In this instalment of our Stargate Universe podcast, Rush makes a staggering discovery. Destiny's bridge. But can he take control of the ship? Meanwhile, a team go to a restricted planet in hopes of finding food, and Young must deal with the aftermath of the recent invasion by the Lucian Aliance. Specifically, what to do with those prisoners left onboard.
This is a great episode of Stargate Universe, filled with tragedy, mystery and moral ambiguity. Come with me as we dig into it.
Welcome to nerd heaven
I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars
And I am a nerd
This is episode 73 of the podcast.
Today, we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Aftermath”
The description on Gateworld reads
Dr. Rush directs a shuttle to a planet inaccessible by Stargate -- but a crash landing threatens to strand those on board. Meanwhile, Rush makes a stunning discovery on Destiny, and Young must decide what to do with his prisoners.
This episode was written by Robert C. Cooper
It was directed by Will Waring
And it first aired on the 5th of October 2010.
In this episode’s recap, we revisit the chair device, which Franklin sat in and transformed into mist, and the code in human DNA that may eventually unlock control of the ship’s computer.
Rush is having nightmares about his recent torture at the hands of Kiva.
He finds Doctor Park in the computer room. He solvers the issue she’s struggling with in a few seconds and moves on, to continue roaming the ship. It’s an amusing moment.
But Rush isn’t wandering aimlessly. He approaches a door and opens it.
And enters a room. And as the lights come up, we begin to realise just where he is.
Rush has found Destiny's bridge.
It’s immediately recognisable to anyone who has watched science fiction before. There are consoles all about, and one seat in the centre.
The captain’s chair.
Evidently, this is not the first time Rush has been here, although there is still a look of reverence and awe on his face.
No, he walked here on purpose. He’s been here before.
And he’s seeing an image of his dead wife, Gloria.
And she voices what is going on in his head. He’s finally unlocked the master code. He has control over everything. And he’s not going to tell anyone.
This is a very Rush move, but we still have to ask the question why. We’ll be exploring that for a while.
This was a very exciting moment for me, when I realised what Rush had discovered.
You’ll notice we never saw the bridge of this ship during the entire first season. We weren’t even sure if there was a bridge.
That was a bit of a bold move, to do an entire season of a show set on a spaceship and never see the bridge, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
Remember, our characters are not in control of this ship. They’re not the crew. They’re just along for the ride, going wherever this ship wants to go. That itself was also interesting.
But having gone that entire year without it, it makes the discovery of the bridge feel like an event. It’s more momentous. It’s more exciting.
I thought this was brilliantly done.
So let’s talk about the bridge itself. It’s very in keeping with the visual aesthetic of Destiny, we’ve seen control panels before, but the internal layout is pretty reminiscent of Star Trek. It’s basically what all of us nerds expect, and want, a bridge to look like.
But the interesting thing is that it actually folds down into the ship, and retracts back up. Kind of like the blast shield in the original Battlestar Galactica, but in reverse. When it’s embedded down inside the ship, it can’t see anything out the front window. But it’s also safe and more protected from enemy fire. When it lifts up, they get a beautiful view out the front of the ship.
This was a nice bit of design.
Camille is interviewing Ginn, the Lucian Alliance scientist. Ginn is explaining what the alliance knew of the 9th chevron. The address that leads to Destiny was known in ancient legend. It was said that it led to the power of the gods. But Ginn isn’t thinking of the Goa’uld, who ruled over most of the Lucian Alliance people, until recent time. She’s thinking of the ascended ancients. Which is more accurate, since Destiny is an ancient ship.
The legends say that Destiny is capable of controlling time and space. And that get’s Camille’s attention. That’s why the Lucian Alliance wanted to come here.
Ginn explains that the alliance has actually been around longer than we might have thought. They predate the fall of the system lords. But they were quick to fill the power vacuum left over by claiming all that leftover Goa’uld technology.
They came to Ginn’s world and seized it. The only food they had to eat was what the Lucian Alliance provided. So they really were slave masters, just like the Goa’uld before them.
They controlled what was taught in schools, and they recruited children to fight on their behalf. Ginn herself was forced into service a few years ago with death threats against her family.
Suddenly we have a lot more sympathy, not just for her, but for a lot of people working for the Lucian Alliance. These people are not all willing members.
Does that justify the things they’ve done back in the Milky Way, and here on Destiny? Who do you forgive? Is Ginn innocent, but Kiva guilty? Where is that line drawn? It’s all very complicated.
