[REVISED] EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Life” (Season 1, Episode 9) [REVISED]

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The version of this review I initially posted last night was rather terse and threadbare because I was tired and wasn’t feeling well, so I figured I’d expand it a bit today as I’m feeling better (But even more tired. I just ended up staring at the ceiling last night until 5AM, insomnia.) The changes will all be in the “Observations” section.

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We start out with a montage of various crew people going through their daily routines - Chloe is doing yoga, Eli is spying on Rush, one of the female doctors is having sex, the masses are doing calisthenics, Camille is sketching a Polynesian landscape, and Baldo, the recurring minor antagonist with the attitude problem, takes his last anti-psychotic pill.

Young assigns TJ to do psych evals of the crew and civilians, since she’s the only one aboard with any kind of psychological training, minimal though it might be. She reluctantly agrees, and we see brief interviews with various cast members. Greer talks about getting beat up a lot as a kid by his dad, who was a Gulf War vet, one of the scientists is just yelling and sarcastic, the female scientist we saw having sex lies and says she’s dealing with the stress by reading, and Chloe says she’s coping really well because of her relationship with Lt. Scott.

Camille and Lt. Scott use the stones to visit earth. The Bald Russian from a couple weeks back shows up briefly, and Camille tells him that there’s two power factions on the ship - the military, and the scientists - and she doesn’t know which one is the right one. The Russian tells her to start her own faction. She then goes to visit her girlfriend or wife or whatever. That’s right, Camille is gay. This would probably have played out as a nice shock, since we had no real clue about this from the series itself, but the actress and others blabbed about it months ago. [EDIT: I eventually remembered this is not true. Camille recorded a message very obviously to a woman in a previous episode.] In any event, they’ve been together 12 years. They make out in a lipstick lesbian way. After a day together, Camille goes to see her folks very briefly. They’re not cleared, so she had to use a cover story, pretending to be someone else giving them news about their daughter. We don’t hear what she says, but they appear to react badly to it.

Lt. Scott, meanwhile, is checking his received mail on Earth, and finds a letter from the high school girl hie knocked up eight years ago. He goes to her house, and sees a seven year old kid just running around alone, unsupervised, so he stakes out the place for three hours until his ex comes home. Turns out the boy is his son, she didn’t have the abortion we were told about back in episode 3, and she’s an exotic dancer. Since she’s not cleared, Scott is pretending to be Colonel Telford, “A friend of Scott’s” and he makes arrangements to have his paycheck delivered to her bank account to help out, and so she can stop dancing and can go back to college and be a lawyer. As with most strippers, however, she’s got low self esteem, and thanks him for the money, but says she’s happy being a dancer and would never have survived college.

When not on the Destiny being a wad, Telford is making time with Colonel Young’s wife. Meanwhile, on the destiny, Rush has discovered an ancient neural-downloading machine similar to the one that nearly killed Jack O’Neil. Twice. He pushes to try it out, but Young realizes these things are deadly, and forbids it. Somewhat later, Rush said he’s found an Icarus-type planet about a year away in the database he’s discovered, and spirits rise on the ship thinking they only need to survive a year and then they’re home.

The ruse is short-lived, however, as Eli discovers Rush faked that bit of data, and is overheard by Camille, who spreads it all over the ship. Scott, meanwhile, tries to deal with the knowledge that he’s a father. He sees a brief flash of Mrs. Young in his memories as he’s drifting off to sleep, and realizes who it is from pictures in Young’s office, so he tells the Colonel. Baldo attacks a scientist and can’t calm down. Young breaks up the fight, and threatens to confine Baldo to quarters if he can’t get ahold of himself.

The Colonel quickly realizes that this must be one of Telford’s memories that somehow ended up in Scott’s subconscious, and realizes what’s going on. He “Stones” back to earth and busts in on his wife and the other Colonel, and gets in an argument with his wife, whom Telford has told, is “Still sleeping with that woman.” Telford, meanwhile is instantly on his cellphone. Young tries to punch him, and suddenly he’s back on the couch on the Destiny - evidently Telford phoned the base and had them break the connection! He connects again the next day before Telford comes to work, waits for him outside his home, and beats the guy senseless.

It ends with a montage of everyone going about their daily routine, with Camille updating the sketch, Eli doing Yoga with Chloe, Greer getting some from the lady scientist, and Baldo getting more and more psychotic.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS [UPDATED]

A nice balanced episode all around. I liked it. As I’m kind of sick, and I’ve got carpal tunnel in my left pinky at the moment, I’ll keep this shorter than usual.

It’s interesting that subconscious memories can be transferred between host and guest with the stones, though this is unusual. All the more reason to question the morality of ’em. I mean, last time out we questioned the ethics of using someone else’s body to have sex. Granted, they’re not ’home’ at the time, but I can’t help thinking it’s taking undue liberties with someone else’s generous loaner, you know? Now that we know Camille is gay, the situation gets even more strained. Clearly they had sex. Lesbian sex, right? Even if people only sign up to be ’hosts’ because they’re weird exhibitionist or they’re looking to get laid and don’t quite realize they won’t have any memory of it, statistically speaking 97% of the people involved are gonna’ be straight. I think most people would be pretty freaked out if you kicked them out of their own brain and used their bodies for sex anyway, but I have to think that vastly, vastly more people would be vastly vastly vastly more freaked out if they realized you were having deviant sex with their bodies while they were ’out of their minds.’ Obviously, someone using your body to beat up Lou Diamond Phillips is probably a violation of good manners as well, but in this case that was just fun.

