Hello once again Stargate fans,
The latest episodes of Stargate Universe were once again a delightful experience for the supporters of the current incarnations of Stargate by a large portion of the fandom in the United States and an overwhelming majority in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe as measured by percentage of the populations in those regions.
As we have reported previously and unfortunately for Stargate fans, according to Brad Wright’s recent disclosure at the Creation Entertainment Vancouver Stargate convention, the franchise has been placed on the shelf for the time being. The good news is that Stargate may (repeat MAY) be back in the future in one form or the other.
However, it is not likely we will see Stargate in the form of the three series Stargate Universe, Stargate Atlantis or Stargate SG-1. Why? For that answer we suggest you stay tuned to WHR as our team will have more on that particular subject in the near future.
In the meantime, this analysis review encompasses two outstanding episodes which are intrinsically tied together at the hip; “Common Descent” and “Epilogue”. Read on to find out just how much entertainment fun is in both!
With outstanding writing by creators Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, “Common Descent” was directed in typical awesome fashion by Stargate legend Peter DeLuise. Not to be missed are more superb effects under the guidance of Mark Savela witnessed in a wilderness like location where the descendants of the “other” Destiny crew was sent as a result of a solar flare Stargate time warp far into the past.
“Common Descent” featured superb acting by virtually the entire ensemble cast including the return of one of my favorite actresses, Ms. MingNa as Camile Wray. Normally confined to the environs of the Destiny itself or on visits to Earth via the Ancient Communications Stones, Wray is observed on a rare away team mission to a strange planet with even stranger inhabitants. I was very pleased to see MingNa return in “Common Descent” since she portrays the Camile Wray character so effectively.
The seventeenth episode of Stargate Universe opens with Adam Brody (Peter Kelamis) Dr. Lisa Park (Jennifer Spence) examining the air purification system which is in need on lime and other minerals to keep the air onboard the Destiny breathable. The recent encounters and battles with the heartless robotic drones have precluded the crew from locating the supplies they needed for survival. In addition to the air purification minerals, food stuffs are also in short supply.
Colonel Young (Louis Ferreira) and Tamara Johansen (Alaina Huffman) are observed sharing the concern discussing the bad air on Destiny which is causing headaches and nausea on board the ship. Both do a nice job in portraying officers able to focus on the business at hand, setting aside the fact that a relationship is developing between TJ and Varro (Mike Dopud).
Speaking of Camile Wray (MingNa) the scene then makes a segue to a fun and humorous scene with Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque) and Eli Wallace (David Blue). As the ship decelerates from Faster Than Light (FTL) speed, the two ladies are also discussing the need for supplies, specifically a horrid purple fruit procured previously as Eli enters the observation deck. As with most men being oblivious to such matters, Eli cannot for the life of him figure out why Chloe and Camile want more of the nasty tasting fruit?
Well this is one gentleman who knows the answer and I got a good belly laugh in the process! The ladies on board have not been enjoying or liking the fruit for the taste, they have been using the purple fruit as lipstick for goodness sakes! I guess we better get Eli some glasses because despite the evidence looking him right in the face, he cannot figure it out saying “why am I always the last to know?” As indicated it is a very funny vignette. So I must ask; Are most men so dense?! I suggest you ask your girl friend, wife or female soul mate. They will undoubtedly let you know in two words: “You bet”! So go figure!
Finding the three of them on the observation deck, Eli’s attention on the fruit and pretty lips quickly looses focus as the subject is the return of the hostile drones which have somehow located the poor and ailing Destiny and her crew.
The suspicion is that the drone captured previously and used for study to program a defense in the earlier attack may be the culprit. The orders are given to jettison the drone and Destiny make a jump back to the temporary safety of FTL. Each time the different angles of the Destiny entering FTL are witnessed one can only praise the special effects of Mark Savela and his team including Sonia Gilmore and Andrew Karr. Even more spectacular is a new angle of Destiny entering FTL where they will visit a planet in search of the minerals and food stuffs the crew desperately needs.
