Nerd heaven

Stargate Universe “Darkness” Detailed Analysis & Review

February 8, 2021

Today we discuss the first regular episode of Stargate Universe after the extended pilot. Destiny now has breathable air but there are a lot of other problems. The most immediate is the mysterious lack of power. As the crisis pushes our characters toward breaking point, can they find a solution?

This episode, and the next, closely tie together. They were originally intended to be one single episode. I'm glad they ended up splitting it in two because it allowed them to really take their time and delve into the characters. It's a great mini-arc.


Welcome to Nerd Heaven.

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars

And I am a nerd.


This is episode 53 of the podcast.

Today we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode Darkness.


MGM have just released the whole of Stargate Universe and Stargate SG-1 on Blue-ray. Previously, the first season of SGU was available on blu-ray but the second season wasn’t. That makes this the perfect time to watch along with me


Of course, these are American releases, but it will hopefully lead to releases in other countries as well.


The early seasons of SG-1, which were shot on film, have been re-mastered for this collection.


And speaking of re-mastering. There’s big new about Babylon 5.

We fans have spent years talking about how a remaster is unlikely to ever happen because Warner Bros doesn’t seem to care about B5 as a property any longer. And now we’ve just learned they’re spent the last 6 years re-mastering it. It’s a shock, but I’ve never been happier to be wrong in all my life.


Babylon 5 was shot in widescreen but framed for 4:3. All the CGI was done in 4:3. The DVD transfer of the show was terrible. They used the full 16:9 frame of the live-action footage, and then cropped and stretched the CGI to fit the frame. That made it look terrible low-res. The scenes to suffer most were those that included both CGI and live-action elements. You could literally see the pixels in these shots. It was horrible.


This new version is back in the original 4:3 so none of those problems exist. But more than that, they’ve re-scanned the film at a higher-resolution, plus they’ve upscaled the CGI. Note, this doesn’t mean they’ve re-rendered the CGI, but from all accounts, the show looks better than it ever has. And that’s very exciting.


One final bit of news before we launch into today’s episode of Stargate Universe, we have a release date for the Snyder Cut of Justice League. The 18th of March.  STill no indication that HBO Max will be available outside of America by them, but Zack did say he’d make sure there were international distribution options in place. Let’s hope they’ll all be ready to go on day 1. I’ll admit I’m pretty nervous as I wait for more news.


Anyway, let’s talk about Darkness.

The description on Gateworld reads

The Destiny suffers a power crisis, putting the lives of the stranded crew in jeopardy when even the emergency reserves run dry. Dr. Rush pushes himself to the breaking point.


This episode was written by Brad Wright

It was directed by Peter Deluise

And it first aired on the 16th of October 2009.


So we’ve solved our most immediate problem. The need for air. But this is a multi-million year old spaceship that hasn’t been maintained since it was launched. There are plenty of other problems. This episode will address the next of these.


They’re eating some kind of group. Powder mixed with water. It could just be protein powder. At least that would give them some calories. But water is very limited. They have to ration it carefully, and they certainly can’t use it for washing. But Eli has found a shower. It doesn’t use water. It sprays some kind of mist.


There’s a nice camaraderie that has already started to build between these people, as they banter about who smells the worst. I really like it.


Also, nice to know they’ve figured out how to make the toilets work. Very important.


But it’s not the water, or the food, or even the toilets that has Rush concerned. It’s the power. Their power reserves are extremely low and Rush can’t figure out why.

They’re been turning on systems since they arrived, sure, but this ship had power to last millions of years of interstellar space flight until now. It seems very coincidental they'd arrive just as its batteries finally give out. There’s got to be more to it.


Rush has been working through the night and he’s getting really testy.


Eli is still playing with the kenos. He’s wanting to get people to say a little something about themselves, to document, not just the circumstances of their situation, but the people involved.

And already, we get a joke, as Eli quotes Planet of The Apes. Once again disproving the notion that Stargate Universe is without humour.


The Keno interviews are interspersed through the episode, and they’re really nice little glimpses into the characters. I especially like Voker’s as it ties in with the episode. And what he says makes sense. We can’t all be mozart, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good astro-physicist.


In Scott’s interview, he says he wants to say a prayer for the crew, although what he actually does is recite Psalm 23, which kinda works as a prayer. Anyway, this shows that he still does have some genuine belief in the faith he was raised with.


Actually, we get a second joke. The officer making the goop asks Young what his assignment is. Young replies “Recipes. For the love of God, recipes.” That got a laugh out loud from me.


