Stargate Universe: Life

I’ve grown to enjoy Stargate Universe overall, but after reading the teaser blurb for ‘Life,’ I was not looking forward to the episode. The notion of Scott and Wray visiting their loved ones on Earth via the communication stones was seriously unappealing. I detest the stones, and had little confidence that this episode would do anything to address the serious moral and ethical problems with their use. Plus, I’m not a big fan of Scott’s, so spending extended getting-to-know-you time with his character was not high on my list. In fact, we postponed watching this episode until Sunday night, because we just couldn’t muster up the interest to watch before then.

So, my expectations going into the episode were pretty darn low, and sadly, ‘Life’ did not “disappoint.” The episode had some interesting elements (namely Rush’s chair discovery and Camille’s evolving mental state), but the rest of the story left me largely bored or irritated.

I really hate it when people trot out the “soap opera” label any time a show dares to explore human emotions, relationships, and dynamics. Science fiction isn’t only about cool science, aliens, time travel, or stories set in the future or alternate past. To my mind, it is often about exploring the human condition through a different lens; giving light or new perspective to issues and ideas that might otherwise be difficult to tackle. Emotions and relationships are a huge part of that. And when it is done right, I say bring on the human dynamics. But several of the major plots in this episode felt like they came right out of General Hospital or Days of Our Lives.

The stuff with Emily, Telford, and Col. Young is just plain painful. If they aren’t going to use the story to explore or at least discuss the inappropriateness of what Young and Emily did, then for goodness sake, just let it drop. I don’t want to watch Telford sneaking around being Emily’s “friend” or Young hijacking other people’s bodies to put a hurting on Telford. It isn’t good drama; it is cheesy soap opera.

And Lt. Scott discovering he has a child he never knew about? Please. Is this supposed to give the guy interesting layers? I honestly could not care less.

On the other hand, I did find Camille’s part of the story interesting. While I really hate the whole device of using other people’s bodies to visit and “reconnect” with loved ones, I felt like in Camille’s case the writers actually used it to move her character forward. After her visit and the crushing reveal that they weren't within a year of getting back, she seemed to finally come to terms with her situation and resolve to deal with it on her own terms. In her Destiny shower scene, I thought she reached the point where she found the determination to cope and then pulled herself together. I’m hoping that this is a turning point for her character and that she now takes a more active role on the show and on the ship. I’m expecting to see her start forming her own team, and begin actively opposing both Young and Rush, as suggested by her boss.

I also liked the parts with Rush’s discovery of a prototype chair / Ancient repository. This thing could actually lead the story in some cool directions, and I loved all of Rush’s little head games surrounding the testing of the chair. Particularly since Young wasn’t willing to play. Watching those two jockey for position makes for some entertaining drama. I was intensely amused by Rush trying to justify his actions, claiming he was just trying to give people hope. Ha! Weasely, manipulative little bastard.

Other Thoughts

Again, I was hugely disappointed that they chose to not address the basic problems with the communication stones and with letting people trot off the base to do whatever they want in their borrowed bodies. I repeat: the audience really needs to understand the “terms of use” agreement with these things.

I was even more perturbed that they introduced the “side effect” of Scott suddenly having memory flashes from Telford. Right. The writers can’t be bothered to address the real moral issues, but they will make up some “techie” side effect and act as though that’s the real danger of the things. Sigh.

How come the male characters never have shower scenes? (No, Telford's locker room scene doesn't count.)

It was a nice touch to see Franklin still wearing the bloodied shirt from when he got shot.

I did like the song they had playing at the beginning and end. “It’s been the worst day since yesterday” is perfectly suited to their situation, and it made me smile.

Always nice to see the lovely Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle, 24). Sharon and Camille seem to have a strong, supportive relationship. Too bad we had to see it through a communication stones encounter.

Dr. Park is now in the running for biggest “playa” on the ship. If she keeps up her rotating bed mates, she is quickly going to supplant Lt. Scott as the crew’s biggest horndog.

Final Analysis: My least favorite episode so far. I find myself desperately wishing someone would sabotage the communication stones and take them out of the story-telling device rotation.

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

9 comments:

Eldritch said...

"It was a nice touch to see Franklin still wearing the bloodied shirt from when he got shot."

On the other hand, wasn't it great that during the panicked evacuation from Icarus, while under alien attack, they had the foresight to grab all those gym clothes so they'd have appropriate togs to do calisthenics in!

Billie Doux said...

I knew you wouldn't like this one, Jess. :) It did have its weaknesses. Yes, I don't like what they're doing with the stones, and the subplot with Young and his wife is really irritating. But I loved the calisthenics. I also loved the stuff with Rush and the Chair.

citten said...

One of my problems with the stones is when they go of to see loved ones, what if someone that knows the body/host sees them kissing other ppl. As everyone else, I find the whole thing with the stones very ... well... both disturbing and lacking thought of consequenses.

But, the episode - I liked it. Some of the scenes with Camille and Sharon made my tear up, and I found all the scenes with them very sweet and appealing.
Rush, I just love him. Not that he's lovable, but he's a very intriguing character, and not surprised at all with his little fib.
The Scott and Young-plot things... Well - didn't care for it all that much. But the other parts of the ep made up for it. In my opinion at least

Paul Kelly said...

Hi Jess, I'm totally with you on the stones thing. For me, it completely removes that feeling of separation. They're supposed to be (at least) a year away from home. If various crew members can just pop back to earth every time they fancy a chat (or sex), then it removes completely that feeling of isolation.

Also mildly annoying is when, rather than identifying themselves to their loved ones, they instead pretend to be crew mates. I hope they don't do this too often. I'm sick of it already.

Mark Greig said...

Best thing I can say about this episode is that at least there was hardly any Chloe in it. This was just boring filler material, nothing more, nothing less. I know they’re trying to make this show more driven by character rather than gate missions but if that means we have to endure more episodes like this then count me out.

Like everyone else I’m tiring of the constant use of the communication stones. My main problem with them is how bizarrely accepting everyone’s loved ones seem to be about the whole thing. For once I’d like to see someone totally freak out about the situation not jump straight into bed.

Mark Greig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess Lynde said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by the stones! Aside from my general issues with the things, I agree with Paul that the story and characters would benefit from being more isolated from Earth. I think their situation has plenty of drama to milk without resorting to off-base excursions with "bizarrely accepting" loved ones (to quote Mark).

Eldritch, I'm still laughing about your comment on the workout clothes! My only potential explanation is that they were planning to go through the gate on the Icarus mission at some point, so maybe they had some supplies packed and standing by. Then when they had to evacuate unexpectedly with the "wrong people," that stuff got taken along. Still strange that it all seemed to fit so well. :)

Patryk said...

Maybe Young little Volker impersination will stop the stone-induced visits for at least a while. Next ep is the midseason finale, so i expect something to come to a head. Most likely the chair and Rush vs Young.

Matthew said...

The only thing that'd make the communication stone business palatable for me is if they'd used them from the very start with the mimic devices that they had a couple of times in SG-1. That way at least they'd sort of be there in body too.
Otherwise - blah.