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Stargate Universe: Trial and Error

... in which Young has himself a pity party and another “worst day since yesterday.”

For me, ‘Trial and Error’ was the weakest episode of the season thus far. I think the previews (curses!) and our very first multi-word title got me excited for some forward story progression, and when all the action turned out to be a series of dream sequences, I was disappointed. I suppose we did get some forward progression on the slow downward spiral of Colonel Young, but the apparent resolution just felt too easy and quick after all the time we’ve spent watching him circle the drain, and it contributed to my dissatisfaction with the episode as a whole. I just find it hard to believe that one tough talk and a couple of shoves from Scott was all it took to pull him out of his drunken, self-pitying stupor. When he pulled on the uniform, showed up in the command interface, and was suddenly back in everyone’s good graces, my only thought was “Seriously? That’s it?” Given the show’s attention to lingering consequences, I’m sure he’ll continue to struggle with his assorted burdens, but for now it feels too clean and neat.

I was also unimpressed with the side story featuring Eli and Ginn. (I really hate that her name is pronounced with a hard ‘G’. It just doesn’t sound right.) While this B-plot was good for a few laughs, it largely made me uncomfortable and nervous because I don’t trust her (or any of her Lucian Alliance brethren). Something about her fangirl adoration of Eli just seemed like a possible cover for a more sinister motivation. Especially given that she quickly changed the subject to the pictures on the wall right after Eli noticed the mystery program running in the background. Maybe I’m just too jaded.

I did enjoy some aspects of the episode. The concept of Destiny testing Young and getting inside the crew’s heads is pretty cool (and kind of creepy). Rush revealing that the ship understands who they are and what makes them tick, makes me think that Franklin and Gloria are almost certainly manifestations of the ship. Likewise, I’m starting to believe that T.J.’s experience with her baby was the result of Destiny tapping into her brain to show her what she needed to put her mind at ease and keep her off the dark path she fears Young is now on. I’m also wondering how this ability ties into Destiny’s true purpose. Very intriguing.

I also enjoyed the dynamic between Wray and Young. I was impressed that he went to her when he realized something fishy was up with his dreams. “Well, you wanted to be a shrink, now here’s your chance.” I was equally impressed with her calm attempts to help him, rather than undermine him. At least until he completely cracked and locked himself in his quarters. And even then, neither she nor Rush attempted to seize power for themselves. “We’ve been down that road before. None too successful.” I guess Rush decided her prefers to play puppet master behind the scenes.

Other Thoughts

I was momentarily shocked when Scott got sucked into space, but quickly shifted to “This must be a dream.”

Rush: “I’ve been working on some fairly interesting equations. I thought you might want to take a look.”
Chloe: “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

Why in bloody hell would Rush share his secret about being this close to understanding the true nature of Destiny’s mission with Chloe? She appears to be turning into an alien and is almost certainly gathering intelligence for them. Is he that sure that the aliens will never find Destiny, or is he also under their influence somehow?

Wray: “You’ve been drinking.”
Young: “Yeah, well that’s not the problem, just one of the symptoms.”

I like that there was in-progress artwork on the table in Wray’s quarters. Nice bit of character continuity.

Is it wrong that I was happy to see Young turning Chloe over to the aliens in the third iteration of the dream?

Scott actually seemed much more capable of command in this episode, particularly in his scenes after Young gave him the brush off. At least until Rush and Wray challenged him to make it official, and he let his self-doubt creep in. Sigh. Perhaps he really isn’t ready to make the hard choices or live with them. It’s too bad, because, ironically, even though his motivating factor was to avoid taking over command, he showed some surprising strength and command capability when calling Young out on his self-pity and wallowing. There may be hope for him yet.

Scott: “For Rush it wouldn’t be a burden, and that is why we need you. Because you feel it.”

Final Analysis: First truly weak episode of the season for me.

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


  1. I liked this one, possibly a little better than you did, Jess. I agree that it wasn't the strongest episode this season, but I thought Destiny invading Young's dreams with strategic scenarios was interesting and creepy. (I thought it could be the aliens planting dreams, not Destiny.) And as you said, I liked that Young went to Wray with his problem. Asking for help is a big first step. Hopefully, Young won't be magically better overnight.

    I'm getting frustrated with the "secret bridge" plot. The fact that it's been hanging on so long makes me think the rest of the crew won't learn about it until the mid-season whatever, though. Sigh.

    David Blue is a cutie pie and Eli is my favorite character. I get tired of the stereotype that anyone who isn't model thin or a perfect ten can't get any romantic action. In fact, if I'd been Chloe, I would have chosen Eli over Scott. So I'm hoping the thing with Julie McNiven isn't some diabolical plan on her part.

  2. I've got no problem with Eli getting some, I just have trouble trusting in the purity of his love interest's motives. But I definitely hope it isn't a diabolical plan on her part. I'm a bit concerned that JM likely has a limited guest run. Poor Eli will fall completely for her and then she'll die and we'll all be sad and pissed. Erg.

    We seem to agree on the pluses of the main plot. I guess my frustration with the seeming quick and easy resolution really colored my final impression of the episode and left me feeling more negative than positive. The reader ratings so far indicate I'm alone in that. :)

  3. I think we're on the same page with SGU, Jess. :) Although we often have differing (and fun) opinions. SGU is already my favorite Stargate series. I don't know if they're just roping me in by being faux Battlestar, but the formula is working for me.

  4. While I'll agree that this was the weakest episode this season, I don't think that means it was a bad episode. I don't think that this season has put a foot wrong thus far, making this merely a good episode rather than a great one. I liked the character development in this one. Chloe, Scott and Camille were my least favourite characters in season 1, but the development all three of them are getting this season is fast changing my mind.
    Scott in particular I'm particularly enjoying so far, I like that he isn't another O'Neil, Mitchell or whatsisface(from Atlantis). He's scared of command, and who wouldn't be in this situation? So instead he bullys Young into getting back on his feet, with no thought as to what effects that might have in the long run. To me, that seems like a very human response.