Young has had people turning things on all over the ship. They’ve found a  charging plate that can adapt to earth technology, which is really cool, but the minute Rush tells him they have power issues, he tells people to stop. He doesn't try to argue it out. Young doesn’t let his personal issues with Rush get in the way of important matters. And I like that.


He tries to reach out to Rush. They need to be on the same page. And Rush needs to inform Young of anything important that may affect people on the ship.

He offers someone to assist but rush declines. At this point it would take longer to bring somebody up to speed. So Young just picks someone.

Rush isn’t just being arrogant and annoying here. This is a real principle.

I know in my day job field of computer programming, there’s a very real principle, that you can’t just speed up a project by adding a new team member. Adding a new person will slow things down initially because you have to stop productive work to educate the new person and get them up to speed. We’ve known this since the 70s. Probably longer, but that’s when a book was written about it.

So I don’t doubt Rush here. I can understand Young’s desire to add extra resources given the urgency and importance of what Rush is doing, but it probably won’t help.


But the way Rush treats Volker is very rude. Rush is clearly not operating at his best. He hasn’t slept. But is it just affecting his disposition, or is it affecting his ability to do his job? It’s a tough situation because their lives depend on solving this before it’s too late.

But there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns when it’s best, no matter how little time you have, to grab some sleep and try again after. Even if he just takes an hour or two.


Chloe doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’s a political science student, Assistant to a senator, her father, who is now dead. She has no role on this spaceship. She’s a smart young woman but are any of her skills useful in this situation? It’s all a bit frustrating for her.


And of course, Eli is kinda following her around like a lost puppy, because, well, she’s the only person on this ship his age, and he really likes her.

She wants to use one of the showers Eli found, so he agrees to show it to her.


Poor old Eli. He’s standing guard so nobody barges in on Chloe in the shower. With his back turned like a gentleman, of course, but there’s a lot of teenage horniness going on here.

So from his perspective, it’s really bad timing when Lt. James appears and asks him to come have a word with her. She sees right through him, of course. I mean, when it comes to hormones, she’s not exactly above adolescent behaviour herself, right?


Turns out, James doesn’t want to talk to him alone. There’s a whole bunch of people who kinda mob him. The lower downs, the junior officers are feeling left out. They think Young and Rush may know more than they’re telling, about whether they’ll make it back to earth. They think the higher ups are hiding things from them.

Eli thinks this is a load of nonsense. And is almost offended at their suggestion. He promises that if Young and Rush tell him anything of note, he’ll pass it along to these guys, totally not believing in their little conspiracy theory.

I love the way he’s so sarcastic in how he talks to them.


Now, you could argue that Eli is being a little naive here, but I tend to side with Eli in thinking these guys are all just being idiots.

There’s some nice dialogue between Young and Voker, regarding whether it’s worth trying to stand up to Rush.

And then the ship drops out of FTL, and the lights go out. Rush says their power, all of their power, is gone.

So they’re dead in space.

FTL was the last system to fail, and now it’s gone.


Things get pretty awkward with Eli and Chloe when he goes back to help her in the dark.

At first she wants privacy but then calls him back. He fails to hide the delight when she wants him to stay, but then she tells him to turn around while she finishes dressing.

There’s no actual nudity shown in any of this. You could say that this whole thing is….not so much gratuitous, but … needlessly sexy, I suppose.

But I contrast this scene with one in Star Trek Enterprise. You probably remember it, when Hoshi is climbing through the jeffery’s tube and slips, and somehow her shirt stays up there, and she slips down without it. And of course, for some reason she’s not wearing a bra.

That scene was really bad. It was clearly made to titillate. It was an extremely childish attempt to get ratings with meaningless sexiness.


Compared to that, this scene looks really good. It wasn’t so much made to titillate. Maybe a little bit, but this is just a portrayal of young people, as they really are, in a situation that is believable. So I think this scene is a lot more justified.


Rush’s rant to young about how his order to try dialling earth robbed him of the time he needed to solve this problem before it was too late.

But Young makes a good point. With all the mistakes Young has made, ordering people to do things that have wasted power, it doesn’t add up to a result this dire. They’re missing something.

But Rush is too frantic to hear it. He’s given up hope because there’s nothing more he can do. And then he passes out.

This was some fantastic acting from Robert Carlyle. I love it.


Young wants to use the communication stone to visit Earth, and Telford is volunteering for stone duty again. We get the impression he does this often. He really wants to be on board Destiny as much as he can. It’s amusingly ironic that the one person who managed to avoid getting stuck on that ship is the one who really wants to be there.

Telford is quick to blame Young for the situation on Destiny. Yes, Rush saw this coming but it wasn’t in Young’s power to prevent this.


