Welcome back Stargate Universe fans!
In full disclosure, if you have not watched “Sabotage” yet and do not want to read any spoilers, turn back now as this article is full of them.
Fans kept asking for an episode of the Stargate franchise that showed contributions of people who are differently abled. Perhaps the powers-that-be listened.
As with all media that involve people with disabilities, you would hope that the writers, directors and producers can deliver a realistic portrait without melodrama that helps serve as a positive example for the community. Barbara Marshall delivered a great script and Peter DeLuise directed an emotionally powerful episode. I believe the Stargate Universe team delivered well on all of these points.
With the nature of episodic television, there is only so much research an actor/actress can do to bring an honest portrayal of the character they are representing. Ming-Na (as Camile Wray) did a fantastic job.
The opening shot of the Destiny gave us another perspective of this beautiful ship gliding through FTL (faster-than-light) travel. Mark Savela and his team continue to delivery magnificent visual effects.
Colonel Young (Louis Ferreira) addresses their current status to the crew and the need for rationing, the pain written on his face as he struggled completing the sentence that there was no hope in rescuing Scott (Brian J. Smith), Chloe (Elyse Levesque) and Eli (David Blue). Rush (Robert Carlyle) calls him to the control room to tell him more bad news: They need more power, but there is an expert that may help them.
He suggests Dr. Amanda Perry (Kathleen Munroe). Camile adds that Dr. Perry was on the team to bring the next generation of hyperdrives online. This communication-stone swap would not be any ordinary swap. Young assembles six of the women military personnel on board for volunteers. Dr. Perry has quadriplegia after an accident at the age 9. Second Lt. Vanessa James (Julia Benson) volunteers as the swap would last several weeks, and it would be a chance to visit her family for an extended period of time.
James and Dr. Perry swap consciousness and adjust. While Mandy sat there admiring the beauty of movement again, James cannot tolerate the respirator and the exchange is disconnected. Camile Wray then volunteers to save the ship.
In speaking with TJ (Alaina Huffman), James is upset that it is yet another opportunity where she let Colonel Young down. When she sees Camile (as Mandy) walk in with Dr. Rush, James becomes even more emotional. As they pass each other, Mandy recognizes James, but James quickly exits. In the mess, Mandy wants to sample some of the alien cuisine. Airman Darren Becker (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) offers her some, which Rush warns her is bitter, and Becker adds that most people spit out. To Mandy, they are heavenly delights. Meanwhile James stops abruptly in the corridor with a wild look in her eyes.
To my delight, Reiko Aylesworth has returned to her role of Sharon, life partner of Camile Wray. I particularly enjoy these two veteran actresses together who make their relationship believable. It is wonderful chemistry considering the short amount of time the actresses have had together.
Sharon has taken all of her vacation time to be with Camile. The ugly chair (referred to in the episode “Life”) is now gone. For the first time, you see Camile flashing a big, huge smile. Wray needs to smile more.
There is an unexpected explosion which drops them out of FTL, returning Mandy and Camile to their own bodies for brief seconds. The visual effects shot here is beautiful with the galaxy shown in the upper left corner.
Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) and Dr. Lisa Park (Jennifer Spence) arrive together in the infirmary to help with triage. I wonder what they were doing together (snicker, snicker)? In the control room, Mandy, Rush, Brody (Peter Kelamis) and Volker (Patrick Gilmore) speculate what happened. Volker volunteers to control the Kino for a look outside. James reports to TJ that she had a memory lapse before being somewhere else on the ship and then the explosion occurred. TJ writes this off as post-concussion syndrome. They bring in Dr. Jeremy Franklin (Mark Burgess) who has been catatonic since his encounter with the ancient chair. He appears to make eye contact with James.
The gate dials up an incoming wormhole. I thought for certain we would see one of the aliens come through (as per the MGM 1.5 trailer), but it is Scott, Chloe and Eli! I felt let down in a way, but it is always nice to get the unexpected; it keeps things interesting. Greer embraces Scott, so whatever he was working out emotionally from “Lost” was resolved. Greer is a very special person to be able to do live in the moment without grudges (with the small exception of perhaps the fray with Colonel Telford [Lou Diamond Phillips]).
Chloe was surprised when Greer said he was not expecting to see them again as she thought the Destiny crew figured out a way to reach them. Eli hands Rush his glasses. Scott and Chloe had time to reconcile, making Eli feel like the third wheel. They relate the story that on the third night, the Kino remote lit up and they dialed back. Colonel Young is ecstatic to see them back, but if the FTL drive cannot be fixed, they will be making that planet their permanent home.
Sharon gets Camile caught up on her life, but Mary (Catherine Lough Haggquist, formerly on Stargate SG-1 as another character), Mandy’s nurse, tells Sharon that Camile needs to concentrate on swallowing. Camile wants to be sure the situation is not causing anxiety for Sharon, but all Sharon cares about is that she is home.
In beautiful symmetry, James feeds Franklin. She feels like Franklin is there physically, but there is a disconnection between his body and his mind. It brings the story full circle. You have a main plot where Mandy has a disconnection from her body and her mind, with her body not functioning versus her mind; with Franklin, his body is working, just not his mind (at least to the people around him). James tells TJ about her nightmare where she is not herself and cannot get out.
Eli and Mandy get acquainted. The “math boy” nickname has gotten old. Mandy was colleagues with Rush when Rush began to solve the mathematical proof that Eli eventually solved. I love how natural David Blue’s acting is when he says, “Woo-hoo. Look where it’s got me.” Mandy would do anything to be on Destiny right now, confiding in Eli that she has feelings for Rush. Eli finds this amusing and odd. She thinks Eli is judging her because of her disability, but Eli finds it difficult to believe anyone could have romantic feelings for Rush.