Ginn argues that the alliance survivors are not getting enough food. Nobody on board is.
Welcome to Destiny.
You people chose to come here. Life on this ship sure isn’t easy.
Young has to decide what he’s going to do with these people currently being held. But he’s not going to make the decision alone. Camille will have a voice as well.
Ginn argues, as if pleading for her life, that some of them have been cooperative. They can be trusted. They can contribute.
But it keeps coming back to that difficult question. Which of them do you trust?
Conveniently, the Lucian Alliance still thinks Telford is one of them. So he’s still spying in the cell.
And now we see the other side of things. The crew in the mess hall are complaining about the lack of food. “Maybe we shouldn’t be giving our rations to the enemy,” one of them says.
It’s easy to treat your prisoners well when you have plenty of resources.
But when your food is running out, it becomes tempting to deny the prisoners first. But, they’re human beings too.
Riley says “The way we treat prisoners says everything about us as a civil and moral society.”
And that’s a very good point.
Young has a different perspective. He doesn’t think this is about the proper treatment of POWs. These people invaded the ship and tried to kill them. “I was just following orders” is not an argument that Young finds very convincing.
They’re not all as nice as Ginn. Park is afraid to go to sleep, just knowing there are people on board that would kill her if given the chance.
I don’t think Young has made up his mind yet, but he’s definitely trying to counteract Camille’s perspective.
So…. what do you think? What would you do?
Rush thought it was going to be easier to control the ship, just like turning a key, but this ship was designed to be run by a crew. Gloria points out the ship has a crew. But Rush means a crew that knows what they’re doing.
It always comes down to this with Rush, doesn’t it. Nobody else is smart enough. Nobody else can operate at his level. He has a similar arrogance to Rodney Mackey. And yet, expressed very differently.
Rush thinks this ship was never meant to run on it’s own. They were supposed to send a crew. But they never did.
He’s being smart, leaving the ship on auto-pilot until he knows what he’s doing.
Right now, he’s trying to understand why Destiny stops at some planets but not others.
We still don’t know exactly what Gloria is. How is she here? Is Rush just losing his mind? Or is there something more?
The crew desperately need food and Rush has found a planet that should be rich in plant life, and yet, it’s locked out. Destiny won’t be stopping to let them gate there.
Rush makes the decision to drop them out of FTL.
Everyone is confused. Why did the ship drop out when there are no active stargates to dial?
Rush argues it away by saying the planet is in shuttle range. The ship knows about this planet because it does have a gate. The gate is just non-functional.
It’s actually pretty plausible.
TJ isn’t fully recovered from her ordeal, but she’s got skills they need, so she’s going on the mission. The shuttle ride will take an hour each way. That leaves them 5 hours on the planet. They hope to repair the gate. If it’s in range again next time they drop out, they might be able to gate back to it.
Gloria tells Rush he’s missing things. Making mistakes, but when he ignores her, she suddenly becomes Doctor Franklin. So that’s interesting.
Franklin is telling Rush things that he hasn’t noticed, which means he is more than simply a manifestation of Rush’s own mind. He’s separate.
That is fascinating, but what he reveals is of concern. The super-rotation in the planet’s atmosphere will cause some nast turbulence. Theoretically, the shuttle should handle it, but then, it is millions of years old.
Just as they think they’re okay, the engines just cut out and they crash, essentially falling out of the sky. It’s a thrilling sequence. It looks visually spectacular for its time and it’s pretty suspenseful.
Riley’s legs are pinned, and he can’t feel them.
The shuttle isn’t in good shape. If they can’t find the gate and repair it, they’ll be stranded on this planet forever.
Moving Riley could be dangerous for him, but if they don’t eventually, they won’t be able to get him to the gate. But when they try to move him they discover the metal is cutting off circulation to a wound. Even if they could get him out, he’d likely bleed to death.
Rush has really messed up this time. He’s not operating at his usual level and it could cost a bunch of people their lives.
The reason he says he’s keeping the bridge a secret is because the others won’t know what they’re doing. But he’s proving to be pretty inept himself at the moment. He really just needs to bring others into this. Keeping his discovery a secret could get everyone killed.
..And now the Lucian Alliance are rioting.
And Destiny has just jumped. So… that five hours went quickly. They’ve basically done nothing. I suppose they spent all that time trying to walk to the gate.
