Stargate: Universe – Recap & Review – Air, Parts 1 and 2

photo: syfy

photo: syfy

Stargate: Universe
Air, Parts 1 and 2

Original Air Date: Oct 2, 2009

Em – TwoCents Reviewer
em@thetwocentscorp.com

A ship travels silently through the void of space, its corridors empty and lifeless until the onboard Stargate is activated. A soldier comes tumbling out of the wormhole, closely followed by waves of people, some of them wounded, all of them scared and confused, and chaos ensues as the newest addition to the Stargate franchise begins with a bang.

Our first soldier, Scott, radios back through the Gate to slow down the evacuation but gets no response. A sinister long-haired guy surveys the scene with a very creepy smile. The wormhole collapse and a severely injured colonel puts Scott in charge. Scott asks where they are, and Eli says that Rush knows. Reality shifts in an alarmingly Technicolor way.

Cue our first flashback of the episode. Eli is trying to solve a supposedly impossible problem in a video game. He finds a solution that should have worked, but nothing happens – nothing, that is, until General Jack O’Neill comes knocking on his door, along with our sinister friend from before, Dr. Rush. They present him with a nondisclosure agreement and beam him aboard the spaceship Hammond.

Eli and viewers new to the franchise get a crash course in Stargate Basics. The Stargates were built by aliens called the Ancients, they establish wormholes that allow nearly instantaneous travel from one planet to another, there’s this weird ninth chevron we don’t understand, etc. Actually, that last part is pretty important even if you have been playing along at home for the previous 15 seasons. Gate addresses within our galaxy have seven chevrons; an eight-chevron address was discovered that led to the Pegasus galaxy. There was also a nine-chevron address, but we can’t dial it, so the SGC set up Icarus base to figure out how.

Back in the present, Eli and Scott find Rush on an observation platform, and they find out they’re on an Ancient spaceship traveling faster than light. The life support system isn’t working properly and the air is getting thin. Meanwhile, the colonel is having a seizure, and also a flashback – there’s a lot of that going around today. His wife wasn’t happy with his distant and mysterious postings.

Flashback on Icarus base. Colonel Young radios Scott, who can’t answer right away because he’s, er, busy. With an attractive female soldier. In a storage room. The passengers on the Hammond beam down to the base and Senator Armstrong introduces his assistant Chloe, who is also his daughter.

The Stargate on Icarus base is tied into the planet’s core for power, since dialing the ninth chevron will require an enormous amount of energy. It will also require the exact right amount of energy, which they hadn’t been able to channel. This is where Eli comes in; Rush has applied his solution from the video game to the Stargate. This time, it should work – but it doesn’t. The ninth chevron refuses to lock.

Back in the present, Scott breaks the news about the ship to everyone else. They are not pleased, and he gets into a bit of an argument with the senator, until the pain from Armstrong’s injuries gets too bad.

Icarus base. They take a break from the problem to have dinner, where Armstrong toasts Chloe, making her extremely uncomfortable. Rush sneaks off by himself and looks at a photo of someone I’m guessing is his wife. Dinner is interrupted with the news that the base is under attack.

Ancient spaceship. Rush wants to reset the life support system, but Eli says that it would overload the system. Wait, are you telling me that the video game taught Eli how to read Ancient? I am only willing to suspend my disbelief so far, Universe, and you’re pushing it here. Sergeant Greer pulls a gun on Rush.

Icarus base. Young rushes to the detention wing and releases Greer. There are some very Goa’uld-looking ships firing on the Hammond, and Sam Carter says they might be the Lucian Alliance.

Spaceship. Scott orders Greer to lower his weapon, and Rush resets the life support. Nothing happens. It’s the blonde medic TJ’s turn for a flashback, and we see her talking about leaving the program.

Icarus. The fight is getting ugly and there’s a dangerous energy spike in the planet’s core. Young orders the Gate be dialed back to Earth. Rush wants Eli to help him figure out the ninth chevron because this could be their last chance – the planet could explode under the attack. Eli guesses that the nine chevon address only works if dialed with Earth as the point of origin. Rush cuts off the dialing sequence and tries the nine-chevron address again and this time it works. Young orders the Stargate shut down so they can dial Earth, but the system isn’t responding. Elsewhere, a corridor collapses, trapping several people, including Armstrong.

Spaceship. Rush finds a starmap that shows them the ship’s journey. They are billions of light years from Earth.

Icarus. Young orders Scott to lead the evacuees through the Gate with supplies. Young and Greer blast through the rubble and start pulling out the people who were trapped. Armstrong comes through last, claiming he’s fine. The last of the evacuees go through the Gate, though Young nearly doesn’t make it before the planet explodes, taking the hostile ships with it. We’re now back where we started.