Back in the control room, the good news is the explosion removed the weakest link and all the other drives will become more efficient, and they will now make it across the void. Eli and Mandy suggest the robot help, which they have been programming, to make repairs. Rush mentions the chair is another option and Young promises that if it comes down to it, he will sit in the chair himself.
The robot is amazing. It looks like a combination of a spider with a 1930-1940 diver helmet on top. Glorious music accompaniment, courtesy of Joel Goldsmith, is paired with introduction of this fantastic visual effect.
TJ wants to get off the ship for awhile to visit the planet. As they gear up and prepare to go, Eli does not understand why it is necessary to send a Kino through when they just came from there. Young is wise to follow standard operating procedure: Alien ships had staked out the Stargate on the planet. There are no choices now; the ship has to be fixed. In another point of symmetry, Sharon is also feeling cabin fever so Camile sends her shopping.
Another great song to accompany a montage that shows what life is like 3 weeks later on the ship. The song is “Only If You Run” by Julian Plenti:
I’ve had my frustrations about the pains of daily life
I’ve tasted degradation and found the lace and candle light
But we have the weights, we have the measures of our days and nights
I’ve had my frustrations, but now, I’ve found my place
And you will make it
But only if you run
These lonely dedications I’ve found, they bring me peace and light
When three-fold applications of doubt surround my fate, you might say
We have the weights, we have to wage an assault on what it is
‘Cause harmless medications abound, and you’re not sick
You will make it
But only if you run
Greer has gotten his head shaved by Becker (a new job duty for our beloved Becker).
Brody has built a still. Go Brody! You may have rationing imposed on the food sources, but there is always extra to make alcohol! They could tap into this still to create antiseptic as well.
After sharing her nightmare with Chloe, she suggests to James that perhaps it was not a nightmare. Rush and Mandy visit the newly set up bar. Mandy talks about her dream of walking again after her accident and now she is living it. Rush seems uncomfortable hearing her talk about this.
It got me thinking about this: Is it a blessing or a curse to have a disability and to get an opportunity to live without it? How would your family feel? As many of you know, my child has autism among several other disabilities. I often have said that I would give anything to be able to have a conversation with him for 24 hours. Because he is nonverbal and has a very limited sign language vocabulary, I have no idea what the world is like for him. I have a mother’s instinct of when he is “off” or not feeling right, but like an infant, I have no idea exactly what might be bothering him. I imagine that he will have a reduced lifespan not being able to tell a doctor his symptoms.
I do not know if he knows any world different from the one he knows now. When we see further in the episode the possible way Franklin is viewing the world, I wondered if that was the same way my son sees the universe. But on the flip side, once he went back to the way he is, there would be a definite grieving process for me, and all the feelings of loss would come rushing back to me. I am sure after I moved past that, I would see the opportunity as a blessing, but it would not be immediate. As he would return to a world that has limited communication, would he miss not being able to express himself once again and would that cause behavior outbursts since that would be the only method of communicating once again? While contemplating this, it brought up a whole range of emotions for me.
Back to the SGU episode, Chloe and James visit Colonel Young. James believes she damaged the FTL drive.
Mandy shares with Rush how she feels about him and invites him into her quarters. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Rush is torn between wanting to be with her, but having just relived his wife’s death in “Human”, the grief and the feelings are fresh in his mind, as if he were experiencing the pain all over again. Mandy says that just touching him this time to comfort him is something she was not able to do for him before. They embrace, but TJ interrupts them.
Apparently an alien took over James’ body and sabotaged the FTL drives. Rush is not worried as the tracking devices are gone. Young wonders, however, if the alien broadcasted their location while Eli suggests that they may have looked up their location in the computer.
Back on Earth, Camile is upset because Sharon was delayed for hours. From the stress, she has a vasovagal response that sometimes occurs in quadriplegia because of a sudden drop in blood pressure. I noticed that Ming-Na worked hard on getting her chest rises and falls to be similar to a person on a ventilator during this particular sequence, remembering how Christopher Reeve had to time his speaking with his breaths. Sharon knows what it is like to wait for someone to come home, not knowing what is going on. After recovering, Major Peterson (Michael Karl Richards) comes in and tells them they must leave for the Air Force base soon.
On the ship, Young writes notes to TJ and Scott. He informs the crew what to expect. While Rush and Young walk to the room with the chair, Franklin makes physical contact with James and says, “The chair.” James runs to tell them.
The military prepares for boarding and defense. Rush talks to Franklin. They get Franklin to the chair and he tells them to leave as the temperature in the room drops. Riley (Haig Sutherland) is told to guard the door. The FTL drive powers up, and the Destiny jumps before any damage occurs.
At a tear-jerking good-bye, Mandy hopes that they’ll need her help again; Rush tells her he isn’t above arranging that (and we all know he is quite capable at manipulating those types of things). They kiss. In another moment of exquisite symmetry from when she came on-board, Mandy is reminded of the beauty and blessing of being able to move and in a flash, Camile returns.
Young and James look into the chair room to check on Franklin. When they open the door, Franklin’s body is gone. The easiest answer is to say that he ascended, that the chair helped that in some way in addition to him making the ultimate sacrifice. He did go from a character who was worried about self-preservation in “Air” to someone willing to give his life up to save the crew.
After all, how interesting would life be if we were given all the answers on a platter?
Time for you all to weigh in. What things did you like or dislike about the episode?
Leave some comments or visit me on Twitter by clicking my image below!
PBMom (Hilda Bowen)