In today's Stargate Universe podcast, we talk about the episode "Human" which features Michael Shanks guest starring as Doctor Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1. Rush is trying to figure out how to unlock the computer on Destiny, in order to control the ship. But to do that, he must relive the most traumatic moment of his life. This episode does some wonderful character exploration and development for Rush.
Welcome to Nerd Heaven.
I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars
And I am a nerd.
This is episode 63 of the podcast.
Today, we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Human.”
The description on Gateworld reads
Rush uses the neural interface chair to try and access Destiny's systems, causing him to recall the events which led to his recruitment into the Stargate program.
This episode was written by Jeff Vlaming
It was directed by Robert C Cooper,
It guest starred Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson
And it first aired on the 23 of april 2010.
The first thing we see in this episode is Rush waking up in a very normal human bed next to a woman. This is his wife, Gloria. She goes about making breakfast while he works, listening to classical music. This is clearly an earlier point in his life.
Even in his life before being a space traveller he was still a workaholic. He was up very early because he had things to do. But, it seems he found someone who could tolerate his eccentricities.
They do some interesting things with the camera during this sequence to show us this isn’t the present, and is likely a dream. Lots of very extreme closeups on things, and they let a whole heap of light into the lens so everything seems a bit over-exposed. These are the kinds of tricks that directors use to show us that “something is off”.
I love that first look we get at Rush’s home office. There are pieces of paper covering literally every square centimetre of his walls. It nicely demonstrates his obsession. But what is he obsessing over at this point in his life? We don’t know yet.
But he pulls out of an appointment with his wife. He won’t be able to make it today.
And it seems that like all true academics, Rush doesn’t just do pure research. He teaches as well. He’s a lecturer. This is very common. When you work at a university, you tend to do both teaching and research. Universities actually have two missions. One, pass on knowledge to the next generation, that’s the mission of every school, but it’s the second mission that sets them apart from a high school or a primary school. They are tasked with generating the knowledge that is passed on.
Another woman, Constance, is concerned that he’s not with Gloria. “I thought you’d be worried sick,” she says. “I am,” Rush replies in his deadpan dismissive way. Rush doesn’t like to betray much in the way of emotions, especially the emotions that are sometimes perceived as weakness, such as sorrow.
And he’s seeing these symbols floating in front of him wherever he goes. It’s very distracting to him. He’s constantly writing things in a notebook. This is our first hint that we’re not just looking at a flashback from Rush’s past.
When Gloria rings him to tell him that ‘it’s” back, I think we can all figure out what she’s referring to. She’s got cancer, but Rush doesn’t seem to care. He acts like she’s telling him what they’re having for dinner. She asks if he’s coming home and he fobs her off like he cares nothing for her. If you’re watching this for the first time then you likely want to punch Rush in the face and tell him to go home and be with his wife.
This is our second hint that this isn’t just a flashback. It’s something more.
When Rush finally does arrive home, we see what might have attracted him to Gloria in the first place. She’s playing violin. He’s a real sucker for classical music. But he doesn’t even go to her, he just walks off, probaby back to his home office.
When we next see him, he’s out and about, noticing something about a car’s number plate. And that’s when a very familiar man comes running across the road. “Doctor Rush, I’m Doctor Daniel Jackson.”
“So you are.”
Rush doesn’t have time for this. “You’re going to tell me about the Stargate program, and your dilemma of how to dial the ninth and final chevron, namely, how to generate sufficient energy to do so.”
Daniel is understandably confused, as we probably are too. “How do you know this? These details are highly classified.”
“I know because it’s already happened. You’re just a figment of my imagination. A memory I’m having to relive in order to achieve what I want.”
I love Daniel’s face when Rush tells him this and then walks away. How are you supposed to respond when somebody tells you that you don’t exist?
That’s when we see Rush in the chair. He’s finally worked up the courage to sit in the thing himself. Brody is there monitoring him, but it seems Young and Eli didn’t know.
The chair hasn’t put Rush into a coma-like it did with Franklin, so apparently, he’s learned how to use it safely. He couldn’t risk his own life in it otherwise.
So he’s trying to figure something out while in this hallucination state. This explains why he’s being so cold to Gloria. That’s not how it went down originally. The last thing he wants to have to do is re-live what was probably the most painful experience in his life. It’s all a distraction from his goal.
Constance behaves like any real person would if she saw Rush ignoring his dying wife like she was a distraction. She’s a part of the dream’s narrative, so she can’t understand what’s really going on here.
I understand that none of this is real, so Rush is not actually hurting Gloria’s or anyone else’s feelings. That Gloria doesn’t actually exist. She’s just a piece of his memory. But it still must be really hard for Rush to act the way he’s acting.
Back in the real world, Chloe joins Eli in the mess hall. He’s been ignoring her ever since the civilian uprising. Eli feels that Chloe betrayed him so he hasn’t been spending time with her. Let’s see if they can resolve this broken relationship in a more satisfying way than they did the Chloe/Scott relationship.
