The Stargate franchise has tackled themes of religion and spirituality in the past, but today's episode might just be one of the best examples. Stargate Universe "Faith" presents us with a massive science fiction mystery. The episode delves into questions of faith and duty. Join me as I dig into this wonderful episode.
Welcome to Nerd Heaven.
I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars
And I am a nerd.
This is episode 62 of the podcast.
Today, we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Faith”
The description on gateworld reads
The crew finds an idyllic planet when Destiny stops without its countdown clock running, tempting some crew members to stay permanently.
It was written by Denis McGrath
Directed by William Waring
And first aired on the 16th of April 2010
Stargate has been examining questions of religion and faith since the very beginning. From the original movie and into SG1. Atlantis leaned on it less but it was definitely still there. But these shows rarely used subtlety and nuance on the subject, although they did some interesting stuff with the Ori inn seasons 9 and 10. Today’s episode has more of that subtlety and nuance than the Jaffa’s faith in the very obviously false gods, the Goa’huld.
When TJ wakes up, she’s got really long hair. And I’m thinking, didnn’t she have short hair up until now? That seems to be the military norm. But when we see her later, I realise that it’s all kind of tied up. So I guess she’s always had long hair. I’m not very observant about these kinds of things.
Rush can barely walk, but he turns up in the lab because, in his words, there’s too much work to be done. He’s a workaholic. It’s about the only thing he’s passionate about. No surprise he doesn’t want to take the necessary time to allow his body to recover from his surgery.
They’re all working to repair the ship, seal off the breaches in the hull from the alien’s boarding parties.
For all his faults, Young is trying, really trying, to get along with Rush and find a way to work with him. Young has always been the more gracious of the two. It’s really hard to know what’s going on in Rush’s head, because he doesn’t betray a lot. I don’t think he cares anything that Young is trying, again, to extend the hand of peace. I think, to Rush, Young is irrelevant. Beneath him.
It seems Chloe and Scott are not currently speaking to each other. Which is correct. If this was a 90s show, they would all be back to normal now, resuming their relationship, with no memory of the coup that happened last episode. I’m so glad that TV moved to a more serialised medium. Although, as we’ll see later, they’ll still resolved their relationship a lot quicker and easier than I think they should have.
Scott is trying to make an effort to follow Young’s orders regarding the civilians. Greer doesn’t like it, at all. TJ doesn’t seem keen either, but she may have bigger problems. Scott thinks she looks sick.
The ship drops out of FTL in empty space, and the gate isn’t dialing. That’s a first. Young says there are no planets, no stars. He says this based on the records in the computer, but those looking out the window can see there is clearly a star out there.
It would seem that Destiny’s records are out of date. The seed ships are supposed to relay information back to Destiny about the various star systems.
The star is a yellow dwarf, just like our sun. Destiny didn’t stop on purpose, it didn’t know the star was here. The gravity well interfered with the ship’s FTL flight and caused it to drop out prematurely.
Destiny has already plotted a parabolic course around the star so it can resume its course. It’ll take a few weeks, but here’s the exciting part. There’s a planet. Just one. Same size as earth and by all accounts a perfect paradise. They can’t gate to the planet but it’s within shuttle range. They usually only have about a day to investigate a planet, but in this case they have weeks.
This is a big mystery. According to scans, the planet is a few hundred millions of years old. So why didn’t the seed ship see it and drop a stargate on it? The seed ships aren’t that far ahead of Destiny. Even weirder, they think that given the age of the star, the planet should be a ball of molten rock.
The planet does look beautiful. Like Canada, in the truest tradition of SG1, but it still looks a little different, because of the way they shoot it.
Greer is an idiot. He finds a fruit that looks exactly like a kiwi. He takes a big bite rather than waiting for a scientific analysis to determine whether it’s poisonous. Anyway, this is the first alien food they’ve found that actually tastes good. And there’s fresh water down there too.
But Scott sounds a little word of caution. They haven’t detected any animals, especially dangerous ones, but who knows what comes out at night.
This is a nice subtle callback to Time, where the nice jungle planet became a living hell at night because of the creatures that emerged. I like the big connective story arcs in shows like this, but I also appreciate these little subtle moments that you might not even catch if you’re not paying attention. The first season of Farscape did a lot of this kind of thing and I know people appreciated that.
This planet is wonderful. They’re all feeling it. TJ especially. It reminds her of childhood camping trips. Scott has to practically drag her away when it’s time to return to the ship with their findings.
And this is when things get really interesting. They’re flying over the mountains and they spot an obelisk. Bit tall stone thing, not quite Egyptian, but very eye-catching. Who could have put it there? It’s just sitting there in the middle of the wilderness.
600 metres tall, which is about 2,000 feet, with a faint EM field.
