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Stargate Universe “Justice” Detailed Analysis & Review

May 3, 2021

Today's episode is a turning point in the first season of Stargate Universe. It starts out as a murder mystery. Who killed Spencer? But it quickly becomes something much bigger. There are conspiracies taking place on board Destiny, and various camps are vying for control of the ship. I've really enjoyed the show up until now, but this is where things start getting even more interesting. Join me as we dig deep into "Justice".

Transcript

 

Welcome to Nerd Heaven

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

And I am a nerd.

 

This is the 59th episode of the podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Justice”.,

 

The description on gateworld reads

Colonel Young cedes command of the ship after he is implicated in the murder of a crew member.

 

This episode was WRITTEN BY: Alan McCullough

It was DIRECTED BY: William Waring

And it first aired on the 4th of December 2009

 

One of the biggest adjustments the crew of Destiny are going to have to make, being so far from home, is eating alien food. They managed to find some vegetables on a planet that are chemically safe. But it all comes down to the all-important taste test. These plants were never meant to be eaten by humans. So there’s no reason to believe they will be in any way palatable to us. It’s just lucky that they’re not poisonous, and they contain nutrients that will keep us alive.

Greer is the first to try it. Everyone looks on with baited breath as he puts the first bite in his mouth. His verdict, “That is one sweet potato.”

But of course, when everyone else tries they nearly vomit. Greer is a tough-guy military type. He’s got the self control to hold back his revulsion and pretend it was good. Not an easy feat, I would imagine.

He makes a good point, thought. It will keep them alive.

And that’s when they notice that Spender is supposed to be on kitchen duty. He’s late for his shift.

Ah, our old friends Spencer. A jerk, no doubt about it, but he’s been facing some very real mental health difficulties lately. He’s not coping with being stranded here in a distant galaxy. Things have been coming to a head with him for a number of episodes.

So what’s he up to now?

Turns out, he’s not up to anything. He’s very dead. Mercifully, we’re not shown anything close up, but from the blood spatters it looks like it was a gun to the head.

 

Just before Young gets the call from Greer, he’s talking with Camille. She feels Young is pushing people too hard with their training. After all, this isn’t boot camp.

Young agrees. This isn’t boot camp. At boot camp, you have plenty of chances to learn from your mistakes.

 

Camille is making the point that he should be going easier on people than he would if they were going through boot camp. Young’s position is that he should be even harder, because out here, one mistake could kill you, and maybe everyone else as well.

 

TJ believes it was suicide, which definately fits. He was depressed and unstable.

This leads to a debate about whether he should have had access to a gun. Young’s position is that he was a trained soldier. It was required of him to carry a gun. But I imagine a soldier with the emotional troubles he had anywhere on earth would be put on medical leave and have no access to a weapon.

But out here, do they have that luxury? Or do they need every able body to do their job?

Personally, I tend to think that Spencer should have been taken off duty, at least until a military situation that required him to act came up.

 

But all this becomes moot when Greer says it wasn’t suicide.

There’s no gun in the room. Whoever shot him took the weapon.

 

The thought that somebody on this ship could be a murderer is a truly shocking idea. One that is hard for Young and Eli to wrap their heads around.

Rush points out that he had no friends. Nobody liked him. He was involved in a bunch of confrontations and he was hoarding water and food. Nailing down just one person with sufficient motive could be a challenge.

 

A bunch of people were playing cards together at the time. They can all corroborate each other’s whereabouts. Young has no alibi because he was asleep in his quarters. So he’s turning the investigation over to Scott, who was one of the card players.

 

Most science fiction shows do a murder mystery story at one point. Whenever you do a story like this you need to decide which character will play the role of the detective. On shows like Star Trek and Babylon 5 it tends to be the security chief. They’re considered the police officer of the ship or station. Stargate Universe doesn’t really have that role. 

But given the circumstances, Scott seems the logical option.

 

I do like the sci-fi mystery story. Mystery is one of those genres that blends nicely with basically any other genre in existence. It’s like salt, it adds to and enhances the flavour of everything else.