Chloe apologises wholeheartedly. She expresses how much his friendship means to her. She needs to know they’ll be okay. She promises to never betray him again.
He’s mostly silent. He doesn’t promise they’re all good, but when the ship drops out of FTL, he does invite her to join him in seeing where they are now.
The gate has dialed a planet that has stone ruins of buildings. Cool! This is the first sign of civilisation they’ve found out here, well, other than the obelisk, but that was different. That was something constructed by intelligent beings, but no sign of an actual civilisation.
They haven’t detected any life signs on the planet with the Kino. They have 6 hours to check it out.
Eli wants to go check it out. Of course he does. Eli jumps in straight away and says she wants to go too. I think she just wants an excuse to spend some time with Eli and try to rebuild their friendship. And credit to Eli, he helps make her case for her, claiming that she’s been studying Doctor Jackson’s work. And apparently, it’s the truth because he tells her to say something archeological and she immediately replies with “Stratification.” It’s an amusing little scene. I think Young is quite amused by their attempts to sway him when they really don’t have to. He has no problem with them going.
As usual, I’m much more invested in the Chloe/Eli relationship than I am in the Chloe/Scott relationship. But this time watching through, I’m less concerned with wanting them to be a romantic pairing. I’m just enjoying the friendship that the writers are developing between them.
Rush is making good use of his university teaching. Rather than just see his class as a distraction, he’s trying to get them to help him crack the encryption. But they don’t have the answers so he tells them to leave. What use are they? They’re not really people, afterall.
That’s when Daniel shows up again.
This whole dream is Rush trying to solve the encryption on the ship’s computer, that is keeping them from controlling the ship’s path.
We learn that in reality, when Gloria really was dying, Rush became consumed with trying to solve the mystery of the ninth chevron. In the end, his wife died alone because he was away.
We begin to see, as we look at Rush’s backstory, why he is the way he is. Rush can be a massive jerk, but he’s been through a lot. These are the things that made him a jerk. There’s a whole lot of hurt and pain behind everything he says and does. We also learn how he really feels about Eli. He’s threatened by this big kid with no meaningful education who spends most of his time playing ridiculous games. It really bothers him that Eli succeeded where he failed.
This is all a good reminder to me to think about what’s really going on in people’s lives. It’s easy to dislike somebody because they’re a jerk, but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and realise that there’s so much more going on inside them. Perhaps a great deal of hurt.
I’m not saying past hurts are justification for being a jerk, but often we fail to exercise enough compassion, because we don’t take the time to see what’s really going in people’s lives.
Daniel tries to empathise with Rush. He lost his wife too. There was nothing he could do to save Sha’re and that hurt him a lot.
This is really interesting. This is absolutely something the real Daniel would say, but this isn’t actually Daniel. He’s just being conjured up by Rush’s mind. That means that Rush must know about Sha’re’s death, because otherwise, the dream wouldn’t be able to include this particular piece of dialog. I imagine Rush has read every SG mission report from both Earth and Atlantis.
Rush dismisses this. “My wife isn’t the answer,” he says.
The data is coming more slowly from the chair so he has time to process it, but he’s not understanding it.
Again, Daniel urges Rush to spend time with his wife. She’s more important than all of this right now. But from Rush’s point of view, she’s not, because she’s not real.
And then his nose starts bleeding. That’s TV code for “This process is damaging his body in the real world.”
The nosebleed is actually happening in the real world. TJ is doing what she can for him, but there’s only so much she can do. Young is considering pulling the plug, but nobody can speculate on whether that would kill him or not.
The away team have arrived on the planet. Eli and Chloe are thrilled. The ruins look kind of greek/roman esque.
Gloria has some surprising things to say. “You have work to do. Don’t get distracted by me. There are lots of things you can change, but one thing you can’t change is what happened to me.”
Rush is with her because it doesn’t seem to matter where he is as long as he’s working. But she has to remind him that she’s not real. Interestingly, she’s giving the exact opposite advice to Daniel.
On the planet, there’s a little debate going on. Eli has investigated the tunnels under the city with the kino, but he and Chloe want to go down there. Scott and Greer can see no practical reason. Eli and Chloe just want to explore. They want the thrill of maybe finding out who lived on this planet. Scott says, “How would that help us?”
This actually reminds me of the different ways that Vulcans and humans explore space in Star Trek Enterprise. The Vulcans explore for purely practical reasons, but humans have this emotional need to know what’s out there.
Chloe points out the real possibility of finding advanced technology. A lot of advanced races found in the milky way and pegasus galaxies live in what appeared to be primitive stone architecture.
In the end, the thing that convinces them is that Eli has lost the kino in the tunnel. They can’t get the footage unless they go down and find it. So apparently, even though the image is relayed to the controller, it doesn’t get stored there. The footage is stored within the Kino itself.
There’s an awkward moment when Eli jokes with Greer about being scared to go in the caves. He meant no malice by it, but it turns out Greer is a little claustrophobic. Clearly something happened to him as a kid. Just a little hint into his character, which I believe will be further explored in the future. When you look at a tough-guy like Greer, it’s easy to forget they have weaknesses and flaws just like everyone else.
