A Farewell to Stargate

I may never know what happens to Destiny, or Eli, or Young, or Rush, or any of the other marooned survivors of the Icarus Project and the lone Lucian Alliance member.  And I think I can live with that.  Given the circumstances (the cancellation of Stargate Universe during filming of the second half of the second season), the writers, producers, directors and cast managed to give us, if not complete closure, at least a stay of execution and a glimmer of hope with last night’s ‘Gauntlet‘ – the final episode of the entire Stargate legacy (transcript available here).

Ratings update posted Tuesday evening at GateworldHighest since November.

SGU: Gauntlet (aired Mon 9 May 2011)
SGU: Gauntlet (aired Mon 9 May 2011)

The drones were kept to a minimum, thank goodness.  So I’m not entirely sure what the title of the episode represents.  Is it a reference to running the Blockade? Or the proposed plan to skip this galaxy, without refueling (because of the Blockade) or resupplying (again because of the Blockade) on an extended FTL jump to the next galaxy?

Everyone got a chance to return to Earth and say goodbye (quite a fete to accomplish in just 24 hours).  Young will finally get some rest (definitely the running gag of this episode).  And the loser in the game of musical stasis pods remembered to turn off the lights.  At least, the CGI guys didn’t beat us over the head with any more cliches, having Destiny fly off into the sunset (or the closest non-Blockaded star).  Rather, Destiny just faded away.

I came to the Stargate series late, when my mother asked me to record the inaugural pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis.  I had seen the movie in the mid 90s (what science fiction fan hadn’t?).  I became intrigued by SGA, but felt a bit out of my depth, as I had not watched SG1.  At the time, Syfy actually aired science fiction programming both during the day and during prime time viewing hours, something which becomes increasingly rare as noted by the founder of Gateworld in his recent article entitled ‘How Wrestling is Killing Science Fiction‘ and sparked a response via Twitter from an executive at the Syfy channel.  Anyway, SG1 was still in production so I was able to watch current new episodes and catch-up on all the previous seasons in the matter of a few weeks or months.

I admit I didn’t care for the direction SGU took two years ago, compared to the other two series.  I realized quickly someone somewhere at Syfy or NBC or Universal or MGM attempted to ride the coat tails of BSG.  While I enjoyed that gritty re-imagining of the squeaky clean original Battlestar Galactica, I had a bad feeling that trying that with the Stargate universe (notice the un-capitalized version of that word) would fail.  And for much of the first season of SGU I remained skeptical.  But the second season, and the looming cancellation, seemed to spark better writing or better performances or both.

Thus I’m left with but one weekly avenue for my science fiction television fix: Doctor Who.

For a series finale, ‘Gauntlet’ of course falls well short of the ‘wrap-up’ bar, so in that light I’d only give it three stars out of five.  However, given the circumstances and hurdles overcome by the hamstrung production, I’ll fondly remember this episode with perpetual hope, four stars and a heart-felt ‘well done’ to one and all.

Last Time to Dial a Stargate in Just A Few Hours

SGU: Gauntlet airing Mon 10 May 2011 8pm CentralThe final episode of Stargate Universe airs this evening (8 p.m. Central on SyFy).  The end of an era in science fiction television sputters to its prematurely canceled end in the episode ‘Gauntlet.’

Don’t miss this important final installment not just of this series, but of modern-day Stargate as we know it. We believe with great certainty that the franchise will be back down the road. But for now, this is the final hour for Stargate fans to enjoy.

Darren Sumner, founder of Gateworld, (writing in his final weekly ‘heads up’ article “Tonight on SGU Gauntlet“)

I am dreading this evening.  The moment I watch the episode, all hope ends for any new Stargate material, at least in the foreseeable future.  Perhaps I should pickup a bottle of wine on the way home to sooth my anticipated raw nerves?

Darren penned another op-ed piece today (Wed 11 May 2011) at Gateworld you might be interested in reading.  Here’s a snippet from that article:

… what is clear from the swell of support that last week’s editorial received is that Syfy has an image problem on its hands.  The network has succeeded in broadening its appeal through rebranding, airing wrestling, and developing scripted dramas that are more accessible to casual viewers than traditional science fiction fare — whimsical procedurals rather than, for example, the arc-based “space opera.”  But that change of image comes at a cost.