    Along with Billie, the only are of the plot I'm getting frustrated with is Rush on the bridge. I'm finding it hard to believe that noone has followed him to see where he goes!

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  6. Interesting that people are so disappointed in this episode, as I really liked it. At first, I didn't like "it is just a dream" ... but then when we found out it was destiny testing Young's I was fascinated. Especially, because the way all the characters reacted seemed so real. Young, temporarily pulling himself together after being pushed by Scott, the crew falsely thinking that the reason the ship jumped was because of Young, Rush knowing that Young was falling apart but too impatient and focused on his own concerns ... all these things seemed in character. Young isn't out of the woods, but anyone who has spent time with someone who is drinking too much knows that they can pull themselves together for a few minutes. Destiny wasn't fooled by it, but the crew seemed to be ... I also think this show has the same feel as Battlestar ... and I think that is because it can be a little uncomfortable as many of the characters that you care about have some really negative qualities. The characters are a mixed bag and can behave selfishly and do things that make you not like them, but then they do something that does make you like them. Even Rush, who is right now unsympathetic because he is sneaking around, I wouldn’t be surprised if he redeems himself in some other way … only to sneak around and be selfish again.

  7. Hey,

    zob(nice name :)) no spoilers please!!. I try very hard not to watch previews.

    I want to believe that Eli's new fried is truly into him. That said, it was mentioned in previous episodes the Lucian alliance has a "grand purpose" intended to help their people to get food/some other important thing for the survival of their civilization. That means when the choice comes, and it will come, Ginn will have to choose between helping her people and helping him. And since she seems moral, at least so far (see the takeover episodes), her choice will be her people.

    So, bad luck for Eli.

    And, BTW how is it that no one finds out where Rush is? that is, no one there really trusts him - are we meant to believe that no one will follow him when he is no where to be seen?

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  9. It is probably safe to assume that Rush is shifty enough to make sure no one is tailing him when he goes to the secret bridge. :) But I'm sure he'll be found out at some point. Let's hope it is soon.

    Thanks for all the comments and theories, guys! Great to see other takes.

  10. Love reading everyone's thoughts about the episode. I agree with a lot of what has been said. I'm much more interested in this season than season 1. And this episode seemed like a hiccup especially after the dream-like sequence with Scott and Chloe's wedding. It was a promising concept that the ship was tapping into each character's mind. And there seemed to be so many wasted moments. Young didn't grow. The "scenario" wasn't really resolved - and it is a scenario that could come to pass. What will Young do if the aliens do come back for Chloe? Shouldn't there be more about Chloe changing? How many episodes has Rush been sneaking around. There have been a lot of references to - what is Rush doing - I'm surprised that it is taking so long to address this. There needs to be much more suspicion about Rush given his previous actions and the distrust that there is toward him. What I would like to see in future episodes is exploring more of how and why the ship is tapping into the character's minds and what that means for them and their mission.

  11. I just recently stumbled across this review, and in spite of how late to the party I am, I thought I'd throw in my two cents, but the way my comments end up, it'll probably be more like $2.

    I was about to chastise you for calling this a weak episode, but then I remembered back to the first time I saw it, and I too also thought it was somewhat weak at the time. One thing I hate about sci-fi is that too many stories end up being derivative, and at the time I thought this was just another Groundhog Day knock-off. However unlike this episode, those stories usually consist of a character caught in a trap that they need to think their way out of. Plus, this series of tests was destroying Col. Young to an extent not seen in other versions, and it made complete sense for the ship to put Young through a series of Kobayashi Maru's. Although, I wonder if the ship was just testing his psychological fitness, or if it had a specific set of decisions that he needed to make successfully that would allow him to pass.

    Now, I think this is one of the best stories of the entire show. I hope you have been able to rewatch and have reassessed your opinion as well. Col. Young's descent into despair was horrible/wonderful to watch, and has cemented into my mind the opinion that Louis Ferreira is among the most underrated actors out there. He is the emotional driver of this series, let alone this episode. Plus, I seem to like this series more with each watching.

    I particularly love the ending. One of my favorite sensations from any story is that moment where you get that cold sinking feeling, where you think everything has ended on this positive upbeat note, and then you realize that it was all a deception. The whole ship now believes that Young is the right man in charge, when it was merely Rush cancelling the simulation, knowing that he has just cemented Col Young as the ship's leader.

  12. Thanks for the thoughts, Greg. You can never be too late to the party, and I always enjoy hearing different reactions! With so many offerings across "the dial," these days, I haven't actually revisited SGU since the finale. I'm glad to know that certain episodes improve with time and perspective on the series as a whole, and I hope that when I do revisit the show someday I'll have a similar experience to yours. Thanks for reading! It's wonderful to know people still check in with the old reviews.

  13. As if I hadn't said enough, I realized a couple of other points that I forgot to jot down about this episode.

    1. David Blue looks so similar to Rich Sommer that this is practically "When Harry met Hildy" all over again.

    2. Was one of TV's most iconic moments "borrowed" from this episode? I'm talking about the climactic scene from "Crawl Space" on Breaking Bad. Hear me out one second. "Crawl Space" aired about a year later than "Trial and Error". It would have been likely that Louis Ferreira (or his agent) send excerpts of his best performances in order to audition for Declan for the following season. Of course, the scene from this episode that I am talking about is Young's third simulation, where he hands over Chloe to the aliens and is beat down by Scott. Bloodied, lying on the ground, he hears that aliens are taking over the ship, and his response is to burst out laughing.


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