compromised, even under hypnosis. Certainly what the aliens did indicate it’s within their capabilities to save TJ’s baby, but did they? At the end of that episode, and at the end of this, TJ is told that she needs to have faith above all else. This leads me to believe the kid is alive, though I admit I have no clue how that would work out. Are there more Dr. Kanes out there?

Kane in Eden. Get it? Cain wouldn’t have been allowed in.

No one remarks on any other people from those who stayed behind, so it would appear everyone on Eden died, and no one was unaccounted for.

What do they do with bodies on the Destiny? Store ‘em? Chuck ‘em? They’re certainly racking up the casualties.

No Lucians tonight at all. Where are they, and what are they doing? Have they been locked up again?

“I’ve seen a lot of people go in my time and I know I’ll see a lot more before I’m done on this ship, but I ain’t never seen anyone come back until now.”

Jamil Walker Smith is one hell of an actor, isn’t he? Greer, though it’s never been mentioned before now, is quietly religious, and when he says he prays for Chloe every night, he says it with such conviction it jumps out at you. The scene I described above - his discussion with Chloe - was heartbreaking, not just the words themselves, but the way he couldn’t bear to be touched by her because it obviously would break down his resolve. He was just barely holding it together. Smith is a bit young to be playing a Master Sergent, but he totally pulls it off. The scenes where he confronts Scott were probably the best ones they’ve had together, and the two of them are always a highlight on this show.

I finally got a good look at the badge on Young’s uniform tonight, and I am 99% certain that it’s this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SpcMidBadge.jpg The Air Force no longer uses this one. It was replaced by some much tackier ones a few years back. Curious no one wears pilot’s wings on this show. Both Young and Scott can and do fly.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I really like the way they’re dealing with religion and faith on this show. It’s well done, respectful, and thought provoking. Take tonight for instance: the Aztecs mistook Cortez and his men for gods simply because they had superior technology and strange animals. How do *we* know the real God when we see Him? How do we know we’re not simply looking at a more advanced - but entirely mortal - species? It’s a good question to ask because it is so very easy to be led astray.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yeah, I think so. In fact, I even think social conservatives might like this one, and they kinda’ don’t like anything.

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