Greetings Sci Fi Fans!
It is hard to believe that the last new episode of any Stargate flavor will air so soon, at least for the foreseeable future, and I am personally very nervous about how Stargate Universe will end. Our beloved SG-1 and SGA each had the luxury of a years-long run that allowed characters and story lines to fully develop in a way that they could be brought to some kind of reasonable (if reluctant) close.
Sadly, Stargate Universe was not afforded the same opportunity and I am afraid it may be difficult to bring the series to a conclusion that will not leave us tangled in a bunch of hanging threads. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that the writers will be able to give us some kind of closure, preferably through a door that might, some day, be opened again.
This latest episode, “Blockade,” continues to expand on two themes: the descendants of the crew’s other selves, and the Drone ships programmed to destroy any technology other than their own. What might happen if two thousand years of human evolution came up against such a mindless, destructive force?
The advent of the aggressive Drone ships is strikingly reminiscent of the Replicators, nemesis of both SG-1 and Atlantis. Like the Replicators, the Drones are a machine intelligence, mindlessly fulfilling its prime directive and destroying all technology and technology-capable beings in its path. In “Blockade” we begin to see that there may be lot more Drones out there than we might have originally thought. This may be one story element that cannot be concluded with only one more episode to go. Maybe if all the brilliant scientific minds from all three series get together in one last big effort they could figure out a quick and miraculous solution!
“Blockade” begins with Eli Wallace (David Blue), watching the video of the dedication of the little school that was named after his other self. He has obviously watched it many times, and his face betrays both sadness and perhaps some longing as he watches. The Kino footage of the other Eli has affected him very deeply. He saw himself alone while all the other survivors slowly paired off, had children, became families. That other Eli ultimately married Corporal Barnes (Leanne Adachi), who really didn’t seem like his type. I don’t think our Eli was all that excited about the pairing either, yet another reason to feel regret for the fate of his other self. On the other hand, that Eli accomplished great things, creating the basis for an entire people’s education.
Destiny is low on fuel and drops out of FTL to fuel up at the nearest appropriate star but for some reason the ship has decided to detour around a big gas giant. This turns out to be a lucky decision because as soon as they get around the gas giant and in view of the star, they see a Drone command ship blocking the path to the star and the Drones swoop in on the attack. Time for a hasty retreat! Destiny takes a few hits before jumping back into FTL but they get away without any major damage. How did the Drones know about Destiny’s refueling methods? How did they know to position themselves on that particular side of the star? Even Destiny’s crew was surprised that the ship chose such a circuitous approach.
After getting away from the Drone ship, Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) seems strangely interested in having everyone let go of the idea that the Drones can track them or know their destination. When Eli challenges him, Rush says “call it wishful thinking, if you like.” Rush? Wishful thinking? That seems a little out of character, doesn’t it?
Rush plots a course for an appropriate red dwarf star that is not on Destiny’s normal route, in hopes of avoiding the possibility of another Drone attack. If the Drones are waiting for them at all of the eligible stars along their route, Destiny’s only hope for safely refueling—and they are almost out of gas—is to find a star that the Drones will not think to check.
On approach to the next star, Camile Wray (Ming Na) gets to sit in the captain’s chair! She is reluctant at first to take Colonel Young’s (Louis Ferreira) seat, but he says, “What am I, Captain Kirk?” Of course, Rush has to tell her not to touch anything, as if she would.
That Star Trek joke was just the first of many fun references to other sci-fi shows peppered throughout this episode.
Despite their careful planning, when they drop out of FTL they find the Drones are blocking their way to this star too. Destiny jumps back into FTL but they cannot keep this up forever. In fact, power reserves are so low that there will only be one more chance before Destiny is incapable of reaching any more fueling stops.
The Drone blockade does provide some useful information, though. Since the Drones are forming a blockade to prevent Destiny accessing any potential source of fuel, it follows that the Drones are not able to track Destiny after all.
Eli comes up with another brilliant but risky plan to get them the fuel they so desperately need. He proposes they try refueling at a star that the Drones will never suspect they would try, simply because it is incredibly dangerous. Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) gets the joke in this scene—“Don’t tell me—Death Star.” But no, Eli is proposing they pass through a blue supergiant. If you want to know more about blue supergiants, click here. (WHR’s own SciFiFanGirl616 was named for a blue supergiant. How awesome is that?)
Eli and Rush are convinced that Destiny’s shields will be able to withstand that extreme temperatures of passing through one of the hottest stars in the galaxy, but the people on board would not be able to survive. Temperatures inside the ship are expected to climb to nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Everyone will have to be evacuated through the Stargate to whatever habitable planet is in range while Rush and Eli stay on board to pilot Destiny through the star. They can wear two of the three available suits to protect them from the extreme temperatures.