GateWorld throws down gauntlet, Syfy Channel responds

SGU: Blockade … the Beginning of the End

I had a chip on my shoulder watching Stargate Universe last night.  I felt content with last week’s ‘Epilogue’ episode and wished the series could end on the resonance left by it. With only two episodes left this season, the show having been canceled with no possibility of parole, I couldn’t image what the writers, directors and producers could do to salvage the situation.  ‘Blockade’ surprised me with good continuity from ‘Epilogue,’ good action, good science and spots of humor that actually made me laugh.  Ratings reported Wednesday morning via Gateworld reveal a nine percent drop between ‘Epilogue’ and ‘Blockade.’

SGU: Blockade aired Mon 2 May 2011
SGU: Blockade aired Mon 2 May 2011

I’m being a bit lazy this week, so I grabbed a synopsis of the ‘Blockade’ episode from the Wikipedia article for season two of SGU:

When the Destiny tries to recharge in a star, they are met by drones. Trying another star, they discover the same. Low on power, Eli proposes a risky alternative: recharge the ship in a blue giant star instead which the drones would never expect. In order to accomplish the plan, the crew travel through the Stargate to a nearby planet, which turns out to be another Novus colony that is empty while Eli and Rush stay behind to manually pilot in the ship in the Ancient environmental suits which will protect them from the extreme heat. Doctor Lisa Park stays behind as well to save as many plants as possible from the Destiny garden, but gets trapped when the ship seals it off. The plan works and Destiny recharges, but the dome breaks and Park is flash-blinded before Eli manages to rescue her. On the planet, the crew discovers it to be destroyed by drones and encounter two which they destroy. They learn that thanks to a diversion, many of the people on the planet managed to escape through the Stargate before it was devestated. When a Control Ship shows up, the crew is forced to evacuate a little early, but by that point, Destiny is safe again. The trick won’t work twice however and the drones will likely be waiting next time Destiny tries to recharge.


Eli garnered kudos from me for standing up to Rush several times in this episode.  Rush continues to amaze me with his complete lack of humanity.  Rush may be a brilliant scientist, but a Vulcan exhibits more compassion than he shows his fellow man, even for people he works closely with on a day-to-day basis in a survival situation.  It boggles my mind that Rush can continue to be that callus.

I didn’t buy the Destiny blocking Eli and Rush from opening a door when Park became locked in the garden dome.  No logic there in why it would willingly allow the crew to fly it into an extremely dangerous type of star for refueling (without braking or swerving) yet not realize a fragile human was trapped and exposed behind a door it had closed and locked.  Why was Destiny thwarting the crew? Was it that desperate to fill up it’s tanks?

The nonverbal interactions between members of the crew intrigued me in light of the relationships revealed among the other crew of ‘future’ Destiny.  Volker and Greer in eye combat over Park’s assertion to remain behind to save plants.  And Varro leaning away from TJ towards Vanessa James, who we learn via a humorous sidebar, was born in Pittsburgh.

I will rate ‘Blockade’ as a 3.5 to 4 star SGU episode, even though I tire of the drones and the potential mystery they present, the question left unanswered forever if not dealt with next week in the final Stargate episode.

The real treat, this week, announced yesterday and stumbled upon by me while surfing DirecTV channels on my day off, is the week-long tribute to the Stargate franchise in the form of marathons on the Syfy Channel.  Follow this link for a full schedule of the rest of the airings of your favorite Stargate episodes.

SGU ends next Monday evening with the final episode ‘Gauntlet‘ – Blocked by drone Command Ships at every star and unable to gate for supplies without alerting the same drones, Destiny must take a stand or be left adrift.

After that … Stargate withdrawal will set in and I’ll have to console myself with more Doctor Who.

Volker Zings Rush Speechless in SGU Epilogue

I am worried that the next two final episodes of Stargate Universe may stumble after watching last night’s ‘Epilogue‘ episode, the continuation of last week’s ‘Common Descent‘ episode.  Ratings were up 27% over last week’s episode and a week later here’s the transcript of the episode.

