Stargate Universe, what are we going to do with you? After last week's challenging episode, you give us a mind-numbingly dull and frustrating episode, which could have ruled. Instead, we were treated to more pointless sex scenes and stir fry.
My heart is broken with this series. And after being accused of merely wanting SGU to be "old-school Stargate," I hope the following analysis shows you that I'm demanding more from a series of which I was promised more. And that's why I'm tough on this series — because I really do believe there is potential for SGU to be more than the old Gate. But let's get on with it.
So this week, SGU started a workout plan for the Destiny and then ran circles around character development for about an hour. And a new hero stepped up to take the place of "the voice of the audience." There are spoilers from here on out...
"Life" opens up with with jolly tune from Flogging Molly called, "The Worst Day Since Yesterday," from an album that came out in 2000. Now, I, much to the despair of my college roommates, was a fan of Flogging Molly. And I even enjoyed opening up SGU with a bit of upbeat music, thus enabling a montage of "life aboard Destiny." But this choice was so on the nose, it's almost a parody of itself. I understand happy tunes with sad lyrics, but I'm not a moron. I don't need someone singing to me about how life is even harder today than it was yesterday while panning through the sad lives of the crew members aboard Destiny. This was good in theory, and might have even worked had they not slammed the music back into our heads at the end of the episode. Thereby bludgeoning the audience once again with the not-so-subtle lyrics. Still I applaud the use of upbeat and "different" music — that was fun. Not Firefly Mudders or "we're a wily band of space cowboys" music, but still fun, I guess.
So as we're panning through the daily activities aboard Destiny, what do we see? The crew wearing matching sweat suits, t-shirts and shorts working out. What. The. Hell. Would there be workout clothes in some of the bags thrown through the Gate? Sure. But I'm willing to bet my last dollar that there sure as shit wasn't tennis shoes for everyone on the ship, in the right size. So long gritty reality, hello Jane Fonda workout moment! I'm surprised they didn't take out their ipods and Sharper Image docking station, and start running around to "Let's Get Physical." How's that for singing about what's actually happening while it's happening?
The crew is running laps, and this other character Franklyn is looking at his food that he can't grow in this green goo, science lady is having casual bra-on sex, and Eli is sleepy, yeah this really is the worst day SINCE YESTERDAY AMITRITE.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Lou Diamond Phillips has decided to become friends with Young's Earth wife. Because of logical reasons: Lou wants to screw with Young not only on Destiny but off it as well. This is a totally logical thing for a high-ranking official to do, this in no way shape or form will get back to him, and he won't get in big trouble for potentially jeopardizing the lives of 80 people on a secret space mission. But you know, sex=drama on SGU. And we need more drama, so let's make it look like they might be having sex or something, I don't know. It's silly.
I was much more invested when this was just a T.J., Young, and Young's Earth Wife thing. When Lou first showed up at Earth Wife's house I thought, oh yay, backstory. But no, it's just unnecessary drama. Meanwhile, I don't even know enough about Young and T.J. to care about Earth Wife's issues. Too many ancient stones in the space fire.
But there's no time to develop this — we have to go back to Destiny, because Rush has found an ancient knowledge chair that beams information into a subject's brain. This could help people learn how to pilot and run the ship, but it's too old, and a later form of it almost turned Jack O'Neill bananas. So we won't be using it, not in this episode anyway. But that doesn't mean we're not going to fruitlessly argue about it for 15 minutes just to remind everyone that it's there and that Rush is kind of a dick, still. I would argue that Rush would totally sit in the chair anyways, since he pretty much has no problem putting his own life and others' in danger for knowledge. And after all, this is a knowledge chair. Instead we got slow burn foreshadowing, which ended at me screaming at the TV, "just sit in the freaking chair already." PLEASE someone, do something please. We know someone is going to — that's why it exists. It's Chekhov's gun on the mantelpiece.
Also instead of any knowledge chair sitting, Rush decides to make up a lie that there is a planet a year away that Destiny can get to, and in effect get back to Earth from, in hopes of raising the crew's morale. What was achieved by this? We already learned two episodes ago that Rush was a liar, possibly for Destiny's own good or for his own ends, when he made the ship appear to break down. This point was already achieved. But now the crew has morale, and we got 15 minutes of pointless arguing about a chair that has nothing to do whatsoever with this episode, and a fake planet that really, really proves that we can't trust Rush. Hell, didn't we know we couldn't trust him when he Gated everyone to Destiny in the first place?
In the words of the only character I truly relate to, vested scientist guy, "To hell with this."
But wait, there's more of nothing for you. It's Camille and Scott's chance for an Earth stone visit. First up, let's talk about Camille....