It is agreed that there is really no choice but to try Eli’s plan so everyone starts getting ready to carry it out. High on the priority list is to salvage whatever they can of the fresh food they have managed to cultivate in the hydroponics dome. Under the dome it is lush and green, plants heavy with lots tomato-looking fruits.
As the ship comes nearer and nearer to the blue supergiant, more and more systems start to shut down and Destiny starts locking down hatchways. When the first set of doors unexpectedly shut and locked I was immediately put on alert. This seemed to be an ominous development and I started to get worred.
When the time comes to evacuate, Dr. Lisa Park (Jennifer Spence) has a crazy idea. She volunteers to stay behind in the one remaining suit so she can use the additional time before Destiny enters the star to salvage more of the precious plants. Again, her decision to stay behind made me nervous. Things were starting to look dicey.
Dropping out of FTL, there are no Drones in sight and there is one gate address in range. So far, so good. Eli sends the Kino through the gate, revealing what looks like a long-unused warehouse of some kind, very earth-like and cluttered with debris. Eli’s comment: “Holy crap, we’ve dialed Pittsburgh.” I am sure no offense was intended to Pittsburgh or its residents; merely a comment on how very earth-like the city appeared! Eli theorizes that this must be one of the planets that their human descendants settled but whoever once lived there, it looks abandoned now.
Once on the planet, Col. Young decides to send a few small teams out to search for useful goods like food and weapons. Sgt. Greer has already noted that their supply of ammunition is running low. Camile Wray remarks that she would kill for a new outfit. That made me laugh because the subject of outfits actually came up during Elyse Levesque’s (Chloe Armstrong) Q&A at the 2010 Stargate Convention in Los Angeles.
On the ship, Eli helps Dr. Park harvest the precious plant material until Dr. Rush calls him back to the bridge. Eli and Park have already suited up, but when Eli gets to the bridge he finds Rush is still suitless. He says there is still plenty of time before they reach the star and in the meantime they can work better without the suits. Eli: “Yeah, but now I look ridiculous.” Rush: “Yeah.” Hilarious!
Rush surprises Eli by asking which of the two of them will be piloting the ship through the star. Naturally Eli had assumed Rush would be in charge, but it is Eli’s plan and Eli’s calculations, after all. They agree that Eli should be in charge of the operation so he can enter any necessary course corrections on the fly.
An alarm sounds in the dome as Dr. Park is still pulling up plants. She grabs her bags and heads for the door, but too late—Destiny locks down the hatch and she is trapped inside. Okay, I definitely saw that coming. This is the kind of thing that can happen when a show is cancelled. Characters can be killed off because there is no tomorrow for them anyway. The end of a series can bring shocking outcomes. I knew in my heart that Park was doomed the minute she announced she would stay on board to gather plants in a space suit. Still, I clung to a tiny shred of hope and clutched the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.
Sgt. Greer finds some canned goods with the labels faded to nothing. Handing some to Dr. Dale Volker (Patrick Gilmore), Greer insists that they take the cans along. Volker: “Mmm, botulism.”
In the warehouse, one of the men, Morrison (Vincent Gale), finds a page from what looks like a newspaper, the headline reading “ATAK!” Young finds a rooftop vantage point and sees that this city was not just abandoned, it was destroyed.
The search teams are halfway across town, walking past abandoned stores with names like Kand-i-Mart and Harmuth Markit. (I wonder if Harmuth Markit is an homage to Harmut Essinger, the person responsible for much of Apple Computer’s early design strategy? I always wonder what inspires writers and set decorators to choose things like store names, don’t you?)
Meanwhile, Morrison thinks he has deciphered the newspaper article. It says the attack on the city came from space, from machines that went after the inhbabitants’ technology. Of course, we knew all along that it was going to be Drones, right? There is no evidence yet, but I know it is just a matter of time.
The salvage teams still have not found anything like a gun shop or a grocery store. Suddenly they hear something that sends them running for cover. A Drone has somehow detected them and comes down to hover over the street, just outside the teams’ positions.
Eli tries desperately to find some way to override Destiny’s systems and get Park out of the hydroponics dome, but nothing is working. Eventually, Rush brings everyone back to the very real problem: trying to help Dr. Park has taken Eli away from the bigger job in front of him, which is piloting Destiny through that star without killing them all and stranding everyone else on some unknown, abandoned planet. He tells Park to get down in the collection basin and ride it out under water. No one really thinks that will work, but they all accept the situation and Eli gets back to work. Rush assures Eli that she will be fine, but his expression seems more doubtful.
The salvage teams remain hidden in buildings on opposite sides of the street, but after a while they can hear more Drones arriving. The people near the Stargate can hear them too, and Morrison panics. He grabs the remote and dials the Gate. Lt. James (Julia Benson) knocks him out with an awesome elbow to the face and shuts down the Gate, but too late. The Gate activation has alerted the Drones. Worse, when James radios Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith) to report the situation, the ratio chatter gives away Scott’s position and the Drone fires. Greer takes that as his cue to go on the attack. He fires on the Drone to distract it from Lt. Scott and give the rest of their party a chance to escape. Greer and Scott keep firing while everyone else makes a run for it. Then Young unexpectedly shows up and between the three of them they finally shoot the Drone out of the sky. Lucky for them, the other one had taken off for the Gate location. Too bad they used up so much ammunition. That could prove to be a problem down the road.
