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'Stargate Universe' Season 2, Episode 17 Recap

by Mike Moody, posted Apr 19th 2011 12:15PM
stargate universe common descent['Stargate Universe' – 'Common Descent']

This week's episode of 'Stargate Universe' offered a gripping and mind-bending sci-fi tale that thrilled and depressed me all at once.

I was thrilled to see the show -- and the franchise -- return to its science-fiction roots with epic space battles, plenty of Gate usage and a plot that hinged on time travel. This episode even offered our heroes a rare peek at a dramatic and perplexing "What if?" scenario.

It was shocking and exciting to learn that alternate versions of Destiny's crewmembers had traveled back in time some 2,000 years and founded an entire civilization. But I was depressed two seconds after the episode ended when I remembered that 'SGU,' despite its recent creative winning streak, would be ending soon.

The show has been canceled; that we already knew. The twist of the knife came over the weekend when the news broke that the show's creators would not be allowed to bring 'Stargate Universe' to a proper end with a TV movie or miniseries. (But perhaps a comic book continuation or a novel series isn't out of the question?)

'SGU,' like 'Fringe,' is becoming more daring, interesting and engaging as the story progresses. 'Common Descent' wasn't without it flaws, but the episode hinted at what could have been for 'SGU.' This was fun, captivating, high-concept sci-fi that was firmly rooted in emotion and character. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's sad to see this show get cut down right when it's starting to take off creatively.

This ep had a wonderful bait-and-switch quality to it. The night started out with Destiny trying to outrun a drone control ship by traveling in FTL as long as possible, a situation that could have irreparably damaged the ship and led to a whole slew of problems. Outrunning the baddies and trying to stay afloat -- that could have been the entire episode. Luckily, there was more. A lot more.

Expertly exploiting the show's serial nature, this ep was a surprising follow-up to March's 'Twin Destinies,' one of my favorite episodes of the season.

In 'Twin Destinies,' we learned that the crew vanished and was presumed dead while attempting a risky Gate trip back to Earth. The only ones who survived were Telford, who made it through the Gate and back to Earth, and Rush, who remained on the ship and was zapped back in time. Time-traveling Rush caught up with our heroes in the past before their unsuccessful Gate trip and was able to prevent what we assumed was their deaths.

But here's what we didn't know: The alternate versions of Destiny's crew actually survived. They were sent back in time and they started a new civilization. They landed on a sustainable planet they dubbed "Novus," Latin (or Ancient) for "new," and started having kids and laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a thriving, technologically advanced society.

We also learned that the society eventually split into two groups -- Young followers and Rush worshippers, a story point that was both hilarious and sublimely appropriate. Also hilarious: Brody apparently joined the Rush worshipers and named their domain after a font, Futura! (At least he didn't go with Comic Sans.)

I liked that Rush and Young's conflicting agendas and ideologies reached epic proportions with this newly discovered society. It seems right that Young would inspire a sect of people to make the best out of their difficult situation and to face their challenges head-on with grit and hard work. And how perfect was it that some people worshipped Rush as a savior and others feared him like a demon! So good!

As our crew learned more about their alt-lives through surprisingly resilient Kino footage -- Camille delivered TJ and Young's baby, Eli had kids, Young got old and gray -- the drone ships reappeared to attack Destiny and the colony.

stargate universe common descent novus cityDestiny was forced to retreat and leave its people on the ground, but Eli and Matt managed to send a Morse code message through space to the ship (which was awesome), delivering the "all clear" and persuading Destiny to turn around and pick them up.

And now, after the decision was made that allowing the colonists on the ship would be a major drain on resources, Destiny is jam-packed with hundreds of people with no place to go.

Finally, the ship reached Novus to determine if the planet could sustain the colonists. But sadly, the planet looked lifeless and gray.

The sight of the abandoned city on Novus, frozen in the middle of a volcanic winter, was awesome with its steampunk skyscrapers and ice-covered streets. Like the show, Novus was seemingly full of beauty and potential, but its growth was halted by the things that it couldn't control.

The fate of 'SGU' might already be sealed, but I have hope for Novus. Maybe there is life somewhere below those frozen streets. Perhaps we'll find out next week when the story continues.

Other thoughts:

• When resources are scarce, the ladies apparently reach for the purple space fruit!

• Rush was very disinterested in exploring the newfound civilization. I wonder if their historical archives will start poking holes in the story his doppelganger told in 'Twin Destinies.'

• The drone attack on the planet reminded me of the Wraith Dart strikes on 'Stargate Atlantis.'

