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Stargate Universe Revisited – “Air Part 3”

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Besides all the other points of conflict between Col. Everett Young (Louis Ferreira) and Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) in Stargate Universe perhaps the most fundamental is their differing attitudes towards the mission itself. Young had declined leading the mission for the Air Force, while Rush had eagerly been  anticipating cracking Ninth Chevron address so that he could lead the scientific expedition on the other side of stargate address.

The mission is very much front and center in Rush’s mind once they board Destiny. Although he holds out little hope that they can overcome the multiple issues the ship faces, he is doing everything he can to  make certain that this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity does not pass them (him) by. He understands that the survivors may not form the best possible crew needed to continue the mission, and undertakes to do far too much of what is needed by himself, believing that no one else is qualified as he is (as arrogant as that may be). Yet as they search on the desert planet for the calcium carbonate needed to make the CO2 scrubbers operational, he is very much part of the team trying to make it work. He needs them as much as they need him.

Young, on the other hand, tells Gen. O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) back at Stargate Command that they are essentially doomed. “These are the wrong people,” he tells the general after using communication stones to report back in to Earth. It is a refrain Young uses consistently throughout the beginning of season one, not really willing to embrace the mission other than to “get these people home.”

When Young reports that they need food and water, O’Neill responds matter-of-factly that they should “go get some.”  When young insists that  the survivors are unqualified to be pursuing “the mission,”  O’Neill asks “who is?” O’Neill is taking the position that for whatever reasons they have crossed the Ninth Chevron and onto  Destiny, they are in the unique position to be the explorers. Not that O’Neill wouldn’t want more qualified personnel on board; he does. But as long as they are there in the interim at least, his philosophy seems to agree with Rush’s. As long as they are there, make the best of it.

He reminds Young that no one is really qualified to be confronted with the sort of unknowns one finds in deep space.  Exploration is a risk; the rewards are potentially great, but you can’t know them until you step through that portal and into the unknown.

Young’s attitude likely comes from whatever drove him to decline the position of mission commander in the first place.  He must believe himself not up for the mission; this is not where he wants to be. His marriage is a mess; he wants to repair it. He also seems to lack the heart for the chase necessary to execute a mission like this. And perhaps this is what drives his concern that the survivors will not be able to make it. 

Col. David Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) on the other hand, the man chosen to be the Ninth Chevron mission commander when Young declined, and who had been evacuated from the Icarus planet  during the attack, would like nothing more than to be on the Destiny in Young’s place. He sits ever-vigil at the communication device waiting for the next opportunity to “visit” Destiny. Because, he, like Rush, had planned his life around being on the expedition through the Ninth Chevron (for very different motives, as we learn), he views the outcome as an opportunity, perhaps even “success” of a sort.

I think these polar opposite vantages, more than anything else perhaps, form the basis for the central conflict between Rush and Young. They see the entire mission differently; they are not even on the same mission, in fact. Young’s mission is to get everyone back to Earth as quickly as possible; Rush’s mission is to see the Icarus Project through for as long as possible. For Rush, destiny is “Destiny.” That may also be Young’s destiny, but if it is, he cannot see it.

The immediate mission, however, for both of them is to make the environment aboard the ship survivable long enough to pursue either man’s goal. And Destiny shares their common purpose, coming out of its faster-than-light mode (FTL) near a planet that may have the raw materials they need to repair the air filtration system. At least that’s what Rush believes. 

With 12 hours on the clock until the ship jumps back into FTL, a team goes through the stargate on onto the stark white landscape of a blisteringly hot desert planet. Eventually Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) finds what they need. This small expedition team is a microcosm for the group of survivors who have not yet learned to work together as a team, which may have cost them their survival. With the expedition split into two groups, one with Eli (David Blue) leading and the other led by Scott, they search for this precious mineral. But the scientists exploring with Eli practically mutiny; Rush, who has been working ’round the clock barely makes it back, dehydrated and exhausted. It is only the loyalty of Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker-Smith) that in the end is able to assist a barely conscious Scott make it back to Destiny with the filtering material in tow. 

With the scrubbers now repaired, the Destiny crew gets to survive another day. But the ship is old and in disrepair, and although Rush continues trying to get a handle on the ship’s systems, he is likely at the brink of exhaustion himself. And even with Eli’s help, staying ahead of the game will become increasingly difficult. But for now, the crew can at least breathe.


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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Outtie

    A big part of the story on SGU was about Rush finally realizing that he can’t do it all alone, as he would prefer, he NEEDS these people, almost as much as they need him.

    And as much as people complained that they spent too much time fixing the ship and collecting supplies in the early episodes (Air, Darkness, Water, Light) instead of jumping into the ‘action’, I think all these early episode are good and contain a lot of elements we’d miss if they say compacted the first four into a two-hour pilot or something and swung right into a more typical SG action episode. Think about how much character development we would’ve lost! …of course we might also have lost the scene with Scott & James in the closet. Now that scene I wouldn’t mind losing.

  • ashimon

    I think the exact reason Young decline the mission was his marriage. I think he realizes that if his head is not fully on the mission, he shouldn’t be leading it. I also think that he told O’Neill that the group is not qualified (apart from the fact that they were really not put together with a message like this in mind) is that 1) he knows how ill-prepared he is for the mission (Telford was trained for it, Young was not; not to mention being mentally unprepared); 2) he simply needed to clear his mind (he could not do it on the ship as there he couldn’t show that he is as scared as anybody else, and it seems O’Neill was not receptive to this).

  • Sharon–yes! Sometimes it’s just simpler to do it yourself than bring someone up to speed, especially given the pressure they, and especially Rush, were under those first few weeks.

    I’m certain there was also a certain amount of guilt eating away at him, hoping to make it right. He had no idea what they’d find on the other side of the Ninth Chevron address, of course, and I’m sure he’d have no issue with all those who’d want to do it, to go back to Earth and bring him a more qualified crew (and get Young off his back).

  • Sharon

    I think why I loved this show so much had a lot to do with identifying with Dr. Rush. As callous and self serving as he may appear, there’s validity in his actions. I have on many occasions in my work found myself with the same dilemma as Rush. No time to bring others up to speed on the work or I was just not able to cope with the frustrations of teaching unsuitable people how to do the work. It’s the worst thing in the world to be the only qualified one in an organization, and it really happens far too often to many of us. I really wanted just to be left alone to do my work. But of course on Destiny, that can’t be for Rush.