Camille is getting her private-time leave and is stopped in the parking lot by her civilian boss, in which he basically tells her to start a revolution. What, what? Very interesting stuff here. Too bad it's swept under the table for a montage of "respectable lesbian" actions which includes making stir fry, cuddling and taking a shower. Yes, it was nice to see the softer side of Camille but I can't help but feel this whole moment was wasted. Instead of building on her character they just showed two women with chopsticks. Do you know what would have been interesting? If Camille had mentioned what just happened in the parking lot minutes earlier. Let's start a dialogue that reveals something about Camille's personality besides all this "I love you" "I love you too and I'll wait" filler. We know they love each other, we saw it in the lovely moment she walked up to the door. Done, point taken, please move forward with the story. Camille is trapped on a space ship and stuck in the body of another woman, I'm pretty sure the conversation would come up. What a wasted opportunity to build on a character we know absolutely nothing about. What was gained from this little visit? We now know that Camille loves snuggling and stir fry but hates the chair in the living room. What a disaster.
Scott, on the other hand, finds out that the kid he thought was dead, and probably made his priest friend DRINK himself to death, is still alive. Because no one dies on Stargate. So he goes to visit his baby momma in the form of Lou. But uh oh, she's a "dancer" because that's another stereotype that SGU hasn't tapped into yet. Check drinking stripper with a baby off the list and let's move on. Can't wait to meet angry black guy and mouth breathing nerd... Oh, wait.
This is the problem with this show. By telling us that we're getting more and putting the Gate in a serious "we have sex so we're adults" TV drama, you have to build up the characters you put out. Instead, it's just a mess of cliches mixed in with a bunch of under-developed characters. The kid is too convenient, it's being used as some sort of emotional prop that I just can't work up the strength to care about. It's not necessary for Scott's character, especially since none of us really know anything about Scott. It meant nothing to me when I found out his kid was still around. Scott didn't even TALK about what this was doing to him, instead he just looked out the window. What are we supposed to do with that? This was an opportune time to build up this character and show his emotions, personality, regret — anything. I challenge SGU to go really dark and give the Senator's Daughter a complex, thus getting pregnant with Scott's Destiny baby to one up the Earth baby in a fit of "I can't be alone". It seems like something she would do, but she won't. Instead she'll just show up in make up and be kinda supportive. Please let this be a hot button for Senator's Daughter or something, is that what the "not til now" reference meant?
Perhaps there are just too many characters, and not enough time. But let's take the time that we have and do something with it besides making people have sex and giving them babies. Eli's last trip home was pretty good at doing this, watching him interact with his mother was lovely, if the only thing that it proved was that he deeply loved his mother and would do anything for her. That's something. Reality is more than babies, sex and people throwing up into the camera after doing space ship calisthenics.
And speaking of sex, let's take a look at what all this nakedness is doing for the women of SGU. As of right now, every single female character in this show is involved in some sort of sexcapade.
Let's list it off: T.J. had sex with Young, pre-Destiny. Young's Earth Wife has sex with Young and by stone relation Lou Diamond Phillips. The Senator's daughter is sleeping with Scott. Lt. James had sex with Scott in a broom closet. And now the other scientist lady is sleeping with two men on the ship, some guy and crazy Greer. Camille may have had sex in this episode but we're not sure — still, we know she's involved in a sex episode when her body is taken over in the future.
All of the relevant female characters are having sex. Even some of the irrelevant ones. Sure there are more men then women, but why must all the women be wrapped up in these horrible sex plots? What is this even doing for the show? It kind of breaks my heart to watch this happen because I in no way shape or form believe this is intentional. But if I see one more character in a bra, for no real reason other than because they can, I may cry. And I don't think that's the desired response SGU is going for. These women have got to be more than this, please let them be more than this. Give Camille a revolution, T.J. some dialogue, Senator's Daughter something to do besides yoga and sex, and so forth. Let them talk! Let them speak. I'll even take a little reveal in the forced therapy sessions, but of course all these characters avoided the opportunity, remaining hopelessly guarded, and leaving the audience in the dark. Let all the character's speak as opposed to yelling about chair that no one is going to sit in tonight or staring off into space.
And it really rubs salt in the wounds when a BSG character pops up for a split second, and reminds me of airlocking, and secret police, hot sex with actual consequences, fights, deaths and drama.
What did I like? Vested shirt guy. I know Eli is supposed to be the "voice of the audience," but I think we can all agree that vest-guy is filling in that role nicely. I also liked the idea of seeing the crew in different rooms doing different activities, even if it means all having perfectly fitting gym shoes. It makes you feel like you're inside the Destiny, and creates the illusion of time passing. But man, it just doesn't work when you bridge Lou getting his faced smashed in with a fun song...
That being said, I did enjoy watching Lou's face get all beaten and bloody, because he deserved it. Young is the man, as I've crowed about before and I'm glad he decided to take matters into his own hands. So what am I taking away from this episode, Scott has a baby and Rush has a chair. Let's hope the therapy session are done forever and we can focus in on fleshing out the women on board. If not, let's just give Young more time to beat up Lou, because if they're not going to get busted for all this tomfoolery wife-swapping body-swapping hoo-hah, let's at least put these two men in a room Thunderdome style.
Also, I'm slightly anxious to see what happen with Baldy, and it better be good because his slow burn, I'm running out of pills and mad attitude better have a big pay off, or at least tell us what the pills are for.