Stargate Universe: Twin Destinies

... in which an attempt to gate back to Earth by dialing while Destiny recharges inside a star doesn’t go according to plan.

Wow. Well, that was a vast improvement over last week. Twisty time travel goodness, possibly hidden agendas and truths, great character stuff, and lots of spare parts. I could be cynical and choose to believe this whole story was cooked up simply to get Telford back to semi-regular status and to load the crew up with the spare parts and supplies they need going forward. But, like ‘Visitation,’ even if simple plot necessities were the genesis for the episode, the writers wisely crafted a tale around it that resonated on a character level and revisited some story points that were previously left wanting.

What I liked best about ‘Twin Destinies” is that it finally presented the crew with the momentous choice between pursuing Destiny’s mission or returning home. Rush’s big speech and the request for volunteers is exactly the kind of sequence I’d been hoping for following ‘The Greater Good.’ When it became clear in ‘Malice’ that the crew had decided to continue with Destiny’s mission, I was bummed we didn’t get to see any discussion about it. Sure, they didn’t have a lot of viable options given their circumstances, but it still felt like a huge decision and I wished we had seen everyone’s reactions and any ensuing debate.

Here, we finally get something close to that. Even though the crew we are moving forward with never had to make the choice, I feel like we still got to see our characters weigh their options and make that decision for themselves. After all, the difference between Other Crew and Our Crew is only a matter of hours. I was fascinated by the volunteering sequence, seeing who chose to stay and their likely reasons for doing so. It seemed that Volker, Chloe, and Varro opted to stay because they genuinely wanted to be on Destiny, fulfilling her quest for greater knowledge and understanding; whereas T.J., Scott, James, and Eli seemed to be staying because they didn’t want to leave their friends or loved ones. Young and Greer seemed to fall somewhere in between, staying out of their sense of duty.

I was so surprised to see Greer step up to the plate first, and with very little hesitation. I’m not sure why this surprised me, because it fits perfectly with what we’ve learned of his character, particularly in ‘Lost.’ He joined the military to make a difference and to be somebody, so I can see the Colonel’s brief comments about being willing to stay because he joined the SGC “for a reason” being all the convincing Greer would need. Plus, I think he just wanted to be there to back up Young.

I was also rather taken aback by Telford’s visceral negative reaction to Rush’s proposal. He’s the one who was supposed to lead the team through the gate to the ninth chevron address! Does he truly think they’ve fully investigated the ship and completed their mission? Because Rush is certainly right that they won’t likely get another chance to return. Not if it means blowing up another planet to get there. Or does Telford believe these are the wrong people for the job and that staying behind would be a certain death sentence? “There is no noble voyage to save the universe or to meet God or whatever it is that Rush has sold you on. There is only the day this ship dies.” Maybe he’s right and I’m letting myself be blinded by Rush’s mania to “learn the destiny of all things.” Perhaps I should have been rooting for everyone to choose to go home.

And yet, I find it hard not to root for Rush in this instance. Despite his secrets, lies, and hidden agendas, I’ve never doubted that he truly believes in the importance of Destiny’s mission. Nearly all his actions thus far are proof enough of the priority he places on fulfilling that mission. In this episode, it was abundantly clear from his nervous anticipation that he was preparing to make what he considered the most important appeal of his life, and I found myself wanting him to succeed. Of course, maybe I shouldn’t so easily forget all those secrets, lies, and hidden agendas. We don’t know whether his need to complete the mission is a noble scientific desire to pursue greater knowledge, or if he has more selfish motivations for wanting to change human understanding of the universe. I’ve long suspected the latter, but given his decision to sit in the chair as the ship was destroyed --- and his willingness to assist in his own suicide --- I’m starting to believe it may be a good bit of the former as well. I seriously doubt he thought he’d get anything from that final maneuver other than greater understanding.

Speaking of that scene, what fantastic work by Robert Carlyle. The whole notion of Rush agreeing to help himself die looks utterly ridiculous when written out --- despite being an interesting twist on facing your own mortality --- but Carlyle completely sold the emotion of the moment. I found his pain believable and affecting. Quite poignant, actually.

That said, Rush’s decisions in this moment raised some interesting questions for me. As he notes, it’s definitely not like him to go down in defeat with the ship. He’s nothing, if not a scrappy survivor. Did he do it because he knew the others would never believe Telford’s death was an accident? Or because he couldn’t live with the crushing guilt of accidentally killing Telford and possibly everyone from the original timeline? It seemed to me that he kept trying to deflect blame for their deaths onto Telford for trying to return to Earth, but given that even Our Rush thought Other Rush was holding something back (he knows himself so well), I suspect that deep down he believed his efforts to stabilize the wormhole inadvertently killed everyone. Perhaps after losing Gloria, Dr. Perry, and his shipmates, Telford’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Perhaps Rush reached the point where he couldn’t carry the weight anymore --- couldn’t continue to get up in the morning knowing they’d still be dead. And perhaps, knowing that another version of himself, without the guilt of those deaths on his conscience, would continue pursuing Destiny’s mission, he allowed himself to give up. I’m certainly interested to see how this affects Our Rush going forward. He seemed rather shell-shocked at the end.

Other Thoughts

I liked that the writers went with a variation on the “wormholes + solar flares = time travel” equation previously established in SG-1 and SGA.