So who knows Camille is gay? On the one hand, she makes no secret of going to see her lover, and they’ve been together for twelve years, which would be difficult to hide. On the other hand, she doesn’t wear a wedding ring, one guy on the ship made a pass at her, and the Stargate program is US Military, which you’re not supposed to be gay in. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the buzzword, but if you do tell, you’re out of the service. They’re not persecuted, but they’re not accepted either. Much like society at large, they’re just ignored as much as possible. Which isn’t to say there aren’t gays in the military, just that in service of their careers, they’re all fairly closeted. Camille isn’t Air Force, of course, she’s IOA. The IOA might have a more open policy on such things, but if they did it’s still relatively unlikely they’d stick an openly deviant person on a military base - much less a covert military base - simply because of the tension it would cause.

The dialog with her significant other back at the house implied they were married for a very long time, which is problematic as Gay Marriage isn’t really recognized in the US as a whole, and places where it is recognized haven’t done so for terribly long. The implication was that they “Promised” in Hawaii twelve years ago - hence the Polynesian beach sketches in this episode - so I’m thinking probably they met there, and got hitched in one of those Hawaiian non-legal fantasyland weddings that the Gay community’s been doing out there forever.

While we’re on the subject, Camille is obviously Chinese-American, or at least Asian-American (The actress is of Chinese descent), but her name isn’t even remotely Asian, and we see both of her parents briefly in this episode. They’re both clearly also Asian. So where did the name come from?

What did Camille tell her parents? My thinking is that she told them she was dead, judging from their forlorn reaction.

Rush’s lie was actually a good plan which immediately fell apart. It also tells us something interesting about Rush: Clearly he has an agenda, clearly he’s up to something, and whatever it is, he clearly thinks that it’ll take less than a year to accomplish it. He didn’t give a damn about how the crew would deal with the crushing defeat when his lie was exposed a year from now because he figured his plan would already be done by then, and he’ll have already ascended or whatever. So we don’t know what he’s up to, but we’ve at least got a timeline now.

Actually a fairly realistic portrayal of a stripper, by the way: Single mom, kinda’ disillusioned, in a stable-but-crappy life and doesn’t want to leave, neglected kid/s. Sad.

Young is still lying to the OHS about how Rush saved the ship. Rush is having people actively search the ship, looking for useful areas and stuff.

As my finger hurts, I’ll just sum up by saying “I liked it.” Next episode - two weeks from now - is part one of the obligatory mid-season cliffhanger. Evidently there’s a murder on ship. How much you wanna’ bet it’s Baldo that did it?

[New Stuff Below]

Something that’s beginning to bug me about the Communications Stones: Everyone seems to have family in the DC area. We know they flew Eli out to Colorado to see his mom, but Young’s condo is clearly just a cab ride from the Pentagon, Scott’s girlfriend’s house appears to have been in DC, Telford obviously lives in DC, Chloe’s mom and friends are there. Camille’s parents and lover are evidently there, evidently not far apart. While this makes sense in some cases, it seems increasingly unlikely, and if they *are* flying people around the country, they need to make a better case of showing that to us, just so we know that all 89 people on the Destiny weren’t coincidentally Beltway Babies.

The scene where Young tries to deck Telford, and the stones cut out was really cool.

The hydroponics lab is finally starting to sprout stuff, so they’ll be able to diversify their (Evidently awful) diet of protein bars and what looks like porridge and water fairly soon.

Eli’s social ineptness was put to good use tonight.

It’s been a while, so I think I’ll raise the question again: Why did the Lucien Alliance attack Icarus? What were they hoping to gain? Is it possible that someone on the show put them up to it for some reason? Rush, for instance, to ferment a crisis that’d get him to “his” Destiny? Telford as part of whatever-the-hell scheme he’s up to? What?

So where’d the calisthenics clothes come from? I thought they only made it through the stargate with the clothes on their backs, a few suitcases, and some randomly-selected crates. I mean, Scott still has dust all over his jacket from the Icarus battle for pete’s sake, so where’d they get this stuff from?

Also, since there’s at least three people on the ship having active sexlives, it would seem that they’d be burning through their condom supply at a terrific rate. If they make a point of telling us they barely have any ammunition, then obviously, how many prophylactics and birth control pills could they really have? This, too, could pose problems later on in the show.

It struck me last night while I wasn’t sleeping that the premise of this show is a bit similar to Red Dwarf: Huge ship a million LY from earth running on autopilot (Which may or may not be sentient), with a small, accidental, effectively-untrained crew trying to get home again. Introducing a hardlight hologram of an ancient crewmember actually might not be a bad idea.

Telford is the real antagonist in this show, and it seems we’re all of a mind that he’s going to check out early, or maybe become an open villain later on, kinda’ like Rainbow Sun Franks on SGA did. So let’s speculate as to how they’re going to get rid of him - will he be court-martialed for cowardice, or for repeated insubordination, or for screwing around with another officer’s wife? If not, why? Why is he so important that they’d overlook this crap? And really, when we get right down to it, what the hell is he doing? Initially he seemed like just a jerk, but now he’s seeming like more and more of a *directed* jerk, with a goal. What’s he on about? What’s his’ scheme? What’s he trying to accomplish? Why is he trying to destroy Young?

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