 

And personally, the mysteries I enjoy most are those that are mixed with sci-fi, or fantasy, or a historical setting. Taking the typical cozy mystery tropes and putting them in a place or time where you’d not expect to see them. I eat that stuff up.

 

The primary focus is on finding the missing murder weapon. To that end, Scott is going to methodically search every room on the ship, starting with quarters. Most people want to be present when their quarters are searched, demonstrating the immediate lack of trust that everyone is feeling. This whole thing has them all shaken.

 

Camille thinks Greer should be the primary suspect. He was the one who found the body. He’s the one who claims the gun was nowhere in sight. But there’s really no evidence that points to Greer at present. Scott counters by saying Greer is one of the few people that can be eliminated from suspicion, but he doesn’t give any basis for that statement either.

 

Rush has completely disregarded the instruction for everyone to remain in the gateroom until their quarters have been searched. He’s in the control room uncovering interesting new things about their chair device. He makes the extraordinary statement “Obviously, colonel, neither you or I have anything to do with all this. I thought this would be an opportunity to still get some work done.”

At this point, I’d have to say that Rush has painted a big “suspect” sign on his back.

 

Young makes a point of not needing to be present when they search his room. He’s trying to show people that he trusts Scott and Eli to do their job.

 

And that’s when Eli finds the gun hidden behind a grate in Young’s quarters.

 

Scott is ready to say they found the gun in a storage locker. He has absolute confidence that Young is being framed. Eli is uncomfortable with this. I would be too. I’m not saying I’d believe Young was guilty, it seems pretty obvious that somebody is trying to undermine his authority, but I’d be uncomfortable about subverting the proper process of law. Whatever that means on this starship millions of lightyears from home.

 

In the end, Young agrees with Eli. They have to be above board with this.

He orders them to give the gun to Camille and tell her the whole truth.

This also takes Scott out of the investigation. He can’t be expected to investigate his immediate superior officer.

So wray is now in charge of the investigation.

 

Young wants everything above board and out in the open. That may be the best way to uncover what is really going on.

 

Camille has talked to her IOA superiors and they have told her to hold a hearing.

Young is going to have to defend himself, and he expects Camille to come after him.  The IOA want one of their own in charge, and this is their best shot.

They basically pulled this same thing with Atlantis a number a few years earlier. The city started with civilian leadership under Elizabeth Weir, but after she was lost to them, Colonel Carter took over. But after one year, she went on to captain the starship Hammond, and the IOA finally got one of their own in charge. Richard Woolsey, famously portrayed by Robert Picardo from Star Trek Voyager.

 

There seems to be this really uneasy peace between the IOA and the US military. Remember last episode, Camille’s boss told her to create her own camp to try to wrestle control of Destiny from Young and Rush.

 

Anyway, all this to say that Young needs a lawyer. He picks Chloe.

And I agreed with his choice. She;s the obvious candidate.

She studied political science at Harvard, and while I’m sure there’s a sizable gap between that and law, this trial is mostly politics anyway. He doesn’t want Scott to do it because then it will look like the military vs the civilians.

 

I don’t blame Chloe for being hesitant about this. She isn’t close to being qualified for this, but Young is right. She’s his best hope.

 

So now the episode  changes from a mystery to a legal show.

 

The first witness Camille goes after is Franklin, who saw Young hold Spencer up against the wall last episode. Of course, he was defending Franklin at the time. As Franklin says, Spencer was out of control.

 

Interestingly, Young leaves the hearing during this exchange. I guess there’s no rule that says he has to be present. 

 

Volker and Rush remember a conversation where Young implied he might have to take drastic action in regards to Spencer, if things didn’t improve. But he didn’t explain what drastic action meant.

 

Rush is very interesting in how he answers the questions. He lays out exactly what he thinks Camille is trying to imply. That they’re all better off without Spencer and Young might have come to the same conclusion. He says that would be pure speculation and he’s having none of it, but as Eli says, that didn’t stop him from saying it out loud. Remember this moment.

 

But let me ask you that question.

Are the people on board Density better off without Spencer?

