After two action-packed episodes that both sparked a new life into the series (only to quickly crush it with the furious clicking of the old reset button), this weekend's SGU was a welcome respite for character growth.
It's no secret that I truly hated the last episode. For weeks we'd been slowly building up to a heated civilian versus military war, only to blow our wad the second episode back. And then after the completely rushed mutiny we were asked to pretend like it, "never even happened." Kinda. So all that hard work was flushed down the toilet and we're exactly back where we started, heated tensions between those carrying the guns and those carrying the science books.
Fortunately for me this episode finally slowed down and didn't attempt to end everything with a big shiny reset bow forcibly tied on in the end. And I loved it. I'm sure many people, especially those that want a return to the original series, didn't like this episode. Mainly because it was filled with long dialogue, strange glances and very little action or jokes, but this was exactly what the new gritty "real life" series needed. A healthy dose of reality as soap dishy as it was.
For the first time SGU dealt with the mentality of a helpless crew trapped aboard a cold metal space prison. Destiny gets side tracked by a mysterious new planet and star, that may or may not have been built by a superior race. The lush planet is full of everything the crew is needs food, water, sunshine, fresh air and so on. And since the Destiny was thrown off-track by the surprising gravity of this brand new star the crew is stuck there for a month. Which means off-world camping trip for the sexiest main characters.
So all the good looking young people pack that knapsacks and trundle off to the new world, leaving the rest of the crew behind to repair the ship and do whatever it is all the faceless people do aboard Destiny.
Once on the new planet, Greer does his angry sassy character shtick, the scientists poke about in the ground with sticks and fancy water bottles, meanwhile Chloe waves her arms around and makes sad bird faces, being a general distraction to everyone. Did you know she and Scott aren't BF/GF anymore, and the tension is just kiiiiiilllllling me. Isn't it killing you? I mean she's all "hrumph boys post traumatic stress, hrumph boys don't understand." To which Scott replies, "look I need to make sure everyone on this planet doesn't suddenly die, so go stand over there and pick flowers or something." Which she does, more or less. Later on, when she's taking a naked dip in the wilderness pool she and Scott trade sexy over-your-shoulder knowing glances. And somewhere, deep inside, you know these two kids are going to work it out and bump uglies again. In or out of a broom closet.
But that's neither here nor there because the main character of this episode it TJ. Pouty faced TJ the drop dead gorgeous medic whose hair is fixed in a permanent Prom up-do. But, you know what, I'm not going to rag on her anymore because, she was great in this episode!
So TJ and the pretty people begin their one-month camping trip. TJ gets distant and sad, while the new character Dr. Caine becomes a prophet, more on his annoying twist later. Over time it's slowly revealed that TJ's preggers, even though we all already all knew that the second Pretty Boy Scott asked her if she was "coming down with something," in the mess hall. Clearly she had a bad case of the pregnancies. But even though it was a giant white elephant of lazy writing plot twists in the room, it managed to do the one thing SGU hasn't been able to do with their side characters, give them some personality that directly changes the way you think about them. As cliched as it was.
For instance, in the beginning of this series when Scott's skeletons came tumbling out of his closet they were supposed to have some sort of impact on the way the audience sees him. But honestly having his previously thought to be aborted child alive and well, did nothing for my perception of Scott. His actions have always been pretty consistent. He cares about people, the crew and about being a good soldier/father/man/boyfriend. He's a big box of caring . The entire "surprise you're a daddy" moment did nothing for the Scott character, besides give him more shit to deal with. It didn't really change the way he acted in the long run. In fact, his decision to stay with the crew on the new planet was pretty dickish considering his earlier laments about not being able to be there for his new kid. How was placing his future in jeopardy, potentially forever, going to help him be a better parent? And if you think it was because he thought the new god aliens that built the obelisk would come back and save him, he didn't.