We are then treated to new guest supporting actors, fresh faces to be featured in both “Common Descent” and “Epilogue”. Some of the new faces include Reilly Dolman (Supernatural) as Jason, Kate Findlay (Fringe and The Killing) as Ellie and the excellent and well known veteran movie and television character actor August Schellenberg (Eight Below, Free Willy, Free Willy 2, Free Willy 3) as the elder leader Yaozu, who is named after her father, an ancestor of Camile Wray!
As we quickly learn, all are the descendants of the “other” alternate reality Destiny crew from the episode “Twin Destinies” whom escaped destruction using the time honored Stargate solar flare time warp factor to send the “other” Destiny crew thousands of years into the past.
These people of “Common Descent” are found living on a planet they were to colonize for the “home” planet of the “Novus Civilization” where a faction called “Futura” worships many things, but others do not think very highly of Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle).
In another of several very funny sequences, Yaozu recalls the other faction “The Futurans” who think Rush is a demon or devil who steals peoples souls and send them to live an eternity in a lifeless “hell”. No doubt inspired by memories of Rush manipulating the memory core of Destiny these are most enjoyable sequences with Dr. Park and Dale Volker (Patrick Gilmore) sharing differing opinions about Rush. This plot twist will play a key role later in the second part of this ninety minute “movie” imparted by Kino flashbacks.
No doubt the seeds of thought about Rush are what lead to the two diverse factions that think of him as a devil or futurist. In any event the colonists were sent from Novus to this new planet through the Stargate after determining the home world was facing imminent destruction from volcanic eruption.
Also most enjoyable is a scene an older woman from the settlement who says that Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) is more handsome in person than is his Kino footage. Like most women who enjoy Smith as Greer and the character he portrays, she appears to have a hankering for Greer! I would swear he actually blushes in the scene!
Unfortunately the colonists lost contact with Novus and apparently the ability to get back home since they cannot dial the Stargate to make a connection to the Novus gate. During the historical perspective we are delighted to observe the “other” Destiny crew in “ancient” Kino footage on a device similar to a USB hard disk drive. TJ has had a baby and is seen screaming through the process. We are happy to see birth not for the pain of childbirth, but since our TJ lost her child previously.
Colonel Young among others are observed as older people in an aged state and is sharing knowledge on their journey and salvation on the new world that will become known as Novus. Young is seen talking about the challenges that face them in generations to come.
While the crew we know from our reality are reminiscing over the Kino footage, the hated drones return attacking both the planet and Destiny destroying the Stargate ring and circuitry taking a huge chunk out of it on the planet colony. It was rather a nice scene to see a Stargate not fully destroyed. Very nice work by the field crews and VFX teams once again. The end result of this attack leaves many of our heroes stranded while they were evacuating the inhabitants of the planet to Destiny.
In the meantime Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) has ordered to Eli to try to fix the gate, an impossible task given the circumstances. Eli states that he can barely turn the power source off crystals off and on. Eli is an undisputed genius, but it takes the experience of the military officer to put two and two together to figure out to use the low power emanations as a Morse Code signaling device to signal Destiny.
A nice script writing mechanism (to say the least) to save the team left of the planet. This is not to mention the excellent overhead VFX sequence of the Destiny shuttle coming back to their rescue.
Forced to leave the area to save themselves before returning, we get another laugh at the humor as Dr. Lisa Park makes a joke about “Futura” being a “font” while Volker and Brody are observed bickering in their good nature banter we have come to enjoy from week to week!
As always the interplay between the Volker and Brody characters brings another moment of humorous distraction from the drone attacks and what is about to come next. As we have come to expect it is this great job at levity by both Patrick Gilmore and Peter Kelamis with a bit of ever present catalyst provided by Jennifer Spence!
We leave the first half of the wonderful two part adventure with the Destiny journeying to the home world of Novus. The shuttle is observed over an advanced city covered in what appears to be deep snow fall. No one is found on the planet and no electromagnetic radio emissions can be detected. What is the world has happened to all the millions of people of Novus and the civilization they have built?
We begin with another very cool, in fact outstanding VFX sequence with the shuttle coming in for a landing on Novus attempting to return the settlers to their home world. A statue of Col. Young is in the foreground. The away team is comprised of Eli Wallace (David Blue), Camille Wray (MingNa). Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker Smith), Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith), Jason and Yaozu. They quickly realize it is not snow covering the city but is instead volcanic ash. The fear on the faces of the away team are palpable.