There are markings in an alien language. Rush doesn’t think it’s the same aliens they’ve been encountering over the last few episodes. Because those aliens don’t seem to have the technology to build this. Not the obelisk, the planet.
Rush thinks the planet was artificially constructed by someone.
Eli immediately mentions the Genesis device, which is awesome. I share his frustration that nobody seems to pick up on that Star Trek reference, but honestly, the first thing that popped into my head was Slartibartfast and the Magratheans who created planets in the universe of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.
Rush says the planet, and the star, were placed here after the seed ships passed by. He doesn't actually explain his reasoning, other than the fact that there’s no stargate and it’s not in the records. There could be other explanations.
But assuming he’s right, for a race to have created this star and planet, they would be more advanced than any race ever encountered in the Stargate universe, more advanced than the Goa'uld, the Asgard, even the Ancients. One of the things I like science fiction for, is the sense of wonder, the sense of awe. And this episode really delivers on that.
Clearly, this planet bears deeper investigation, but they’re almost out of shuttle range. Rush suggests sending a team down now and then picking them back in a month when Destiny loops back around on the other side, on it’s way out of the system.
That’s a risk, of course, because there could be aliens down there we haven’t seen yet, but oh man, it’s compelling. And the food and medicine alone makes it worth the risk.
Surprisingly, it’s Eli who argues against this. At first, that might seem odd. He’s the geek, just like us. He loves science fiction. His imagination would be just as captivated as mine is, but facing real aliens is a whole different thing to watching them on TV or reading about them in books. Eli has less experience with aliens than anyone else on this ship. He didn’t even know about the Stargate program until the day he left Earth. The history of the show so far has shown us that Eli has reacted with understandable fear in the face of their few aliens encounters so far. So he’s actually being very consistent with his established character right now.
Camille would like to go down but she’s not sure about Rush’s calculations. She asks TJ “can he be trusted?” and TJ’s reply is “You tell me.” I think this is a bit of a dig at Camille for her involvement in the civilian uprising with Rush.
We get a nice reminder that Franklin is still in the medical bay in a coma, following his encounter with the alien chair device a few episodes back. Nice to know they’re not forgotten that thread. As a writer you need to drop these little things just re-assure readers when you stretch out a plot element like this. I’m actually doing a similar thing in my Jewel of The Stars books. I have a character who was injured in book 1 and is in a long-term coma over a number of books. You gotta remind the reader that you haven’t forgotten about them from time to time.
Chloe is going down to the planet, and so is Scott. That could be awkward, but at least they say a few words to each other.
Eli is remaining on Destiny, really not happy about people going down there.
Tensions are still pretty high. The military are very much running the show on this mission, but there’s some real resentment. One officer tells a civilian to dig a hole for the toilet. He refuses. Greer is kind of amused but annoyed that the officer made the civilian do this dirty job. So he makes them do it together. In his own Greer way, this is him trying to live the new spirit of cooperation as ordered.
Chloe has also noticed that TJ doesn’t look well. Given how little they get to eat on Destiny it’s no wonder they’re all not sick.
Camille asks Eli what he thinks about the planet. Is it really possible to make a star? Eli says the star appeared out of nowhere. And the planet’s age doesn’t line up with what it should be.
From his perspective, the most logical explanation he can see is that it was created by some all powerful alien force.
And I find that very interesting. Evidence of extra-natural creation, if not supernatural creation.
And then Scott has a chat with Caine down on the planet. He appreciates that Scott is one of the few military that seem to really mean it when they say they want to mend fences, and now they’ve been given the perfect opportunity to work it all out. Time to really think and talk, and work together. Through unbelievable circumstances. How can this be anything other than a miracle, he asks.
And I agree. Now you can debate the source of this miracle as long as you like, but I don’t think anyone down on that planet could really argue that the word miracle doesn’t apply here.
This leads to a bunch of the people down on the planet discussing issues of a spiritual nature. Is there such a thing as fate? Is there a God with a plan? TJ is holding her personal cards pretty close to her chest. Chloe seems to be leaning slightly toward the spiritual side of the argument, rather than the naturalistic view of the random scientist guy.
There are a couple of amusing scenes in this episode where Brody and Park are trying to repair the second shuttle, remember, the one Senator Armstrong died in. Whenever Young asks for an update, Brody says “Oh, it’s going terrible,” and at the same moment, Park says “It’s going great.” These scenes get a good chuckle out of me. And I totally get it. I see these extremes in my own work as a software developer.
You see, Brody is looking at the big picture. There are so many things that don’t work, so many problems yet to be solved. Whereas Park is celebrating their most recent success. The can make the shuttle move left. Brilliant. That’s a significant step.
You see, developing a software product, or repairing an alien shuttle, is a project that needs to be broken down into steps. My computer science teacher used to ask the question “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, “One bite at a time.”