SGU: Epilogue aired Mon 25 Apr 2011 on Syfy
SGU: Epilogue aired Mon 25 Apr 2011 on Syfy

Destiny and the survivors from the drone-attacked planet, who were actually descendants of the ‘future’ Destiny crew thought lost back during the ‘Twin Destinies‘ episode, arrived at Novus to find it deserted due to a cataclysmic seismic event.  The usual suspects take the shuttle down to the surface and find no people and no remains, but do find the archives in a bunker to which the fail to gain access.   Matt asked Col. Young if the big guns on Destiny could be used to attempt to breach the bunker and one shot opens the doors to supplies and a vast store of data, two thousand years in the making thanks to Eli’s motto handed down through the Tenarans.

The rest of the episode boiled down to the crews’ fascination with their alternate selves diaries: who died, who got married, who had babies, who didn’t.   All except Rush, of course, whose alternate self ‘married’ future Destiny and went down in flames at the end of the ‘Twin Destinies’ episode.  Volker achieves a moment of greatness by leaving Rush speechless when driving this point home to the curmudgeonly Futuran ‘Messiah.’

If the series ended now, I could walk away without too much angst.  Yes, there are many unanswered questions, but the achievement of the descendants transcends their harsh circumstances and the nay-saying of Rush’s camp so overwhelmingly and so courageously, like true pioneers on the galactic frontier plains, that I almost dread watching the next two episodes.  I fear further disappointment and more loose ends never to be resolved.

I will give this episode four stars out of five, because Camille’s speech at the end actually brought a tear to my eye.

SGU: Un-Common Descent

With only four episodes left for the final season (canceled after only two years and movie prospects to wrap things up appear dead), Stargate Universe returns to some more interesting territory.  A couple of story arcs converge within the first few minutes of this week’s ‘Common Descent‘ episode, harking back to the mid-season opener, ‘Deliverance‘ and ‘Twin Destinies.’  Ratings Update: And this doesn’t make any sense, but viewership drops by 16 percent over last week’s episode.  And just in time, straight from the presses, the transcript.

Common Descent
Common Descent

Destiny is back to falling apart, the breathable air on board needs scrubbing and dodging drones is not nearly as fun as it used to be.  Thinking the dead drone might be phoning home, they jetison it, during an ongoing drone attack, destroy it and attempt a feeble launch into FTL flight.  Destiny finds a couple of planets, one with a working gate, and one blocked, and Young agrees to drop out of FTL to solve the scrubber situation before everyone suffocates.

The expedition to the planet surface encounter English speaking humans who recognize members of the Destiny party.  And no surprise to myself (or Eli), these humans claim to be descendants sixty or so generations removed from the current members of Destiny.  And you thought the ‘future’ Destiny crew went through that unstable wormhole into oblivion?  Ha!

Everyone but Rush reacted with excitement and interest in the plight of the stranded settlers.  A friend of mine at GoodReads connected the dots before me, observing that since Rush remained behind on the ‘future’ Destiny, he sired no offspring (but did foster a philosophic debate of near epic, even Biblical, proportions).  This reminded me that the other Rush actually achieved his (or is that their) dream and ‘married’ Destiny … so who knows what kind of offspring might crop up for Rush?

This episode had a bit of everything: some science (time travel), some action (dodging drones and their command ships), some humor (Futura is a font!), some drama (‘ancient’ keno footage from the ‘future’ Destiny survivors original settlement), a bit of mystery (how are these drones finding Destiny?), and of course some political unrest (fostered two thousand years ago by the current uncomfortable philosophical disagreement between Rush and Young which results in a highly polarized schism developing among their descendants to the point where Rush is either worshiped as a near Messiah by one half or demonized, literally, by the other).

Even though this episode ended prematurely, I thoroughly enjoyed it and for the first time this spring I’m excited and anxious to watch next week’s ‘Epilogue‘ episode.  I give ‘Common Descent’ a solid four star rating out of five stars.

SGU: The Hunt … First Contact or Nature v. Nurture?

I stayed up late last night to watch SGU‘s latest episode ‘The Hunt‘ although I had difficulty winding down to sleep afterward.  Ratings really picked up for this episode.  Full Transcript for this episode found here at Gateworld.

