David was out of town for a couple of days this week, leaving me to knock around in the evenings watching weird shows he doesn’t like and saving up most of TiVo’s good stuff for when he got home, which was last night. I watched a whole lot of Hoarders, some Intervention, a couple of nice old movies, and random stuff… but I made sure to watch this week’s Stargate: Universe because it’s an interesting take on familiar science fiction themes. Unlike other “Lost In Space” type shows, there’s conflict between characters, people can die or be seriously injured, and they are changed and traumatized as the long-arc story develops.
Every episode title seems to be a single word – usually the one thing they need, or the one concept or theme that is a commentary on at least two of the multiple plotlines. This week, it was “Pathogen,” and infection or infestation was the them in the Chloe and Eli stories, of course. But I also think there’s a case to be made for various kinds of addictions, too – we saw Col. Young drinking some more of the hooch the one scientist distills for him. And Camille’s partner was never seen without a big glass of red wine – please, could we have a more subtle metaphor? Anyway, there was a lot of deeply buried conflict surfacing, and also the Lucian gangstas are always spoiling for a fight with Sgt. Anger Management (Greer).
Eli’s character, though, is the “audience surrogate,” the person who’s the heart of the crew. Everyone has problems, but Eli brought a sense of wonder with him and can still get starry-eyed about traveling amongst the stars, even when being chased by aliens that look like soft-shell crabs.
He’s Math Boy, he’s the earnest friend who’ll never get the girl represented by Chloe – she’s too busy being hunky Lt. Scott’s girlfriend. Somehow, the three of them are fast friends, though. Eli is sometimes described as “the most important person on Destiny” because he’s the person who solved the math problem that cracked the Stargate “ninth chevron” code (it wasn’t what fans speculating in 2007 thought after all). Eli’s “B” plot is the most compelling and emotionally satisfying one in the episode – it earns an A+ from me. The others were interesting or enlightening, but not as compelling.
Eli’s mother is ill and depressed, and in the middle of the crisis of the week, Eli is told that his mother is deeply depressed and it’s aggravating her health problems (she’s a nurse who is HIV positive via a needle stick).
SGU has a plot device consisting of 4 or 5 “stones” telepathically linked to a matching set back on Earth, which allows the writers to have various characters body-swap back home. This isn’t necessarily a fan favorite, this body-swapping, but it HAS made for some interesting developments.
The “A” plot was probably Chloe’s storyline, which involved some sort of alien infestation that’s turning her into something else, which threatens the ship if allowed access to controls. Eli’s story would probably have been the “B” plot, except for the very moving scenes of Eli in his mother’s hospital room, wearing some soldier’s body and trying to convince her that he was, in fact, her son in someone else’s skin and that he was actually on a ship billions of lightyears away.
The “C” plot revolved around Camille Wray, visiting her female partner yet again (sigh) because apparently you just can’t go to the lesbian well often enough to be cutting edge drama these days.
Dr. Rush was manipulating everyone and everybody and even Destiny itself. As one commenter at IO9 (see link below) pointed out, Rush went in the alien dunk tank, too, so why wasn’t he showing signs of unusual healing powers and writing in his diary in alien script?? I’d call the Rush angle the “D” plot, which is always running quietly in the background of most episodes but doesn’t get much advancement – he’s an enigma with an agenda, that one. But there was a lot of development – we visit his secret calculus lair, although he leads Young and the others that it’s Chloe that’s been the cause of Destiny’s odd behavior, and not Rush manipulating the FTL drive.
A lot of SF fans on the Internet seem to have strong opinions of SGU – they love to hate it, but there are also a lot of people who like it a lot and want to see where all the mysterious threads lead.
A recent development – the “alien sanctuary planet” where a few former crew members stayed – isn’t a favorite of mine because to my mind it’s an unwelcome metaphysical intrusion. I didn’t care for how they resolved the problem of TJ’s baby by having its…. spirit? soul? somehow physically manifested on the alien-built planet when TJ woke up back on Destiny after being shot.
Meh. I’m not one for the havin’-a-baby plotlines on my shows, even less when they resolve them by making the baby or child disappear when they’re no longer needed.
IO9.com posted a pretty positive review – and the comments run the gamut from A… to B. The whole thing is worth a read, there are lots of insights there.
I think I can safely say, if you didn’t like last night’s SGU, you won’t be a fan of this series in general. We finally cracked open all the drama each character has been carrying around for weeks. About time!
Eli’s mom has come down with a bad case of the television malady “losing the strength to live.” You remember this disease from such classics as the third Star Wars prequel, or Rent. Is can’t-go-on-itis lame. Yes — but at least it meant we got to hang out more with Eli, and watch him unravel as his mother goes down the tubes.