Whenever I’m feeling like Brody, I’m trying to solve the big picture all at once. I’m looking at the sheer number of issues still to be solved. But I’m forgetting to focus on the individual parts of the problem. I need to break it down and solve them one by one.
Anyway, It’ll certainly be handy to have two shuttles instead of just one when it’s time to get the people and supplies back up.
Scott and Chloe seem to be talking again. Things seem to improve after Scott catches her swimming naked in a lake. Because, you know, sexy feelings are all it takes to overcome differences apparently.
If I’d been writing this show, I’d have had their relationship end after the coup. Probably permanently. I could maybe have them get back together eventually, but definitely not just after one episode.
But the worst crime here is that their relationship challenges all get solved off camera. We see Chloe coyly skinny dipping while Scott stares lwedly at her, and then, the next scene, they’re all back to normal. Deep Space Nine did this once with Odo and Kira. I wasn’t impressed that time, either.
I think one reason the writers may have fast-tracked this reconciliation is that they needed Chloe and Scott to be willing to stay on the planet, or return to Destiny, for each other. Their relationship needed to be fixed so that we could believe they’d both be willing to make their respective sacrifice.
This is when we learn that TJ is pregnant. 15 weeks. Just before she arrived in Icarus apparently. It seems pretty obvious that Young is the father. There’s those inconvenient consequences again.
One of the reasons they wrote this particular plot arc is that Alaina Huffman who played TJ was pregnant in real life. I worked out pretty well, though, because the writers were already toying with the idea of having a pregnancy, figuring it would be interesting to see a character have to struggle with the idea of raising a child on destiny and all the extra complications that would bring.
Anyway, TJ was kind of the perfect character to use for the poregnancy story, because it was already established that she’d had a prior relationship with Young, and this whole thing only complicate’s Young’s situation with his wife further.
It was pretty common for TV writers to have to find creative ways to deal with actor pregnancy. It happened on Star Trek a lot. There’s a reason Doctor Crusher and B'elanna Torres suddenly started wearing big flowing coats over their uniforms, although they did write B’elanna’s pregnancy as a holodeck simulation into one episode. In DS9, they had a bit more fun with it, transferring the maby of Miles and Keiko O’Brien into Kira’s body due to a medical emergency after a runabout accident.
Rush is exploring new parts of the ship while they’re not in FTL and he’s found some kind of big device that James describes as a robot. That’s interesting.
Chloe admits to Scott that she’s starting to see things Caine’s way. Somebody put this planet here for a reason, maybe for them. Be it, God, or an alien of some kind. Maybe there is some higher power in the universe that knew the crew of Destiny needed help.
And that’s when they notice the obelisk is shooting a bright light into the sky.
More and more interesting.
Sadly, it’s about time to start preparing to return to Destiny. They’ve gathered a lot of food
But from Volker’s point of view, this is really bad timing. The obelisk has just started doing stuff. He wants more time to study it. I totally understand that, but they're on a deadline here. They can’t control Destiny’s movements so they have no choice but to get back on board when it goes past or be left behind forever.
Rush is feeling that same sadness. He doesn’t need to be down on the planet experiencing it like Volker, but he hungers for answers just as much as anyone else.
TJ is thinking of staying on the planet. A few others are as well, but TJ is determined. Caine thinks anyone capable of creating this solar system could certainly help them get back home. Greer and Scott assume such aliens would be hostile. Chloe, and Canine seem to assume the opposite.
In reality, neither really has any evidence to know one way or the other. They can’t possibly know what the aliens would be like.
Caine says “This planet was created for us. We were led here for a reason.” He says it so emphatically.
Now, I’m a person of faith. I don’t try to hide that. But faith has to be anchored in something. A collection of scriptures, somebody’s teachings, eyewitness accounts of something miraculous. In order to have faith, you need something to put faith in.
So they have hard evidence of what can only be assumed to be miraculous. A level of technology so far beyond what we can understand that the word miraculous would seem to apply.
But he’s making a whole lot of assumptions. They have no data on who or what created this planet. They have no idea why the planet was created. This is why Rush is so depressed, because they’re about to leave this system without the answers to those questions. We don’t know if the aliens even know that destiny and its crew exist.
But Caine is convinced he knows why the planet was made, who it was made for, and that it is part of a larger plan that involves the humans. But he has absolutely nothing to base that on.
So it’s hard to even call what he’s exercising faith. It’s actually closer to imagination. He’s just making stuff up.
So while Caine is putting all his hope on the return of the aliens, TJ is okay with them never returning. This planet has food and water. The winters get cold there, well below freezing. Okay. I live in Tasmania. We get below freezing in winter, but I’ve been watching some videos from my favourite travel vloggers recently. They’ve been staying at Yellowstone National Park. And that place gets way colder than we ever get in Tassie. They’ll need much better shelter, but there are plenty of trees to cut down.