The Hunt aired 4/11/2011 in the US on Syfy
The Hunt aired 4/11/2011 in the US on Syfy

Within the first scene, one of my previous questions (from the ‘Hope’ episode) was answered, albeit unsatisfactorily.  If all Destiny inhabitants have been vegetarians for over ten months, then definite weight loss would have occurred across all crew members, with the exception, perhaps, of those who already practiced vegetarianism.  What little ‘science’ we get from this ‘science fiction’ series should at least reflect an observable phenomenon, correct?

My earlier unvoiced surmise that Greer and Varro would be the ones captured in this episode quickly proved incorrect.  My second guess proved partially correct in that TJ was abducted.  The second abductee I didn’t recognize and fear he would not make the credits, reminiscent of the expendable ‘red shirts’ in the Star Trek (TOS) landing parties.

After the original landing part sent to explore the planet returns (minus two members) to Destiny, Col. Young leaves Matt in charge and takes the lead on the search and rescue mission.  Greer keeps second guessing himself because he hesitated when confronted with alien during the first attack.  Young attempts to mentor Greer, who is unusually aggressive/assertive towards his superior officer.

The rescue proceeds slowly and we see Varro volunteer himself and the rest of the Lucian Alliance personnel to help track the creature.  He successfully convinces Matt (and assumedly Col. Young) to gate down to the planet.

Meanwhile … (there’s always a ‘meanwhile’ subplot or two on a television show) back on Destiny, Rush, Eli and Brody are exploring new sections of ship and stumble upon a stasis chamber.  Rush uncharacteristically urges cautions to Eli and Brody in tampering with the stasis equipment.  This turns into a slight and well played comedic subplot with a moral.  Another version of the ‘kindler, gentler’ Rush?  At least this one was easier to stomach.

I felt Chloe overstepped her boundaries by discussing Volker’s love life with him directly.  Ew.  Very awkward.  Later, Rush deigns to give Volker romantic advice, in a reverse psychological sort of way.  Sadly, once Volker girds on his courage (and his vest) he stumbles upon his first setback in that he’s not along in pursuing the woman in question.

Back on the planet, the alien creature manages to ambush the expanded search and rescue team, eliminating several members, including all of the Lucian Alliance leftovers except for Varro, who has replaced Young (injured in the ambush) as defacto team leader and mentor for an increasingly stressed Greer.

When we finally see the alien creature, something unexpected occurs from many unexpected corners.  I’ll leave it to you to watch that for yourself and make your own conclusions about first contacts between humans and aliens, between herbivores and carnivores (or omnivores), between nature (hunting/killing/eating ‘unintelligent’ animals?) and nurture (protecting your offspring (instinct) yet recognizing intelligence (tool making, fire starting, non-verbal communication).

I look forward to re-watching this episode later in the week.  At first blush, I’ll give it four out of five stars for a well rounded enjoyable thought provoking episode with some punch.  And starting next Monday (for the last few episodes of this series) Syfy is moving SGU one hour earlier, so I can get some much needed sleep!

Anticipating the Hunt

While I enjoyed last week’s SGU episode, Seizure, better than usual, I’m really ramping up for tonight’s ‘The Hunt‘ episode.

SGU: The Hunt airs tonight in the US on Syfy
SGU: The Hunt airs tonight in the US on Syfy

For starters, we get off Destiny, and I mean physically leave the ship through an actual Stargate (or maybe it’s a shuttle? … who cares … it’s not via the Ancient communication stones, which is all I care about).  The episode also features Greer, which is always good for some heart pounding action and Varro gets more screen time.

And we morph into some kind of alien abduction of two of the exploration team.  I wonder which two get captured?  I guess I’ll tune into tonight and find out.

SGU: Carpio Fatum

After frustrating myself by trying to locate the first sliver of the waxing moon soon after the sunset, I opted to watch the movie ‘Unstoppable‘ at least until SGU was half-finished recording.  The movie proved such an adrenaline rush that Terry and I barely had time to blink before it finished after ten o’clock.  I hurried off to bed, only to jump back up, remembering that Monday night (April 4th) was the best viewing night for Saturn.  I dragged the telescope from my west-facing master bedroom window where I had earlier attempted to spy the sliver of moon to my east-facing ‘green’ room previous occupied by my daughter.  I spied Saturn, but the double-pane insulated and probably tinted window glass caused distortion and a double-image.  I should have gotten re-dressed and taken the telescope out on the front lawn, but five in the morning comes terribly early on a Tuesday.