We discover that the main weapon of Destiny will be used for another purpose. Yaozu knows where there is an underground bunker of the archives of the Teneran Archive. The Teneran’s were one of two countries created after the Rush faction setup their own society “Futura”. The archive is however protected by a very thick blast door and here is where the Destiny weapon will play a constructive role in gaining access to the archive facility where the secrets of the society are secreted.
Using a superb digital angle on the Destiny main gun, we see an energy blast leave the weapon from orbit and zoom towards the city archive bunker doors. It is another great special effect which is a pleasure to behold.
The team begins the investigation of the archives. Especially enjoyable is the elevator “Muzak” sequence. Along with all the crew, the look on Greer’s face sure to bring a grin to anyone who has been in such situations themselves.
Another scene with Greer illustrates the actor doing his characters part perfectly! Greer finds a food storage locker with beef jerky perfectly preserved after 2,000 years and immediately has a snack festival throwing a bag of the jerky at Dr. Rush! At least we know that the problems with Earth-like food will be solved for the time being!
During the initial reading of the archives, Chloe finds her own daily diary and her first entries from 200 centuries earlier. This effective use of brilliant science fiction writing technique allows us all to take a journey back in time to learn details about the alternate Destiny crew.
Each member of the crew is observed, many with tears in their eyes as they see their alter selves living life under initially primitive circumstances. In these sequences we see Varro (Mike Dopud) and TJ are not getting along while he sees Young and her kissing. A moment of sadness on is the expedition’s first loss, the death and burial of the alternate Dale Volker (Patrick Gilmore) character.
We also see other tender moments including Lt. Vanessa James (Julia Benson) and Lt. Scott discussing his pending marriage to Chloe. Despite the reputation she wrong deserves as a wild woman, James wishes him well and says that she is proud and happy for both of them.
TJ and Young get together again in the alternate story arc. To enhance the romance and hence need for couples, in fact survival, of course there is the making and delivering of babies!
Fans of the TJ Varro romance could be heard groaning in pain just like TJ above as James and he are making eyes at each other! Sure enough a little baby Varro/James is the result! We see then observe the many alternative babies being born with good ole’ Lt. Scott is standing by “on duty” with scissors to cut the umbilical cords! Everyone gets in the act including the proud poppa and momma Greer!
Even Eli gets in the act himself and finally has the relationship we all wanted to see with Corporal Barnes (Leanne Adachi) after the two “bust their buns” helping support the birth process of all the other couples!
And yes you guessed it, they are next on the list for making and having babies as the Kino visage documents the screaming Cpl. Barnes in the process of bringing new life into the universe while papa Eli look on in panic!
We observe the leading ladies of the community some years later. Chloe, TJ and Camile Wray are working in the vegetable gardens. TJ’s young child is growing up and playing in the crop fields of Novus.
Chloe sees him reading his diaries and teases Eli; “Something to pursue”? Throughout “Epilogue” Eli’s Kino footage coupled with the flashbacks from the computer journals is a great way to share the story and wrap the story arc of what happened to the alternate reality versions whom went through the Destiny Stargate and actually survived.
I often found myself wishing I could spend a lifetime in the Teneran archives to learn all about the characters and their descendants of the alternative versions. So many stories left to explore, and so little time!
The lighter moments of humor in “Epilogue” more than effectively demonstrate the path of character development in Stargate Universe. This outstanding episode clearly proves that the writers had planned, all the way along, great things for fans of this series in general and all the dedicated supporters of the Stargate franchise in specific.
The light moments are offset by the urgent situation that the planet Novus is being pulled apart by a Black Hole in the vicinity. The gravitational effects have led to the cracking of the planets crust and subsequent volcanic activity that led to the evacuation of the entire planet. We also learn that the two opposing factions developed into separate countries.
The current reality versions of our characters begin transfer of the Teneran archive database. Brody works with Eli to effect the transfer of the many exabytes of research. However we all know that dire circumstances will not allow then to discover all the secrets and research. This item will become critical as we will discuss in the coming analysis.
