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Stargate Universe: Human

I’m guessing reactions to ‘Human’ largely hinge on one’s enjoyment of Dr. Rush. Rush is one of my favorite characters (his devious nature notwithstanding), and I thought the idea of subjecting him to the Ancient chair was a fascinating way to explore his backstory while still advancing the plot (even a small amount). So at least half the episode worked really well for me.

I loved getting a peek into the inner workings of Rush’s mind and learning a little about the distant memories he’d most like to forget. In some ways, the most interesting aspect of these “flashbacks” is also the most problematic --- the semi-lucid trips down memory lane provide insight into the way Rush thinks, but present an extremely unreliable version of events. How much of what we saw reflects what actually happened in Rush’s past, and how much is shaded by the imperfection of memory and his conscious interaction with the waking dream? “You’re just a figment of my imagination. Reliving all of this is just a necessary evil. An unfortunate side effect of a process I can’t control. And it keeps getting in the bloody way of what I need to do.” Was Rush really such a workaholic ass in reality? Did he ignore his dying wife’s feelings so completely, treating her as a “distraction”? Or did his obsessive, indifferent behavior only reflect his current efforts to unlock control of Destiny? He was clearly breaking the “reality” of the past when interacting with his students and Daniel Jackson, but he also seemed to follow the basic flow of events to a certain extent. At one point, Gloria asks him why he’s at dinner and he says “because this is what happened.”

If Rush really was so distant in reality (which I suspect he was), it was likely just his way of coping. Protecting himself from the crushing grief of losing the love of his life. Everyone deals with impending death differently, and Gloria pretty much gave him permission to bury his head in his work, believing he had the chance to change things for the world at large, if not for her. “Don’t let that hold you back. When the time comes, I know you’ll be there.” So he forged ahead with the Icarus Project, trying to blind himself to Gloria's struggle and dull his own pain. But he wasn't there when the time came, and it is clearly his greatest regret.

Whether the bulk of the flashbacks reflect reality or not, Rush’s “confessionals” with Daniel and with a bedridden Gloria --- neither of which ever happened --- provided the best insight into his motivations and character. We learned that he devoted two and half years to unlocking the ninth chevron, while leaving his wife to “spend her dying days alone.” And it was all for nothing in the end, because Eli is the one that came along and solved the problem. Given that, is it any wonder that he’s so hell bent on discovering Destiny’s secrets? He didn’t come through for the person he loved most in the world when it mattered, but maybe, just maybe, if he can make a difference by unraveling the mysteries of Destiny, that choice will mean something. He’d rather die than fail again, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes.

I loved that the last scene between Rush and Gloria was essentially him being brutally honest with himself about his deeds of late. “What have you become Nicholas? The things you’ve done --- it’s not who you are. It’s not you.” He recognizes how terrible he’s become and that it’s disingenuous to lay the blame on his wife’s death by saying the man she loved died when she did. “I was never your conscience, Nicholas. You still have one of your own. You just need to listen to it.” He even admitted to himself (through Gloria) that he needs to make a change. “I know how much you loved me. Stop taking it out on everyone else.”

As usual, Robert Carlyle played all these scenes wonderfully. He completely sold the bitterness and resentment that Rush feels towards Eli (“he’s the genius I’ll never be”), as well as the heartbreak and regret for his actions towards Gloria. I loved that he only let true emotion show in a few subtle moments, and largely covered any signs of grief by being brusque and dismissive. It made those moments when he did give in to emotion all the more powerful, none more so than the final goodbye at the hospital. When Rush took Gloria's hand and said he’d never forget her I broke down crying because the moment so strongly evoked the pain of several personal losses I’ve experienced in recent years. Kudos to Mr. Carlyle for making the emotions of that moment ring true.

While I really enjoyed Rush’s part of the episode, I found the B-plot with Scott, Greer, Eli, and Chloe fairly uninteresting and borderline ridiculous. It is completely ludicrous that Eli and Chloe would be allowed to go on this away mission. Chloe simply has no place on an off-world exploration mission. She does not have the appropriate skills and is more likely than not to get into some kind of situation where she requires rescuing. And for this particular mission, Eli was too valuable to risk. With Rush out of commission, they may have needed Eli to save the ship if the chair experiment had gone awry. Moreover, aside from Greer staring down Eli after the “scared” remark (funny!) and the giant spider (shuddery!), the action down on the planet was rather tedious. Clearly the whole thing was intended to set up next week’s episode, but in the context of this week’s episode the doomed jaunt into ancient ruins just felt like a pointless distraction.