I tossed and turned for an hour or two before drifting off.  I hit the snooze at least twice before scrambling through my morning routine.  I started watching ‘Seizure‘ just shy of 5:30 a.m., giving me at least five minutes slack time after finishing the episode to make it to my vanpool rendezvous. Wednesday morning ratings report: Holding steady with SGA crossover.  Follow Monday update:  Transcript for ‘Seizure’ episode.

Seizure (aired 4/4/2011)
Seizure (aired 4/4/2011)

I loved seeing both Robert Picardo (portraying Richard Woolsey) and David Hewlett (as Dr. Rodney McKay).  Telford is fast becoming my new ‘Rush’ … the character I love to hate.

Seizure, as with most SGU episode titles, has many meanings and layers.  Earth seizing the opportunity to thwart the Lucian Alliance and reconnect with Destiny through the Icharus-type planet Langara, who are reluctant to allow Earth to dial the 9th chevron and risk destroying their world.  McKay, typically arrogant and socially inept, affirms his new dialing algorithm eliminates any such risk.  Woolsey cautions the military to stand down with respect to the Langarans, but Telford (and Young) refuse to listen to saner diplomatic heads.

Back on Destiny, Amanda and Rush dally digitally and again I really didn’t need to know that much about the binary byplay between the two lovebirds.  Rush is pathetic rather than annoying this time around.  Amanda takes up lying in her attempt to ‘seize’ Rush for herself (ill-considered and poorly executed, even if her intentions were well-meaning) and Ginn and Eli display courage and integrity in contrast.

A nice well-rounded episode that I’d rate as better than a three but less than a four on a five star scale.  I’ll be re-watching this episode later in the week to more fully appreciate some of the nuances I missed on my first rushed viewing.  Transcript of last week’s ‘Hope’ episode for those interested found here.

Ethical Gymnastics in SGU Body Snatching

I decided to re-watch both the ‘Alliances‘ and ‘HopeSGU episodes Wednesday evening.  I tend to roll my eyes during the episodes that use the Ancient communication stones.  They strike me as a ‘cop out’ for the non-SF aspects of the show (i.e. human drama, human interest, family, friends, etc.  … all circumstances and situations I can find readily enough on most any prime time series).

I realized on my re-viewing that both episodes presented the ‘flip sides’ of the ethical dilemma presented by the body swapping consequences of the Ancient communication device.

In the ‘Alliances’ episode, we ponder the questions:

When it isn’t your body, do you take risks the original owner would not, especially since you get a ‘get out of jail free card’ when you return to your own body?

And, should you discover that your original body has been lethally damaged, why not just keep the body your currently occupying?

In the ‘Hope’ episode, the alternative questions:

When your soul or consciousness returns from the ether (since your original body was murdered while you were using the Ancient communication stones leaving your spirit in cosmic limbo), what’s a body to do?  <pun intended>

Are we obligated to find a willing host, either temporary or permanent, for your essence to subsume?

I found it interesting that Col. Young was adamant that Greer be returned to his body when the cowardly visiting scientist attempted to refuse (once he found out his body on Earth had been exposed to lethal radiation levels).  And the Senator, within only a moment’s hesitation, firmly stepped up and volunteered to return and diffuse the bomb, regardless of the consequences to her life.

Yet, the very next week, Eli and Rush are fighting to keep Ginn and Amanda in Chloe’s body, each understandably selfishly wanting their recent lovers returned to them.  Chloe seemed strangely willing to allow her guests to remain and the only person to voice any protestation was Matt, the other male of this bizarre love triangle.

I half hoped the Ancient communication device would remain offline so we could get back to the mission, whichever flavor that might be (Young’s ‘Let’s Get the Heck Back to Earth’ or Rush’s ‘Damn Earth, the Universe Beckons’), but Telford reared his head before the credits rolled on ‘Hope.’

Crowding Chloe

After last week’s disappointing ‘Alliances‘ SGU episode, I admit to some skepticism prior to viewing last night’s ‘Hope‘ episode.  Tuesday evening ratings update:  ‘Hope’ gained 7% in viewership compared to last week’s ‘Alliances’ episode.