From a purely practical point of view, maybe they are. He was a disruptive influence who caused nothing but problems. 

But he was a human being.

And as such, his life had incalculable value. 

So, in my opinion, no. they cannot be considered better off without him. He was one of their own, who was an unbelievable jerk, but he was suffering and struggling, 

and he needed help. 

And now he’s dead.

 

And we finally get confirmation that the tablets Spencer was taking were sleeping tablets. He may have been addicted, which could lead to suicidal tendencies. Poor TJ wishes she’d known. She might have been able to help him.

 

This is a good reminder to all of us that we should be checking to see that our friends are okay if we see anything that concerns us.

 

But Chloe reminds us all of something that’s been conveniently pushed aside and forgotten. Other than the missing gun, all other evidence points to Spencer’s death being suicide. TJ confirmed this earlier.

 

Camille gets a bit touchy when she realises that Chloe is taking her job seriously. It’s like she expects Chloe to just roll over and play along with her because they’re both civilians, and obviously, Young is the bad guy here.

 

In Camille’s mind, what she’s trying to do is get to the truth because they can’t afford to have an unsolved murder. Maybe that’s her job. But Chloe’s job is to represent her client to the best of her ability.

Personally, I think Camille is a bit out of line here.

 

Camille wants to gather all the evidence and then have everybody on board cast their vote for innocence or guilt.

Greer is ready to storm the hearing and end it by force. Many of the other military are with him, but Scott and Young talk them down.

In the end, none of it is necessary. Young and Camilla have an agreement. She’ll call an end to the hearing for lack of evidence, and he’ll stand down as leader. She’ll be taking over now.

 

So the IOA have what they wanted. One of their own in charge of the ship.

 

Rush is looking very cheerful when he goes to offer his congratulations to Camille on her new position.

He says he wants control over his science team, but is happy to report to her.

 

And then, the very next shot, the door opens on the ancient chair device.

So suddenly, Rush has the authority to put someone in the chair.

That’s what he wanted all along.

 

He has his whole team meeting him there. He’s trying to convince them that this chair, as an earlier version, is likely to be safer than the one that almost killed O’Neill.

But I love how Eli points out that the 1.0 version is usually the buggiest.

 

He stops short of asking for a volunteer, but he’s put it out there.

 

Scott isn’t happy about any of this. As far as he is concerned, Young is still his commanding officer.

 

Young comments that he won’t rule this ship by force. If the people don’t have confidence in him, he’s not going to throw his weight around and lay down the law with his gun.

 

In the end, Franklin is the one to take the plunge in the chair. He sends Eli off to get him some food and then sits in it.

 

It really doesn’t look healthy. It drills holes into your head.

Franklin was convulsing until they removed him from the chair and now he’s in a coma.

Things get pretty headed between Young, Rush and Camille.

 

Scott’s had enough. He wants Eli to find evidence in the kino records of who is framing Young.

 

It’s at this point when Destiny drops out of FTL. They’ve got a gate connection to a planet.

 

A team goes through to explore. Volker, and a couple of no-names.

 

And they spot a crashed spaceship!

Rush is excited. I would be too.

This is the first sign of intelligence life they’ve found in this galaxy since they arrived on Destiny. 

 

But before he can get to the gate room. Young grabs him. Eli has found something.

 

It’s a suicide note, recorded on a kino. The footage was deleted from the computer, but Eli had a backup for his documentary.

 

So not only does that prove Young’s innocence, it means that Spencer took his own life.

And that’s terrible.

 

Camille wants to recall the off-world team while they re-assess their situation but Rush argues. The alien ship is too important. They have to learn what they can before time runs out.

And Young agrees.

I would too.

As Rush says, “this mess isn’t going anywhere.”

And this is their one and only opportunity to check out the ship.

 

Young’s going too. And I think he knows exactly why.

 

The ship is not ancient, which means it’s from a completely new species.

 

Young sends the rest of the team back to the gate.

Rush is still geeking out over the ship when Young says “I know it was you.”