Destiny is entering the star and Rush and Eli are fully suited, helmets and all, manning the controls. Temperatures inside have already climbed to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Eli theorizes that the ship closed off the hatchway to the dome and would not let them override because it knew the dome would never be able to survive the heat and stress of passage through this particular star.
Lt. James radios that a Drone has just appeared outside the warehouse. Scott warns her to stay off the radio but says she is counting on the Drones being drawn to the signal. Varro (Mike Dopud) comes out with a grenade launcher and blasts the Drone out of the sky.
Park is still clutching her bags of plants. It looks like the temperature in the dome is outrageously high. We can hear the fear in her breath, and we can see it in the way she moves, hesitantly, toward the edge of the collection basin. What a great performance by Jennifer Spence. With a last look around, she climbs into the pool with her sacks of greenery and grabs on.
Eli manages to make all the necessary course corrections and get them into the star long enough to charge all systems to maximum capacity. He starts moving them back out of the star but then the roof of the dome blows apart. The garden is on fire, massive flames leaping toward the sun, Park barely hanging on in the collection pool, her body being pulled toward the shattered roof. With flames all around her and the prospect of being sucked out to a burning death, she screams, but is still stubbornly hanging onto one of her bags. I am personally wondering why the bag is not burning right now.
They make it out of the star with interior temperatures all the way up to 310 degrees. As Rush prepares to start cooling the Gate room so they can bring everyone back on board, he sees on the ship indicators that they have lost the dome. Eli runs from the bridge.
Camile Wray explains to Young and the rest of the salvage team what they have learned from the newspaper article. Apparently, the plan was to move the Stargate from a place they called Terminus to an older part of the city, the building where they are now. There is no technology at that location so the inhabitants were probably trying to avoid attracting the Drones. Volunteers were driving vehicles away from the city to draw off the Drones and save as many people as they could.
There are a few little details bothering me at this point. Where are the remains of the dead? They couldn’t all have gone to dust already, not with the buildings still so intact and no vegetation taking over. And why do they have to try and decipher the newspaper article? Store names and headlines all appear to be a close relative to English. Could the rest of the article have been that much different? What about remnants of vehicles? The Drones don’t have disintegration rays; they just blast things to pieces. The streets just seem too clean. Okay, pickiness moment over!
There is still at least a half hour to go before the crew can expect to rejoin Destiny. Camile asks Young about what he brought back from his salvage run, and it’s a new outfit! Although he was not able to find anything like weapons or food, he did find a dry cleaner.
When Eli arrives at the hydroponics dome, to his immense relief Dr. Park is able to tell him that she is just on the other side of the door. Now that they are through the star, Destiny allows Rush to override the lockdown and he gets the door open. With Eli’s help, Park makes her way back inside the ship, still stubbornly clutching that bag of plants. Miraculously, she is alive and seems to be okay. But she is blind.
On the planet, the landing party does not like what they are hearing outside. Young decides it is time to dial the Gate. As everyone starts through to the ship, a Drone command ship descends low over the city.
Everyone makes it safely on board. Rush sends Lt. Johansen (Alaina Huffman) to the infirmary, reporting that Dr. Park has flash blindness, and says that hopefully it is only temporary.
Rush tells Young that Eli got them through. He said he kept checking Eli’s calculations looking for a mistake but there weren’t any. He said it was genius, and that he had never seen anything like it, but: “Please don’t tell him I told you that.”
So at the end of this episode, Destiny’s systems are fully recharged, but they will not be able to use the same trick to refuel that way again. Rush says the Drones will not fall for it again, plus that type of star is very rare. Young thinks they are right back where they started but Rush says not exactly, they have a full tank of gas. Last funny moment of the episode: Brody (Peter Kelamis) and Volker: “Yay.” Okay, not so funny in print but very funny on video.
And Destiny jumps back to FTL.
I am both anxious to see the next episode, so I can see what will happen next, but wishing it would not air just yet, so the end will never come. For now I am going to live in the present and relish the fantastic experience of getting to see these talented actors give us their all, interpreting rich storytelling from the gifted writers of the Stargate Universe series. Thank you everyone, cast and crew. We love you all!
Stargate Universe will air its concluding episode May 09, 2011 on Syfy and on the Space Channel on May 10, 2011 with “Gauntlet”. We encourage all Stargate fans to watch the episode live to prove your support of this superb MGM Studios franchise. Thank you. Here is a sneak peek at “Gauntlet:”
Until next time,
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