SGU 'Hope' aired 29 Mar 2011
SGU 'Hope' aired 29 Mar 2011

Destiny’s ‘crew’ (I hesitate to call it a crew, since no one but Rush really wants to be on board) has had no contact with Earth for days, so volunteers are manning the Ancient communication stones around the clock waiting for word about the terrorist attack and bomb threat (see last week’s ‘Alliances‘ episode referred to above).   Chloe relieves Volker, who looks ill and dizzy, so he goes to sickbay to see T.J. She takes his vitals and tells him he has high blood pressure (176 over something … can’t remember exactly what).  Volker knew he had high blood pressure, was on blood pressure medication, but also neglected to tell T.J. because he assumed there was no alternative homeopathic remedy (wrong).  Due to the long untreated hypertension, Volker’s kidneys are shutting down; T.J. breaks the news to him that the only treatment available would be a kidney transplant from a live donor.  Destiny’s sickbay apparently doesn’t include any dialysis-like equipment.

So, Volker gets a wake-up call about kidney disease (something I’m very aware of since my husband has been fighting to stay of dialysis for well over a decade).  T.J. surveys the crew for matching blood types, eventually finding two matches, one of which is Greer (no surprise there).  Without the Ancient communication device and access to Earth’s medical personnel, T.J. faces attempting a kidney transplant with a medic’s training (and some crash course reading from Destiny’s medical database).

Meanwhile, Chloe briefly nods off while connected to the communication stones and Ginn‘s consciousness manages to take control.  This turns into a bizarre love triangle (or is it quadrangle) between Ginn and Eli and Chloe (hosting Ginn) and Matt.  And as if Chloe’s brain didn’t have enough to do, Amanda makes an appearance, so suddenly Rush is really motivated to ‘save’ Amanda and Ginn.   So we went from two couples (both young adults) to three couples in about thirty seconds.  Rush’s solution, of course, remains the neural interface chair.

Chloe seemed unbelievably willing to let whoever run around with her body, very noble and self-sacrificial.  At least Matt showed some sense, standing up for her right to her own body.  Chloe does volunteer to sit in the chair.  She’s occupied by Ginn at the time, who has another choking fit (possible remnant of her murder by Simeon from last fall).  Alarmingly, as she’s gasping for air, Destiny has a power failure and mainframe reset.  Begs the question, was uploading her consciousness linking her life-signs to Destiny’s systems?  Young orders the chair turned off, over Rush’s angry protestations (since the transfer may or may not have completed).  Chloe collapses into Mat and Eli’s arms. Rush confirms two new programs in Destiny’s memory banks, one of which is active and operating somewhere on the ship.

Back in sickbay, midway through the transplant, with the mainframe off-line, T.J. nearly panics.  Amanda appears (only to T.J.) and helps her finish grafting Greer’s kidney into Volker.  As soon as the operation is completed, Amanda disappears.  We then switch to Eli in his quarters, where we hear someone knock on his door.  He sees Ginn and they talk, but can’t touch.

This episode brought several questions bubbling up in the cauldron of my mind:

Why was T.J. unaware of Volker’s hypertension?  Wouldn’t the only medical professional for these ‘shipwrecked’ people have set some kind of baseline for each person and checked periodically?

And if everyone’s on a vegetarian diet (as far as I can tell), wouldn’t they be losing weight and a lot of it?  How have Volker and Eli maintained their rotund physique on a much reduced caloric intake?  Which again leads me back to T.J. monitoring everyone for signs of malnutrition and other symptoms.

Finally, besides Matt, no one asked or discussed the ethics of downloading Ginn or Amanda into someone else’s body.  Does that ‘body’ get a say in this process?  I doubt Ginn or Amanda want to be zombies (i.e. downloaded into the recently deceased).  I equally doubt that any sane person would sacrifice themselves for a consciousness to be downloaded into them permanently.  I can see the possibility of something like the communication stones where Ginn and Amanda get a ‘day out’ or ‘walkabout’ or something to spend time with others (specifically Eli and Rush).  That’s the least morally repugnant option, provided the host is willing.  Otherwise, we’ll be creating the Goa’uld all over again.

I’ll give this episode three stars on a scale of five.  Definitely better than last week, but still just spinning the proverbially Stargate futilely.