This episode primarily focused on Rush, but I thought Eli had a nice little character arc, too. He’s been struggling with his confidence and attitude since Ginn’s death, but in this episode we initially got to see him returning to form. He impressed the brains at Stargate Command, then got his ego stroked by Brody and everyone insisting he’d be asked to be part of SGC. He was probably starting to feel pretty good about himself again, until Other Rush’s arrival completely cut him off at the knees. Now he’s right back to wallowing in guilt about how his brilliant plan got everyone killed.

Good use of humor again this week. I actually thought Volker’s redundancy joke was funny. Young undercutting the value of poor Brody’s mad dash to the bridge by waving the radio was also amusing.

Brody: “There’s practically no redundancy.”
Volker: “Practically no redundancy.”
Brody: “It wasn’t funny the first three times!”

Rush: “OK, could you tell me where else I’ve been banned from, save me wasting my time?”
Greer: “Pretty much any place that you can push buttons. … And I’ve got people where all the buttons are.”

I thought Eli asking if they would all still hang out was funny, too, and yet, kind of sad at the same time. Of course they wouldn’t all still hang out! Maybe Eli would keep in touch with Matt and Chloe (until they split up, then he’d just see Chloe), but my guess is that would be it. Unless his mom and Sharon have gotten really close, in which case, he might see Camille from time to time as well.

Too funny that T.J. couldn’t remember McKay’s name, and only recalled him as the brainiac that kept ogling Lt. James.

The Lucien Alliance arc is still hanging out there, but at least we saw that Varro is still around and we got mention of Ginn. I guess, if nothing else, the Alliance subplot provided this opportunity to scavenge extra supplies from a doomed version of Destiny. Sigh. I’m still holding out hope that it will amount to something more.

Greer standing up to Telford when he threatened to force them all to evacuate Destiny was a nice reminder of their history. “Good luck with that.”

Other Rush claimed the air on Destiny became too toxic to stay, but it didn’t seem to be an issue when they raided the ship for supplies.

The mad dash for supplies was intense. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something utterly horrible to happen. And then, of course, Other Rush accidentally killed Telford. I was initially shocked by this turn of events, but then I remembered we’ve got Other Telford back on Earth, so this one had to die. Same with Other Rush. I knew one of them wouldn’t survive the episode. It was just a question of how it would happen.

The smoke coming off Telford’s body was an unsettling touch. SGU does a great job with the dead body visuals.

I didn’t quite understand all the looks exchanged at the end (Eli seemed confused, too). Both Young and Camille looked very suspicious of Rush, which is an understandable default attitude towards him (and one I often share), but, in this case, what did they suspect? Did they think Rush colluded with his other self to kill Telford so that he couldn’t stand in the way of continuing the mission?

Final Analysis: A much stronger episode than last week, and another interesting character study for Rush.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


Jess Lynde said...

My apologies for the length of this review. I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow, and I wanted to get the review posted before I left. By the time I realized it had gotten insanely long, I ran out of time to edit it down. Hopefully, it isn't too burdensome to slog through!

Also wanted to give you all a heads up that the review for next week's episode ('Alliances') will likely be delayed until the following Saturday or Sunday. I'll try very hard to get it up before the next new episode ('Hope') airs!

Billie Doux said...

Great review, Jess. This was a terrific episode -- I loved it. I particularly loved the crew choosing to go home or stay, and the way Rush treated his other self. And I thought his doppelganger's death in the chair was a very Rush way to choose to go out.

Josie Kafka said...

This might be a stupid question. I tend to over-think time travel stories.

Why was Telford wearing Rush's clothes when we saw him exiting the Earth Stargate?

Jess Lynde said...

That shot was from when Original Flavor Rush used the communication stones to see how many people made it back to Earth. Telford was the only one who made it through, and was waiting by the stones to switch places with anyone who tried to make contact. He desperately wanted to know what happened to the others. So Telford wearing Rush's clothes was back on Original Flavor Destiny in Rush's body, staring around the empty gate room in bewilderment.

Not a time travel issue at all. Just a flashback + communication stones issue. Darn communication stones. :)

Josie Kafka said...

"So Telford wearing Rush's clothes was back on Original Flavor Destiny in Rush's body, staring around the empty gate room in bewilderment."

And, amazingly, that makes perfect sense. (Time travel is fun.)

Thanks Jess!

Anonymous said...

Despite Rush's hidden agenda, I've always thought that he believed in the mission and really wants to see it out. Part of that I suspect is he's hoping to find some way to reunite with his dead wife, perhaps through ascension. I saw Rush 2 sitting in the chair as a possible attempt to perhaps gain ascension, or at least something beyond destiny, while Rush 1 could continue on the mission.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't this be time travel AND parallel universe travel? Because Alt-Rush didn't encounter another Rush that warned him. If Alt-Rush did, then the episode wouldn't have ended the way it ended. Am I right?

Jess Lynde said...

I don't believe this was a case of parallel universe travel. I think it was more a hiccup in the flow of time in a single universe. The solar flare interacting with the wormhole created a 12-hour jump back in time, which altered the flow of time that originally led to the hiccup. So, alternate timeline, not alternate universe (because the Earth that "old" Telford returned to and later contacted "younger" Destiny from was the same as it ever was).

I believe the Stargate 'verse operates on the "you can change the past" model and not the "whatever happened, happened" model, so time travel wouldn't necessarily result in a parallel universe or timeline, just a changed timeline. But I'm not sure they've been terribly consistent about it over the years.