 

There was one thing he never told Rush. The kino kept recording until Rush entered Spencer’s room. He heard the shot and found the weapon. In his mind, he wasn’t really framing Young for murder. He knew there wouldn’t be enough evidence for that. The aim was to create just enough doubt to force him to step aside.

“You’re the wrong man for the job, Colonel,” he says.

“You don’t believe in the mission. You stepped down because you couldn’t make the hard calls. That makes you a liability.”

 

Rush says he isn’t proud of what he did, but he did it for the good of everyone on board.

 

So there you have it. Young has sometimes doubted whether he’s good enough to be leading this expedition, but lead it he has. But Rush outright believes he’s not up for the task, so much that he did this.

 

But let’s think about this.

When I first started this re-watch, I was of the opinion that Young was not a good leader, but I respected him because he wanted to be better. He wanted to become a good leader. To be worthy of his position.

 

But going back through the show, I’ve become convinced that Young is actually a pretty good leader. He’s a good military officer.

 

Young has failings, some serious ones, but those are failings as a person, not as an officer.

His failings are emotional and moral. He sometimes lacks maturity and good sense in his personal life, but he’s made some good calls as leader of this expedition.

 

As much as I like watching the character of Rush, I can’t agree with him. He’s wrong about Young.

 

And it’s looking like he might have been wrong about the chair too. So far, Young’s concerns are proving to be justified.

So Young punches Rush a few times and they get into a fist fight.

Obviously Young is gonna win this.

When he thinks Rush has had enough, he asks “Are we done?”

And Rush says, “We’ll never be done.”

 

At that moment, Young really has little choice, does he.

He knocks Rush out and leaves him there on the planet. To die alone. With no hope of ever getting back once they leave the system.

 

Young emerges from the gate and tells the others that Rush didn’t make it. Now he’s playing Rush’s game. He’s lying.

 

Can you believe this? This is really full on. We have the two main leads of the show. The stars. The heroes you might even say. And they’re so at odds that one frames the other, and then the other abandons the first on a planet.

 

This kind of thing was still pretty rare on TV at the time. 

Babylon 5 came close to this kind of conflict between the characters. Farscape as well.

I was blown away the first time I saw this episode.

And I was wondering, had Rush been written out? Was this the last we’d see of him?

 

But let’s think about what Young has done. He’d probably tell you he left Rush behind for the good of the crew. Did Rush represent a danger for the crew? Or did he just represent a danger to Young? I think Rush’s tendency to put his own selfish needs ahead of everyone else represents at least the potential for danger to the entire crew. But the primary threat he represented was to Young himself. Ultimately, it was that statement “We’ll never be done,” that made Young believe he had no other choice.

But the big question is, can Destiny cope without Rush? He’s a very smart person and he knows more about ancient technology than anyone else. Eli is also extremely smart, but he doesn’t have the knowledge of the ancients that Rush does.

By leaving behind one of their most brilliant minds, Young is taking a huge risk. Next time they encounter something that only Rush could have gotten themselves out of, he may regret his decision here.

 

Camille informs the crew of the new evidence and returns command to Young.

 

Young wants a copy of the footage that incriminates Rush, and then wants Eli to delete it from everywhere else.

 

Eli just gives him this look. I think Eli knows, or at least suspects, that Rush didn’t die in an accident on the way back to the gate.

 

Our lost shot is of Rush waking up at night time, looking up into the sky. A lone human on a planet. An entire solar system.

Nobody has ever been as alone as Rush is in this moment.

 

Stargate Universe started really strong for me, with that 3-part pilot. And it continued along well enough. But this episode here, this was when I knew the show was going to continue to be really good. The creators had made something special.

 

The story continues to go into some interesting places in the coming episodes.

 

But amongst all this interesting stuff with Young and Rush and the mysterious alien shuttle, let’s not forget Spencer.

He died. He took his life because he saw no hope and he didn’t think anybody could help him.

Suicide is a truly tragic thing. If you’re feeling at all like Spencer, read out to someone who can help.

You can call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

 

In America, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline on 800 273 8255

 

There are services like this in other countries too. They’re contact details are just a google search away.

 

Next week, we’ll talk about the episode Space.

Until then, Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

 

 

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