Other Thoughts

The episode had shades of A Beautiful Mind with the flashing code and wall after wall covered with formulas. Even the dreamlike nature of the flashbacks reminded me of that that movie.

It’s always wonderful to see Daniel Jackson. I kept wondering if his “interactive” behavior was a product of Rush’s thought process, or if he’d turn out to be some kind of Ancient guide (since, once upon a time, Daniel was an ascended being). The latter option wouldn’t really make a ton of sense, given the age of Destiny and Rush’s relative lack of connection to Daniel, but I was getting really strong flashbacks to a few SG-1 Season 6 episodes.

I appreciated the efforts to address the strain in Eli and Chloe’s friendship and Eli’s feelings of betrayal. The “mess hall” scene was nicely played by both actors, but I felt like they returned to their buddy-buddy dynamic far too quickly. He gives a half-hearted nod in response to her pleas for forgiveness (seemingly still very hurt), but within minutes he’s telling obvious fibs so that his best bud can come with him on an away mission. What?

No Wray this week, but Sgt. Riley was back! That was him checking the controls in the gate room. I’d almost forgotten what he looked like.

I was getting some serious Indiana Jones vibes from the B-plot. When Chloe was freaking about the spider webs I kept expecting her to accidently bump into something that got them into trouble (a la Willie in Temple of Doom). But instead they had her walk right into the path of a “sizable” spider with lots of hungry teeth. Ack. More “damsel in distress” garbage for that character. It was inevitable when she went on the mission, but still disappointing.

Louise Lombard looked way too good for a woman supposedly dying from cancer. Perhaps I can reason that Gloria's appearance was the product of Rush’s semi-lucid dream state. He wanted to remember her looking better than she did. Particularly since he wasn’t actually with her at her bedside when she died and wouldn’t have known how bad she looked.

Watching Gloria say goodbye to her violin student for the last time brought tears to my eyes. The extra long hug was heartbreaking.

The classical violin score for Rush’s flashbacks was the perfect accompaniment. It set the mood and tone for those scenes beautifully.

I thought it was very weird to hear people calling Rush by his first name.


Eli (under his breath to Chloe): “Say something archaeological.”
Chloe: “Stratification.”
Sounds more geological to me.

Daniel (in response to Rush writing ‘46’ on his board): “Well, it’s not the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. That’s 42. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
I love that they gave this week’s geek reference to Daniel!

Daniel: “I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘23’ enigma.”
Rush: “Yeah, it refers to some ridiculous notion that everything and anything is connected to the number 23.”
Apparently the Lost writers are fans of this notion.

Rush: “I was trying to be a bit more optimistic.”
Young: “That’s a little different for you.”

Final Analysis: I was both fascinated and moved by Rush’s story in ‘Human,’ but could have done without the away team’s misadventures as the B-plot. Even though that story seems to be setup for the next episode, its tone and style felt very jarring when juxtaposed with Rush’s much more intimate tale and took something away from the episode as a whole.

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


  1. Yes Riley is back! But then again Rush experience on the chair means that Franklin will not awaken suddenly with Ancient knowlegde and will probably die.

    On another note i'm dreading the new status quo where they will apparently have control over where Destiny goes which they obviously will have becasue they need to get The genius, Lt. Hornypants, Sgt. Greer and the load back. Also i don't want Rush to change too much. We need Rush-Young conflicts.

  2. One thing I was curious about, by the end of the episode, was exactly what brought about Rush's change in demeanor. Had he actually come to terms with his past, or had the information downloaded from the chair actually erased those memories? I'd perhaps need to watch the episode again to check, but I was sure they mentioned that the chair might damage his memory, and Rush himself said inside the lucid dream that he'd picked a memory he'd sooner not remember.

    Like Patryk, I'm also worried about the status quo. Hopefully any control they gain over the ship is extremely limited, perhaps more about 'tricking' the ship to do what they need than directly controlling it (like when they fired Destiny's weapons to drain power, and trigger another sun-dive). That said if Rush has unlocked the master control code, I'm not sure how their access would be limited, unless it was down to Destiny's aged state.

    Last little thought: I actually didn't mind the planetside B-plot, but it definately felt really out of place next to Rush's story (particularly the cut between Rush inside the chair, and Eli and Chloe joking around trying to get onto the away team). And that spider, although Scott's description of it was hilarious, seemed too many flavours of ridiculous. It was just a normal spider, but oversized, with human teeth. Couldn't they at least have come up with some truly alien bug for the other side of the universe?

  3. Finally!. A half decent episode in this disastrous second half of the season.

    Or should I say, a very decent half of the episode (Rush) with a completely ridiculous other half (tunnel). It's like they can avoid sinking their own episodes.