Debriefing on the current situation doesn’t take long, so Young decides to go visit his wife while he’s on earth. Of course, he’s visiting her in Telford’s body, which has got to be weird for her.

I think she has just been given clearance to know about the stargate program. It would be a lot to take in.

Aliens exist, we have a stargate. Your husband is stranded in a galaxy so far away we don’t have a name for it. But his spirit can visit you in another man’s body due to an alien communication technology. Oh, and he’s here to see you.


Her uncertain response to him is completely believable.


Their marriage was on the verge of being over before he left for Icarus base. His job was one of the issues between them, but not the only one.


Now that she’s completely out of his reach, he wants to make things right with her. He wants to get home somehow, and he wants her to be here waiting for him when he does.

And that’s a big ask.

But...I can understand him wanting to ask. When you love someone, you do all you can to hold onto them.


Of course, she still has the option to say no, and that’s what she does, at least at first.

His wife takes some time to think about it, and then finally comes back outside to talk to Young about it.

She’s willing to consider that this might all be true, and I think she’s believing that Young genuinely wants to patch things up with her, to get home to her.

But she asks “How does this change things?” In the end, she can’t see that this makes any difference. He still put his career ahead of his marriage, and she’s not yet able to forgive him for this.


Young leaves defeated, but I think, there’s some stuff going on in her mind. She’s not ready to forgive yet, but she’s closer than either of them realise.

While Young is off failing to save his marriage, Telford is busy ordering Scott to use the stones to report that Young needs to be replaced.

Young’s response, when he returns to his own body, “well, he’s probably right about that.”

Colonel Young knows his shortcomings as a leader, but he wants to overcome them. He wants to be better, and he really does try.

And that’s what I love about his character. The more times I watch this show, the more Young grows on me.


And, of course, the more I love to hate Telford.


Anyway, they’ve learned that Destiny dropped out of FTL in a solar system with several potentially habitable planets. The odds of them running out of power that close to a star, rather than out in open interstellar space, is so ridiculously astronomical, that it has to mean something. It’s like the ship deliberately came here. Again, all very logical. And we know the ship does things for a reason, like when it dialed the stargate to the planet that contained the limestone that saved their lives.


This information is delivered to us through one of the Keno interviews. I don’t know the name of the character but she delivers it in a delightful way. The episode takes a bunch of exposition and infuses it with lots of character. It was a wonderful decision on the writer’s part, and the actress sold it very well.


Rush is finally awake after passing out, in what Scott called a nervous breakdown. His body desperately needed sleep. Plus, he’s going through caffeine withdrawal. All the crew who have addictions are suffering right now. Anyway, no matter how understandable Rush’s ranting was, he’s very embarrassed by it. He likes to be in more control than that.

He still has the same concerns about their power situation, but at least he’s capable of being more rational now, despite his withdrawal headache.


When Rush goes to talk to Young about his previous ranting, he can’t bring himself to use the word apology. Instead, he says “I want to explain that I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms.”  You see, there’s a not quite subtle difference in emphasis. An apology could include an explanation of how he wasn’t himself, of course, but he’s more interested in justifying his behaviour, rather than expressing remorse for how that behaviour affected others. Rush almost behaved like a decent human being here, but he blew it. I suspect there’s some really interesting psychological stuff going on with Rush.  As Young says “A lotta work.”


So Destiny is on a trajectory to slingshot around the gas giant, taking it close to the planets that are believed to be habitable. Clearly, this is not a coincidence.

Things are starting to look up a little for our crew.

There’s gonna be a lot of turbulence as they pass near the planet’s atmosphere.


Eli is excited to see this. Who wouldn’t be? Chloe understandably has other things on her mind, like the recent death of her father, but when Eli drags her out to see it she’s mesmerized by its beauty.


It’s an exciting moment.

The ship comes out of the slingshot and Rush is horrified to learn that the manoeuvre has changed their trajectory more than they’d hoped.


They’re headed straight for the star.


That’s not good.


This episode, and the next one, were originally conceived as a single script, but they were broken apart into two. I think this was a good move. It allows a lot more time to deal with the characters as the main plot progresses, plus it gives us time to really build up some strong tension regarding the ship’s predicament.

I love the serialised nature of this show. SG-1 and Atlantis were both serialised, of course, but Universe just takes it that step further.


So this was the first regular episode of SGU after the 3-part pilot. And I think the show has well and truly established itself as something special. Something strong. I can’t wait to dive into the next one, Light, which will be filled with a whole lot of emotions.

Next week the story picks up right where we left it with the episode Light. It’s a great one, and I can’t wait to share it with you in two weeks.


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Have a great two weeks.

Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

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