• The captured drone was ejected and destroyed, but was that how the control ship was able to track Destiny? Or did it follow the Gate signals or use some other sort of tracking device?

• "Actually, this is more like SimEarth!"

'Stargate Universe' airs Mondays at 9PM ET on Syfy

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I still don't understand the cancellation. Maybe the production cost is too high but this is indeed one of the best sci-fi shows in a while.

It's almost like Lost and ST: Voyager combined.

Just saw Part 2 tonight and it was very emotional. It actually gives you closure because you see what became of the characters we are not going to see in 2 more episodes.

Can't wait for your recap.

April 26 2011 at 1:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon manilenio

I've watched SG-1 as well as Atlantis, and now I'm watching SG-U. I hope they'll decide to continue it...

April 25 2011 at 8:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pretty good episode.

April 20 2011 at 3:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Interesting episode, and I like that they don't automatically feel responsible for these people as their founders. Would George Washington feel like he'd have to fix your country's ills if he returned?

My favourite moment again lies with Greer. When the woman who brings him tea calls him handsome, he gets an insanely flattered and child like grin on his face. Excellent.

My one problem with the ep was that, at the ten year mark of their settlement, the crew of the Destiny decides that they are going to create a terrific clothing manufacturing facility so that they can churn out Little House on The Prairie waist coats and dresses. That was a ridiculous costume choice from the PTBs. One made by someone who's never been to the country, I assume.

April 20 2011 at 1:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really hate that this show is getting canceled. SYFY Sucks!!!! It joins the club of great science fiction shows that were cancelled before their time(Sliders, Farscape, Stargate Atlantis, Firefly, etc...). I think TV shows ought to have a way that fans can just donate cash to them to keep it running instead of relying on ads. And YES SYFY Sucks!!! One day TV shows will be created for the people by the people. (Pioneer One). I guess I should de-evolve my brain so I can enjoy shows like Biggest Looser, The Apprentice, Jersey Shore, and countless other shows designed for ad hungry monkies. Maybe I should of actually watched the show when it came on instead of downloading it's torrent later when I had time to watch it. Maybe I should contact Nielson and tell them I bought everything I saw from every ad I saw during the show. I hate SYFY. But I guess you can't hate a terd for being a terd. SYFY just wants to make money. To Hell with whether or not a show is good or not, if it aint making them money then it gets canned. Thats how a business works. Reality shows like ghost hunters get way more money so they keep it showing no matter how stupid it is. And YES reality shows are stupid because they don't exist. Consider this: The only way a reality show can truly be reality is if there is no camera there. Introduce a camera and people start acting. Therefore a reality show can not exist. Do they really expect me to believe that some people are actually trapped on a island on Survivor and can not escape. But thats off topic, back to SGU: its a great show. I think it was better than ATLANTIS and as good as SG1. I liked the characters and all the stories from all episodes. It is currently the best space scifi. Would be nice if they had a mmo game or something going along with it. Could of brought in some more money.

April 19 2011 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope the people at MGM are reading this post? If the SYFY network, does not want to re-new SG-U for a third season, it's their loss, I think this is a very good franchise. Don't let this show, just go away and disappear. Put it in the movies, or at least on DVD. The sci fi that is in the movies is really garbage or lacking the vision that the Stargate franchise is offering. I can envison SG-U pt 2 and so on if Star trek can go on forever so can Stargate. This show is too sophisticated for television anyway.

April 19 2011 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episode was probably the best one yet. It intrigued me deeply, and it introduced new, potentially permanent, characters. I seriously hope that Syfy thinks otherwise, and decides to renew it for another season, because seriously, they aren't losing money, they're just not making enough. The ratings are actually growing now. People are beginning to watch it more. If the finale or earlier reaches 2 million viewers, please, renew it for another season.

April 19 2011 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

usually when a show gets canceled mid season I just drop it because there is no point finishing when there will be no ending; SGU still has my attention. this little two-parter could have probably served as a series finale. It's nice to see the what if scenarios.

April 19 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MidnightSnack's comment
Mike Moody

Agreed. I'm happy that I've been allowed to continue writing about the show even though its ratings are low and its days are clearly numbered. It's thanks to the show's devoted fans that we can continue to cover it, and I'm grateful for that. 'SGU' has truly become one helluva sci-fi show!

April 19 2011 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike Moody's comment

Thank gawd you have been "allowed" to continue to write about this show. TV Squad has turned into Syfy, were all the talk is about CRAP reality shows.

April 19 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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