Despite his dismissal of Daniel’s words, and despite Gloria’s own urging, Rush is spending time with her, working in her company. Out for a walk or in the hospital.
Gloria was apparently a Christian. She was drawing comfort from her faith during her last days. Rush has no time for religion but he sits with her, working as always, just to be with her.
Chloe gets caught in spiderwebs and wants to go back. But Greer spots what can only be described as the giant spider from hell. It’s nasty. And he does what we’ve always wanted to do when seeing a scary spider. He shoots it with a machine gun. Of course this spider is as big as a medium dog, so the machine gun makes sense. The bad news is that the gunfire also collapsed the tunnel, trapping them down there.
I’m pretty amused by Scott’s line to Young, “it was a sizable spider, Sir.”
Rush has the information he needs from Destiny, but he can’t understand it, and he doesn’t think staying in this dream any longer is going to help. He reaches for the door that will wake him up.
But Daniel asks “How’s the wife?”
Why is Daniel so insistent on Rush spending time with her.
Apparently, today is the day she dies. No wonder Rush doesn’t want to stick around. How could you live through that again?
Rush starts to wonder why Daniel keeps saying he should be with Gloria. Daniel says it is the 6th of April, but Gloria didn’t die on the 6th of April. The address of his house is supposed to be 4, but it says 46. He’s been seeing the number 46 everywhere since the dream started.
In the real world, Rush has suffered a cardiac event. Staying in this chair is going to kill him eventually. Even Brody is starting to think it might be best to try waking him. The rescue team, Young sent to get the away team out of the tunnels are not going to complete their work in time, but if Rush has figured out the master code to the ship, he might be able to stall the ship going into FTL, to buy them time to complete the rescue, but that means risking Rush’s life to save the others.
But then, if they leave him in the dream, he’s going to die eventually anyway.
Young faces quite the difficult decision. I’m glad it’s not me.
James is gonna try blowing a hole in the roof of the tunnel with C4. It’s risky, but they don’t have time for anything else.
The resulting visual of the tunnel collapsing over a wide area tells us all we need to know. James has made it worse. There’s no way they’re gonna get the team out of there now.
Scott orders them to abandon the rescue and return to Destiny while they still can.
Rush goes to see his wife in the hospital. He doesn’t know what 46 means yet but he assumes being with his wife is important somehow.
So now he has to sit here and watch her die. There could be nothing harder in life.
Gloria has some hard things to say to him, about the person he’s allowed himself to become. How his loss has made him twisted and bitter. Rush is no longer the man she loved. He’s become calloused. He says that man died with her, but she’s having none of that. “I was never your conscience, Nick.” That’s a cop-out.
“I know how much you loved me, stop taking it out on everyone else.”
This whole experience is actually a healing one for Rush. He’s had to face some hard truths about himself, about the person he’s become.
That’s when he wakes. Young grabs him immediately. “We’ve got five minutes to stop this ship from going into FTL. People’s lives are at stake. But Rush can’t do that. He never did crack the code.
Young tells Scott they can’t do anything more. Scott understands and acknowledges. Young tells him not to give up. It’s not over.
But the timer runs out and Destiny jumps.
So Scott, Greer, Chloe and Eli are stranded on an alien planet.
That’s got to be a gut-wrenching realisation for them. Once again, the show is stranding main characters on an alien world with no way to get back to destiny, and no way to make the ship return for them.
Rush doesn’t have all the answers, but he does have 46. That’s the number of Chromosomes in human DNA, apparently. Remember the ancients were essentially a previous iteration of humans. Most ancient technology is protected by a special gene which only they had. A select number of humans also have the gene, but Destiny was built much earlier. It doesn’t use that gene. But the ancients still tied the security system in the ship's computer into their genetic code somehow.
Now they have a place to start. Perhaps in time, they’ll be able to finally control the ship’s navigation systems.
And that’s where we leave the episode.
It was good fun to see the return of Daniel Jackson. He was used effectively in this episode. Technically, it wasn’t really Daniel, but we did get some hint of how the real Daniel was involved in recruiting Rush for the Stargate program. And that’s pretty cool.
This is a great episode. It does some beautiful exploration of Rush’s character. I love how it impacts him personally. We get a lot more insight into who he is, and why. It’ll be fun to see how he changes over time, if he’ll really take Gloria’s advice to stop taking his pain out on others.
And what about those people trapped on the planet. Will we ever see them again?
We’ll have to keep watching to find out.
Next time, we’ll be looking at the episode Lost, which will deal with what happens to the away team.
It should be fun.
If you haven’t checked out any of my fiction yet, remember that you can read my prequel story Fall of the HMAS Adelaide for free. It’s a nice little stand-alone story in my Jewel of The Stars universe that details first contact between humans and aliens, and how it went wrong.
Just go to adamdavidcollings.com/free to get your copy.
Have a great two weeks, live long and prosper.
Make it so.