There is still some hope that the planet might still be in range next time it drops out of FTL, but there’s no guarantee.
Greer has found the gate, but it’s buried under a whole lot of rock.
Rush thinks that Gloria and Franklin are either hallucinations, because he’s losing his mind, or they’re the ship trying to communicate with him.
But they actually serve an important narrative job. With Rush keeping this to himself, he’s got nobody to talk to.
Now in a book, you can have internal monologue, but that doesn’t work on TV. Stories are primarily told through dialogue, and that means he needs another character to converse with.
Once at FTL, the ship needs to run for 4 hours. After that, Rush can stop it again, assuming he can think of an explanation again. But that will be his last shot to save the crew on the planet.
So why keep it a secret? Why not bring others in? Gloria is asking the right questions.
And Rush’s answer shows that he’s still not trusting Young. Young is mentally unstable. Young is not fit to lead the mission. Young allowed the Lucian Alliance on board.
Yes, Young is imperfect and makes mistakes, but Rush is making a bigger mistake right now. Honestly, he needs to get over this thing he has with Young or it might just kill everyone.
TJ and Riley have a great character scene together. As he faces the likelihood of his impending death, his thoughts turn to the spiritual, which often happens. His mother was Anglican, but his father didn’t believe. He was never very spiritual himself, but now he’s asking questions. He asks TJ what she believes.
She isn’t sure, but her recent experiences have got her wondering. They’ve seen some amazing things out here they can’t explain.
She reveals her experience on the faith planet with her baby. Something she’s not told anyone else.
After the recent riot, Young has made his decision. The next viable planet they find, the Lucian Alliance people will be left there.
Telford has used the stones to speak with Stargate Command. Young is ordered to keep some key Lucian Alliance people on board. If he doesn’t obey, Telford might relieve him.
Young asks a good question. Has he earned the trust of the people on the ship enough that they would follow him rather than Young? I’m not sure. I think most of them would be very torn between their loyalty to Young, and their loyalty to Stargate Command.
Digging the gate out could take weeks, so they take the risky move of blasting it out. This could damage the gate, or worse, ignite it, which could take out half the planet.
Rush has dropped them out of FTL. The planet is still in range, but still locked out. The thing that puzzles Brody is that there are no other planets in range and it’s only been 3 hours. So why did it drop out?
Rush has another excuse. It’s damage to the engine from the recent pulsar causing them to drop out at shorter intervals. You can tell from Young’s facial expression that he’s not buying it for a second. Rush is up to something.
They’re going to try to override the lockout and dial anyway. It’s a longshot.
But, they’ve managed to unearth the gate, so it works. They establish a wormhole!
I’ve never seen Rush so relieved.
But what about TJ and Riley?
Young goes to see Riley. It’s a difficult conversation. Young reassured Riley that he’s a good man. None of this was his fault.
Then Riley asks for help. He’s in pain.
What he wants is a quick merciful death.
Wow. That’s heavy.
So young suffocates him.
Honestly, I can’t imagine that would be a particularly nice way to go. But I guess it was quicker than waiting to bleed out slowly.
What do I say about this? It’s a difficult moral issue, and I don’t have all the answers.
What I can tell you is that it hit me harder this time around. Because I’ve gotten to know Riley as a character a bit more. He’s not just some no-name redshirt. He’s a significant character on the show. And how he’s dead.
And I’m sorry to have to say it, but his blood is on Rush’s hands.
Rush tries to justify it, but he knows that all of this was his fault.
And there’s something else. He says he’s found that this ship was named Destiny for a reason.
Most of the Lucian Alliance have been left on the planet to fend for themselves. I wonder what will become of them. Will they all die? Will they become the founders of a new human civilisation in this distant galaxy?
Meanwhile, the conflict between Earth and the Lucian Alliance back in the Milky Way is heating up, and there are fears that they may attack Earth.
Some of those who remain on board are Ginn, Varro and Simeon.
Young is not okay. While the others toast Riley in the mess hall, Young drinks alone in his quarters with tears streaming down his face.
And that’s okay.
Then something pops up on one of the monitors, and Destiny drops out of FTL.
There’s an object out there coming into range.
Whatever it is, they’re heading straight for it.
We’ll find out what that object is next time, when we talk about the episode Awakening. It should be pretty cool.
Don’t forget, you can find my original works of science fiction, including the Jewel of The Stars series, at AdamDavidCollings.com/books
Have a great two weeks.
Live long and prosper
Make it so.