    I hope we can get more of the first and less of the second. Perhaps there is hope for SGU after all.

    PS.- I wouldn't mind at all if they left those characters there forever. I'd just add Young, and since even Eli is now dead to me (what's that ridiculous forgiving?), no loss at all to the series or the ship.

  4. "they CAN'T avoid sinking their own episodes"


  5. Much as I enjoy Rush as a character I found this episode a little underwhelming. The performances were all top notch it was just that Rush’s tragic backstory felt a tad too predictable to be truly heartbreaking. What saved it for me was seeing Robert Carlyle and Michael Shanks act off each other, no matter how briefly. Loved it that Daniel quoted Douglas Adams. You can never go wrong with a bit of Hitchhiker’s.

    Didn’t mind the b story that much until Chloe started throwing a tantrum over some cobwebs. Jeez, that girl just can’t help being annoying, can she?

    However, I do like that there wasn’t a last minute rescue. They got left behind. Even if it’s only going to be for possibly another episode it was a nice twist.

  6. Long time reader of reviews on this site, first time poster. No episode is complete in my mind until I read its review on this site. Mistakenly erased "Human" off my DVR before I could watch it a second time. Leaving aside the awful B story, did they give a hint about Rush's potential motivations in this episode?

    I have trouble keeping the 15 years of Stargate mythology straight in my head, but:

    1. In addition to laying the Stargate network, aren't the Ancients supposed to have "seeded" other planets with human life, including our own.
    2. Didn't Rush's wife say she was dying because of a defective chromosome?
    3. Given that time travel is allowed in this universe, could Rush be trying to save his wife through the seeding technology, which would necessarily involve DNA/chromosomes?

    Does that make sense to anyone else, or am I trying to make 1+1+1=5?

  7. As always, thanks for the comments all. I think it is cool that I completely focused on the character implications of what we saw, while a lot of you were more intrigued by what finding a clue to Destiny's key code would mean. I've noticed this in other Stargate commentary I read. I always hone in on the character-related stuff while others are more interested in the sci fi stuff like the aliens and the ship tech. I like that there is a little something for everyone with this show.

    Patryk --- I'm glad to know I'm not the only one concerned about the fate of the third tier crew members!

    Joe --- I don't think that Rush's memories were erased. I think he went into it knowing that was a possible side effect of the experiment, and thus selected memories he *would* like to forget in case the worst happened. But with the way things played out, I think he emerged from the chair with the code clue and his memories intact.

    Anon --- I'm glad that you finally found an episode you could half appreciate. :)

    Mark --- what I liked about the backstory stuff is that because of the way they framed it, it told us more about Rush than "just the facts" about his deceased wife. So even though I've long suspected he had a dead wife motivating him, I didn't find the way it played out predictable.

    RB --- thanks for posting! Welcome to the Billie Doux commenting community. I previously thought that Rush was searching for some kind of key to ascension to bring back his dead wife. But after this episode, I'm not so sure. I don't know what specifically he thinks Destiny's secrets will mean for mankind, but he seems to think it will be significant. And he *has* to find the answers to validate his past choices. Or at least make it somewhat easier to live with them. And the DNA comment was just the "House moment" that clued Rush into '46' being a reference to human genetic code, which is apparently the key to unlocking control of Destiny. But that's just my take.

  8. Jess, the last paragrapgh was what i wanted to write as a reply to RB but you worded it far better then i would have. :)

    I'll just add that we can't be certain if it really was a genetic cancer, maybe it was just part of the clue supplying distorted reality. After all that hospital scene never happened.

    As for motives time travel and DNA alterations don't seem in SGU style. Even if they attempted such a story i doubt it would end well for dr. Rush. This is a show about disfunction so they don't want to heal any of their wonderfully flawed characters.

    Anyways it's an episode that gets better with every rewatch.

  9. I didn't get to this one until last night (and as a happy result, was able to watch this week's episode directly afterward) but I thought it was very good. I do like Rush, mostly because he's so complicated and unpredictable, and this episode explained a lot of why he's the way he is. I was moved by his wife's death, too. He knew he was reliving events while in the Chair, and knew it wasn't real. He was trying so hard not to engage, but he finally couldn't help himself.

    You're absolutely right that it was stupid for them to risk Eli, with Rush possibly irretrievable. But I disagree about Chloe -- I thought this was her best episode so far.

    I would absolutely love it if they could write Daniel Jackson into the story as an Ancient spirit guide of sorts. He felt like one.

    Lovely review, Jess.


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