Scott organizes parties to search the ship, urging caution and preservation of supplies. Rush sneaks off with an Ancient communication device. For the uninitiated, these things work by allowing the user to take control of someone very far away. Rush takes control of Dr. Bill Lee’s body back at the SGC.

Scott finds a bulkhead door that won’t open. Eli opens it from the command center, only to discover it was closed to seal off a damaged part of the ship. Rush calls everyone back to the Gateroom, where he tells them about the communication devices and claims General O’Neill put him in charge. An IOA representative challenges Rush’s authority, as does Scott, who has chain of command on his side. Scott disperses the crowd before it can become a mob, and then suggests that Rush find a way to get them back to Earth.

The IOA woman has a problem with Greer, saying he was in detention for good reason. He gets called away to look for more damaged parts of the ship, which is just as well – the guy has some anger management problems. Scott is exploring, too, and sees something flying around the corridors. He follows it back to Eli. The ball is a remote controlled flying camera that Eli calls a “kino” and wants to use to explore the ship for damage.

Young wakes up and TJ fills him in on their situation. He tries to get up, only to discover he can’t feel his legs. TJ says that Young’s paralysis could be temporary, but she can’t tell for sure. Young reminds her that her tour was over two weeks ago, that she should have been in Seattle on a scholarship.

Rush discovers that the CO2 scrubbers are malfunctioning. Scott and Greer go to check one of them out and find it covered in black sludge. The CO2 build up will kill them in a day – less, if they can’t seal the leaks in the ship’s hull.

They find a shuttle that’s leaking air, but there’s no way of closing the door from the outside. Someone has to close the door from inside the shuttle. Rush wants to pick someone with less “valuable” skills. The others are disgusted with him.

TJ and Scott tell Young about the situation and he volunteers. He still can’t walk, though, and they refuse to help him. Armstrong shows up at the shuttle and asks them to tell him what to do. The door closes just as Chloe arrives, and she pleads with everyone to open it, but there’s nothing they can do except watch as Armstrong dies of asphyxiation.

Chloe flies into a rage and attacks Rush. TJ and Scott pull her away and Rush tells her he’s sorry about her father, but it isn’t his fault, that he didn’t create the situation. He gives her his word that he will make sure none of the dead died in vain. He sounds perfectly sincere, and yet I found my flesh crawling through this whole scene. Rush is creepy – and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. I don’t like him, but I am infinitely intrigued by him.

Rush finds some information about the ship. It’s called the Destiny, and it was sent out unmanned. The Ancients planned on using the Stargate to get to it once it was far enough out in the universe, but they never did. Rush thinks they might have Ascended by that time. Ascension is when consciousness leaves its corporeal forms behind to exist as energy. (It also involves godlike powers with an ego to match and a commitment to noninterference that makes the Prime Directive look like a joke.)

Under Young’s orders, Riley starts dialing the Gate to Earth, and Rush warns them that it’s a waste of power. Everything gets colorful and stretched out again for a moment, signaling a drop out of faster than light travel. The Gate starts dialing again, but not Earth, a Gate on a nearby planet. They send the kino to investigate the other side of the wormhole and find that the planet is just barely habitable.

Young decides to put together a team to check out the planet. There’s a countdown giving them just over 12 hours before the ship jumps back into FTL and leaves the planet behind. Eli volunteers for the team, and Young gives his approval over Rush and Scott’s objections. Young puts Scott in charge and tells him to keep an eye on Rush. The impromptu team steps through the Gate and the credits begin to roll.

Cliff-hangers always feels to me like a desperate plea to get viewers to come back next week, but in this case, I can hardly blame them. I’ve heard many old Stargate fans disowning Universe long before it even aired, and more who claimed they would watch it but weren’t expecting much. I wanted to keep an open mind, but even I wondered before the episode started whether it would make me want to keep watching or change the channel.

Even without the cliff-hanger, I want to see more. This episode held my attention, created believable and interesting conflict, and made me care about the characters. You can’t ask from more than that in a pilot. It wasn’t perfect. I was more than a little concerned to see them using slow-mo in the first four minutes of the episode. The sex scene was completely unnecessary – we get it, Universe, you’re trying to be edgier and more adult than your predecessors, but there are better ways to do that.

I like far more about this episode than I dislike, however. It pulled me in immediately, thanks largely to the in medias res beginning. The switch from present to past and back again meant that new questions were constantly coming up while enough old questions were answered to keep the episode from being confusing and frustrating. The camera work is different from what we’re used to from Stargate, but it’s gorgeous.

Most of all, the episode promises good things for the future. Colonel Young tells Scott at the end of the episode that “we’re going to need everyone on board to step up,” and I want to see how that unfolds, who can step up and who finds things too much to deal with.

What do you guys think so far? Good, bad, or somewhere in between? Any characters you particularly like, dislike, or are curious about? Give me your two cents!

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