No one did, except the widower who quickly became a alien religious fanatic. All hail the obelisk building overlords. Plus Scott outright stated that he felt he had a duty to protect the people that stayed behind, which I totally bought. It's in his character to feel responsible. And yet not once did his son come into his thoughts. Not even when he was talking to TJ about her own pregnancy. Scott is one of the many characters on SGU that are suffering from ridiculous plot scenarios that are never really thought out or used to expand their characters. Same goes for the rest of the under developed side characters. Ming-Na's home life revealed nothing about her demented scheming psyche, Chloe's alcoholic mother was thrown into her dream sequence last week for no real reason at all etc. They haven't added to the characters it's just more drama fodder for the "morality issue of the week."
That being said, I believe this was the first time a soap opera twist actually helped flesh out a character. We watched TJ, a normally calm and cool character, unravel for obvious reasons. Then we the audience got to weigh all the possible options with her. And even though we never really knowing the full story we assumed by her attitude you knew it couldn't have been pretty. Should she cash it all in and go for broke trying to raise a feral child in this wilderness, or subject a new born to alien attacks, short food supply and the unknown world of the big black? Plus she has a responsibility to the crew as a member of the military, another character point which I think was nicely demonstrated in this episode.
Alas, TJ would not be recreating Swiss Family Robinson anytime soon because Young zoomed down to the green planet and threw down a pretty solid ultimatum. Any civilians could stay on the planet, with the newly repaired shuttle, but if one single military person stayed behind he'd be forcing everyone back aboard Destiny, at gunpoint. Giving the military people no real choice at all. Which, is pretty much Young's job.
So a brokenhearted TJ bowed her head and walked back into her own little metal box of hell. And my heart broke right there with her. But we still don't know the whole story, is TJ tied emotionally to Young, the father of her baby. She can't be that linked to him if she toyed with the idea of raising their child forever apart in the wilderness. Perhaps she's just running away from the shame of being pregnant in front of a man she can't be with? Does or did she ever love Young? Was she even planning on having this child in the first place? Are these even reasons she's struggling with? Either way it has us asking questions about a once 2-dimensional character. Questions I actually want to know the answers to. As opposed to any other minor character's drama on board.
This is what we want SGU, you want to give us a space opera drama, then make the rest of your big reveals actually effect characters in a deeply personal manner. If every other character struggle is handled in this manner, we can invest deeper into this series.
Alright now let's talk about the very very very very very bad:
What the hell happened to "hot widower"? I really could have done with out Dr. Caine and his lunatic ramblings about the obelisk alien overlords, thanks for pulling out all the interest I had in this character. Sheesh. The man went from giving thoughtful insight into the civilian state of mind aboard the Destiny, to a psychotic rambling prophet of a giant statue. Did he get back on the ship? I don't know, I didn't see him. But if he didn't, make him come back a full-fledged alien religion nut or not at all. What was the point of getting to know this character if he's not going to have any sort of lasting impact on the series, he was set up so well too. It's a shame really. If he is back aboard Destiny then what was all that planet drama about? What a worthless thing to do to a potentially interesting character.
As for what happened aboard the Destiny a bit of character bonding between Eli and Camille, a good Star Trek joke was shared, and Young told Rush he liked chess, which means they will soon be doing the most cliched thing in the world. Playing episodically thematic chess, yeach. This is something I hope neither of them lives to see, instead how about more of this exciting Destiny technology???
But I'm still not complaining, as much as last week I guess. This episode managed to slow down the break neck speed SGU was trying to run. Faith showed that it could deliver an ensemble drama with out checking off a list of important cliche to-dos. Aliens, check, mutiny, check, alien war....probably coming up. I just hope that like TJ's character arc, they will take try to extend out their actions as well. It worked here, there's no reason why it can't work in an action heavy episode.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention this, so I'm adding it in, I can do that. Thank you for turning down the vocals in the end scene, I couldn't take another Grey's Anatomy sign off. It's ok to have music with words, just not as excessively as we've had the last few times. This was a welcomed difference, for me at least.