The transfer of the archive data is where everyone can learn a valuable lesson in life. What lesson? That people with differing opinions can learn to respect each other and work as a team to obtain progress rather than slinging mud at each other. Doing so in real life is never an easy process. We all have observed this senseless mudslinging on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as in the interactions of our real lives at work, in politics and even at home between family members. The fact of the matter is that people slinging mud at others is most often a cover-up by the slingers hiding their own shortcomings as they seek to blame others for their own mistakes. Such is a sad but true part of life.
As observe the alternate survivors raising their children in flashbacks, we find out that coming to the planet has consequences for TJ in both story arcs. She has contracted the un-curable disease ALS also known commonly as Lou Gerhigs Disease. The elder citizen Yauzo indicates there is a cure in the Novus database, but ther emay not be enough time to transfer all the data. “Our” Varro rushes to his love saying it does not mean she has the disease. TJ knows this is not the case and tears well up in her eyes (mine too).
We learn that she will likely die some eight year later much as the diary from the past 2,000 years ago documented. The current reality scenes between TJ and Young are accentuated by the primitive life sequences of her death some 2,000 years ago in the house as we saw Young at the table with the two children and an empty seat. I am convinced that there was not a dry eye for lovers of this series.
As the episode progresses we see the surviving alternate reality characters become grandparents. The make-up used to age the characters seen in the Kino footage is simply excellent. We see James and Varro, Scott and Chloe, Greer and Park and Camile Wray all becoming old. One of the best bits included a very grouchy and grumpy older Adam Brody!
MingNa is especially wonderful when she talks about writing the new Novus constitution and that Eli has become a teacher! I gigged when Camile said that Eli is good at it too. The look on her characters face says it all!
Back in the story arc version of “our” characters, fans of Varro (Mike Dopud) get a heart attack moment as the violent earthquakes lead to a ladder rung giving way during the escape from the archive facility while he saves TJ’s life. Varro falls to the bottom of the shaft and after observing the SGU hash tag tweets on both Monday April 25 and Tuesday, more than several hundred tweeted “Nooooooo”!
Varro is of course saved by none other than his main competition for the affections of TJ, Col. Young. Young takes critical time to rig a rescue line to haul the injured Varro to safety. A fitting bit of irony would you not say? As TJ diagnoses Varro whom has merely suffered a broken arm, we learn that the result of data transfer from the archive did not contain the cure for ALS. She knows her life is limited and will likely be cut short. At this point I wanted to pass the tissue box to TJ as her tears begin to form again.
Based on the fact that Stargate Universe is canceled, this episode could easily serve as a fine ending to the series. There were too many moments of excellence to effectively analyze in this review. However, two very poignant moments really did it all for me.
The first is the scene at alternate Col. Young’s deathbed with Chloe, Scott and his children at his side. Col. Young feels that failed in his mission to bring the crew back “home”. The telling moment is the quote from Chloe when she shares with Young that “We are home”. You see people it is fairly simple; home is where you make it under any given circumstance.
The final sequence with a very old Camile Wray portrayed by MingNa was both touching and brilliant. Kudos to the writers in this regard and to the considerable acting talent that is what MingNa herself is all about. We find ourselves at the Eli Wallace School. Camile Wray is the last living member of the expedition. Camile she delivers the heart felt lines about “Wahn Shee Rul Yee”, “May all go according to the wishes of those who hear it” and life being about “Our mission is and always will be about the journey itself”. We all take such journeys’ in our lives, but not everyone gets the message. Bravo MingNa for superb delivery in the closing sequences!
The visual effects team then takes us on a “journey” as we witness a move through Novus history to see the society evolve into a fine civilization over the two millennia to the present. The episode ends with a look at a magnificent city and the first of the giant space ships beginning their journey to life on a new planet some 200 years distant.
No matter what you think of Stargate Universe, this two part story epitomizes the greatness of the Stargate franchise. I would suggest that you go to Hulu or tune in to Comcast or other cable system to view these two episodes to witness for yourself it’s greatness. Trust me when I say you will not be disappointed.
Stargate Universe begins its concluding episodes May 02, 2011 on Syfy and on the Space Channel on May 03, 2011 with “Blockade”.
If you call yourself a Stargate fan do everyone a favor and watch the episode live to prove your support of this superb MGM Studios franchise. Thank you.
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