And that’s when TJ finally tells Scott she’s pregnant. That’s why she can’t go back to the ship. She doesn’t want to have her baby on Destiny. What kind of a life would that be?
When Scott finally makes contact with Young, as Destiny draws close, he tells him there are 11 people that want to stay behind. Caine and TJ we know. Chloe wants to stay as well, and so does Scott. He says he feels an obligation to help the people survive down there, but I think he probably wants to stay because of Chloe.
And this is where we have to face the question of personal rights versus responsibility to the group. TJ is their medic. She’s the closest thing they have to a doctor. Nobody else comes close. If she stays on the planet then the crew have no medical care at all. Does she have the right to deny them that? Do they have the right to deny her a change to raise her child on the planet?
I think in the case of TJ and Scott, they do have an obligation to follow orders. They’re military personnel. They have a duty to their commanding officer. But then, TJ technically finished her tour of duty. She was gonna head back to earth before they ended up on this ship. So how does that fit into it?
So now we have Camille and Rush offering different perspectives. Camille feels the people have the right to choose whether to return or not. Rush believes that Young should round them up at gunpoint and force them back on board for the good of the crew.
Young says not all of them have the right to choose, which brings us back to the duty of the military people.
Scott hasn’t told Young about TJ’s pregnancy. That’s her job. Scott knows about their prior relationship, but apparently not anyone else on the ship does.
Young has made his decision. He is gonna let some of them stay, and he’s giving them the second shuttle. The damaged one. He flies it down himself, which is quite a risk. The shuttle may not do them much good, as it may never be able to be fully repaired. But it does make it down in one piece.
Rush is pretty furious. They may need that shuttle some day, not to mention the people.
I was surprised to see Greer as on who wanted to remain behind.
Young gives his ultimatum.
Either all military personnel return to the ship, and he’ll leave the shuttle for the rest of them.
Or, he’ll take everyone back on board by force.
So with great pain, TJ agrees to return. She doesn’t mention the baby.
Scott is the last holdout but he returns as well, and so does Chloe.
Young tells Rush he’s sorry he didn’t get his wish. Aliens smart enough to build a solar system. Finally someone Rush can have a decent conversation with.
That got a laugh out of me.
Scott asks Young a very important question. “What if that planet was a lifeline and we just let it go?”
And despite Caine having no evidence for his assertions about the aliens wanting to help us all, it is an important question. That planet was perfectly suited to human habitation. It was right there when they needed it. It’s very possible that somebody did put it there for them.
Are they foolish to have left it behind?
In the end, there was one reason why Young argued for staying on Destiny. Because he believes it’s still the best chance to get home. And without anything to corroborate Caine’s theories, he’s right.
But maybe building a new life on that planet is a valid alternative to trying to get home. They could live the rest of their lives there. It might be a better life than forever clinging to the faint hope that they could get home.
Star Trek Voyager addressed this question in the episode The 37s. Not a bad episode, but I think this one explores the question more deeply. In Voyager, nobody chose to stay, but I think they had more reason to hope they’d make it back to earth in their lifetime than the crew of Destiny do.
The episode closes with the contrast of Young everyone else smiling and laughing as they have their first good meal in a very very long time, while TJ sits alone in the medical bay with tears streaming down her face.
Yeah, I really feel for her.
I don’t know why she didn’t just tell Young about the baby. She can’t keep it secret forever, and it might have been enough to change his mind. There seems to have been no advantage to keeping quiet.
I really like this episode. The created planet is one of those great science fiction concepts that inspire the imagination, and it raised some thought-provoking questions about faith and duty.
If this had been a Star Trek original series episode, they would have solved the mystery. They’d have found out who made the planet, and why. And that is certainly a valid story to tell. And it would still have had a sense of wonder to it. But Stargate Universe doesn’t do that. It leaves us in the dark, setting things up to be further explored in the future. Stargate Universe is playing the long game. And I love that.
What really sucks is that the show didn’t continue long enough to give us more answers and explore it all deeper. It’s looking like there’s a strong chance we’ll eventually get a new Stargate Show, and I know Brad Wright has plans to address the fate of Destiny. I can only hope that we learn more about this mysterious planet and whoever created it. And that those answers are satisfying. That’s always the danger with these big set ups. It can be hard to pay them off satisfactorily.
But there you have it. Faith. I’m remembering how much I enjoyed the second half of this season.
Next week, we’ll be looking at an episode called Human. It’ll take us on a deep dive into Rush’s backstory, which is cool, and we may even see a familiar face.
I can’t wait to talk about it with you all.
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Have a great two weeks.
Live long and prosper.
Make it so.