This week’s Stargate Universe episode, “Pathogen,” portrayed the toll being stranded on Destiny is having not only on the crew, but on their loved ones as well. In this episode, we learned more about Eli’s mother’s illness and also about the stress Wray’s partner has been dealing with. It’s discovered that Chloe has been experiencing blackouts and seems to be channeling, or possibly turning into, a Blueberry Alien. We did not yet get to see the scene with Chloe’s alien skin in this episode, though, and I wonder how long we’ll have to wait.
[Warning: Spoilers follow…]
After Chloe’s blackouts persist without explanation, she’s placed in quarantine. Rush suggests they let her free in order to monitor her actions, but in true Rush fashion he has less than altruistic motives. He secretly takes Chloe to his Evil Lair Tunnel to finish the math equations that have plagued him since being marooned on Destiny. When she does indeed solve an equation, Rush decides to put her in the ancient chair with claims that it will eradicate the alien gene therapy if she has been altered. Ultimately, sitting in the chair changes nothing, though Rush lets everyone believe that the problem has been solved. Then he blackmails Chloe into helping him learn how to use the new bridge.
I’m glad that Chloe’s predicament wasn’t solved so easily. In fact, I’m hoping that her sitting in the chair will facilitate her finally taking some control of her life. Right now, Rush believes he’s manipulating her, but he hasn’t really thought through his actions. Everyone assumes that Chloe is “cured,” but the problem arose initially when she randomly lapsed into amnesiac trances. She had no control over the blackouts and there’s been no hint that she has any control over it after sitting in the chair either. The first time Chloe is found roaming the corridors in her pajamas, it will quickly become apparent that the problem hasn’t been solved. Once the crew discovers this, Chloe will not only stop playing along with Rush’s blackmail scheme, but will have every reason to rat him out about his discovery of the bridge.
Chloe is a woman who hasn’t ever been in control of her life. Not being particularly goal-oriented, she has gone from living in her father’s shadow to being an adjunct to Lt. Scott. I appreciated that Scott spoke up for her when Young, T.J., and Rush were deciding her fate and pointed out that the decision to sit in the chair had to be voluntary. I also appreciated the way Scott brought up the emotional distance in their relationship. Clearly, Scott wants Chloe to stand on her own, but until now she hasn’t taken that on herself. I hope this storyline shows Chloe finally taking that step.
Meanwhile, Eli visits Earth via the stones in order to try to bolster his mother’s failing mental health. When claiming to be a friend of Eli’s gets him nowhere, Eli persists in convincing his mother that the person before her is really her son. He finally elicits Wray’s help in persuading her, which ultimately results in his mother’s visit to Destiny via the stones.
While I began writing these recaps to sort out what I disliked about SGU, the exercise has helped me discover what I like about the show. One aspect that SGU has in common with previous Stargate programs is the way the writers constantly pile on conflict upon conflict. Previous Stargate shows were more episodically relentless in ramping up the stakes, but SGU has maintained this with longer story arcs. What’s been missing — and I think partly what has frustrated so many views and made the show seem so very, very dark — is an occasional break in the pacing. Audiences need a break in the tension where they see characters having if not a happy moment, then at least a bittersweet not-so-sad moment. This downtime creates a poignant counterpoint to the rising tension and actually heightens the overall tension in a story. Until these last two episodes, SGU has lacked this element, or at least it’s been so subtle as to go unnoticed.
However, both “Awakening” and this week’s “Pathogen” utilized this tension break with T.J.’s revelation about her baby and Eli’s mother visiting Destiny via the stones. These moments enable the characters and audience to continue on and meet the next conflict. I hope this means that SGU has finally met its stride and that we’ll see even better shows coming up. Next week’s “Cloverdale” supposedly has Lt. Scott being infected with an alien organism. At least he knows Chloe will understand how he feels.
Your turn: What did you think of this week’s episode?