Note to my readers: Stargate executive producer-writer Joseph Mallozzi wil be a special guest on Let’s Talk TV Live this week and next. More information at the end of this article.
“If only all science were so definitive; you’re just going to have to decide who you believe, Colonel.” – Dr. Nicholas Rush, Stargate Universe (SGU) episode, “Earth.”
By Stargate Universe’s seventh episode “Earth,” it is obvious that very few of the Icarus Base survivors aboard Destiny trust Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle). Of course, he’s given them little enough reason to trust him; his decision to dial the Ninth Chevron back at Icarus stranded them aboard the broken down Ancient ship in the first place, when most of them would much rather have gated back to Earth. He is brusque and sometimes arrogant, secretive and trusts no one but himself. So it’s little wonder. On the other hand, his knowledge of the Ancients and their technology is vast, and since coming aboard Destiny, he has worked nearly non-stop to understand the ship and its resources.
When presented with the possibility of going back to Earth by dialing from within a star while the ship recharges, the survivors have to decide whom to trust more: Rush or Stargate authorities on Earth with a risky ‘rescue plan’?” Rush has deep reservations about this plan; he believes the idea of dialing the Ninth Chevron address from the ship while it recharges from within in a star would be catastrophic. But are his reservations genuine, or is it that he simply doesn’t want to go home?
Since Rush’s success in dialing the Ninth Chevron, the International Oversight Advisory (IOA) and Stargate Command are anxious to carry on with the Icarus Project mission of exploring beyond the Ninth Chevron gate. Their agenda requires a way to transport the original expedition team aboard Destiny with Col. David Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) in command.
The team is unlikely to include any of the survivors of Icarus Base, who will all be sent home to Earth, including Rush. Despite his status as lead scientist and his role in dialing the Ninth Chevron, there is a strong possibility that Rush wouldn’t be a part of any team sent to lead Destiny on its journey going forward. He is not well liked, and considering his actions on Icarus, his status as lead scientist going forward is much in doubt.
Although we know that unlocking the code had been Rush’s main task at Icarus, we also know that his life’s work—and his reason for giving up so much for it—had been because of his interest in the Ancients, something we don’t learn for sure until “Time,” but it is very clear from the first several episodes how much thought Rush has given to the Ancients, their philosophy and their language—as well as their technology and science. (And this is why I personally am so drawn to this character.) After his life’s work, the idea of being stuck on Earth as a bystander must be a crushing thought. That prospect must weigh very heavily on him, given the personal sacrifice that Rush has made to get the project to this point. But that also doesn’t necessarily mean that Rush is wrong when he maintains that dialing within a star will cause the ship to explode and kill them all.
There are many other conflicting interests at play in the episode as well, which is what really makes this episode compelling. It gets to the heart of the political nature of the mission as well as the political conflicts between several of the mission’s key players. Yes, it is interesting Lovesick to see Eli (David Blue) and Chloe (Elyse Levesque) deal with their respective moms, and Chloe view her life from an outsider’s perspective, but to me, the heart of the episode lies with the conflicting agendas and power struggles between Rush, Telford, Young (Louis Ferreira), the IOA, and Stargate Command.
Young’s temporary exile back on Earth lets us understand why his heart really isn’t in Destiny’s mission beyond “getting these people home.” Young had turned down the role of mission commander before it had been given to Telford, telling O’Neill that he “no longer had it in him.” He is likely driven by his need to get back to his wife Emily; their marriage is falling apart, and the longer he’s away, the harder time he’ll have to repair the damage he’d inflicted upon it by having an affair with T.J. (Alaina Huffman) back on Icarus.
But Young is also no pushover, and when faced with the possibility that Telford will now take his place on Destiny, Young is furious with the injustice of being replaced. Destiny is Young’s responsibility, and as long as he is aboard her, he will not allow himself to be usurped by Telford or anyone else.
Telford, on the other hand, can’t wait to get his hands on Destiny. It is clear that there is history and rivalry between Telford and Young, especially in recent years, and Telford is undoubtedly frustrated and irritated that Young is in command while he is stuck on Earth. And at this point, we aren’t yet aware that Telford is the Lucian Alliance mole, and likely responsible for the original attack on Icarus. Viewing the episode with that 20/20 hindsight grants an interesting perspective on Telford’s insistence to try the dangerous dialing program to Earth.
But more importantly for this episode, Telford has no real stake in refugees’ survival. He can bail if things turn too dangerous, unlike those physically on board, whose lives are all at stake. And that is exactly what happens.
Of course, the danger heightened artificially when Rush stages a bit of theater to scare off the Homeworld Command intruders. Certain that the rescue mission is too dangerous and will result in the ship exploding, Rush places some power limits on the system to protect the ship and its crew while ensuring that the dial out gives a good show of going to hell. Sparks fly from the stargate, alarms and bells sound and panic is everywhere, but no more so than in Telford and the two scientists.
Rush knows exactly how Telford and his Stargate science colleagues will react when confronted with likely death. They abandon Destiny, leaving the ship on the brink of what they think is catastrophic failure. However, Rush saves the day by pushing a single button on Brody’s assurance that the three have left and Chloe, Eli, and Young have come back aboard the ship.
Rush makes no secret of what he’d done, and is quite proud of his achievement – and his success of having Young back aboard Destiny. Although he and Young are always at odds, I believe that Rush probably trusts Young more than he trusts Telford (and I would certainly love to understand more of that back story!).
Of course, Telford believes that Rush has sabotaged the rescue plan for his own reasons (Young also has his doubts), and we don’t actually know at this point whether the experiment would have worked without Rush’s tampering. (I tend to give Rush the benefit of the doubt, and even I’m not sure I believe him!)
In retrospect, however, I do believe that Rush had good reason to suspect that dialing from within a star would have ended in disaster. It is many months until they try it again (“Twin Destinies” in season two), and even then, with refinements made by Eli, Rush’s concerns are borne out to be pretty much dead-on.
Stargate Universe Revisited continues with “Time.” Episodes are available online through Amazon.com, Netflix, and other providers. Season one is available in Blu-ray and DVD; season two is available only on DVD.
I have a special treat planned for this week’s Blog Talk Radio show “Let’s Talk TV Live.” Stargate executive producer Joe Mallozzi will be joining me live Wednesday, December 26 and Wednesday, January 2 at 9:00 p.m. ET to sit down and chat about SGU. He will also be taking calls and chat room questions about all three Stargate series both weeks. I am terribly excited for this rare opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with Joe about SGU and all things Stargate. So be sure to tune in live or download the episodes on iTunes following their broadcasts.