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.