Nerd heaven

Stargate Universe “Life” Detailed Analysis & Review

April 19, 2021

In the latest episode of our Stargate Universe Rewatch Podcast, we take a look at the first season episode "Life". This is very much a character-driven episode. We explore elements of character with Scott and Camille as they return to earth via the communication stones. The conflict between Young and Telford intensifies, and Rush makes a startling discovery. That's right, the chair device makes its first appearance in Stargate Universe. This episode is of note because it features no great threat to the crew. In fact, the lack of any great danger is what finally gives the crew time to reflect on their situation. And that causes its own problems.


Welcome to Nerd Heaven

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

And I am a nerd.


This is episode 58 of the podcast.


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


But before we do, I want to acknowledge the tragic passing of Cliff Simon, who played the Goa’uld System Lord Ba’al in Stargate SG-1. From my perspective, this was just announced yesterday, but you won’t be listening to this until the 19th of April, just over a month away.


He died in a kiteboarding accident. In addition to being an actor, he was also quite an athlete. He was only 58 years old.


My heart goes out to his wife, his family, all those who loved him.


Today’s episode of Stargate is called “Life.”


The description on gateworld reads

Lt. Scott and Camille visit their loved ones using the communication stones, leading Colonel Young to a discovery about Telford's activities. On the Destiny, Rush discovers technology he believes may be able to get them home.


The episode was WRITTEN BY: Carl Binder

It was DIRECTED BY: Alex Chapple

And it first aired on the 20th of November 2009


The episode opens with an unconventional choice of music for a sci-fi show. It’s a country-kinda sounding tune. The line that clearly stands out in the lyrics is “It’s been the worst day since yesterday.” That’s kinda thematic to the episode, and the show as a whole. This song is by a band named Flogging Molly.


The characters are starting to come to terms with the fact that this is their life now. They’re on this ship and they’re not leaving any time soon. This is how it’s gonna be. It’s not what any of them wanted (except maybe Rush) but they can’t change it . They just have to try to find a way to get through each day. To find the positives. To make a life for themselves.


So we’re starting to see activities taking place. A bunch of them are exercising together, while Chloe exercises alone.


And then, of course, there are those who have managed to hook up with someone. You can have a relationship with somebody no matter where you are. That actually reminds me of Tom and B'elanna in Star Trek Voyager. They found happiness. They were married and even had a child. In late season 7, Harry asks Tom “Don’t you want to get home?”

And Tom replies “I am home, Harry.”

These Doctor Park and Greer are not at that stage. She seems to just be using the activity as a stress-relief, although I think it means more to Greer. But I can definitely see how building a more committed relationship and family would change your perspective on the place where you are.


Spencer is in his quarters. I don’t think he’s still confined. He’s taking the last tablet of some kind of medication. Not sure what it is, but I imagine it’s important. Let’s hope he doesn’t rely on it to stay alive for his sake.


Telford is still obsessed with stone duty, so that he can get back on board Destiny, but when O’Neill orders him to take a break, he calls up Young’s wife.

They’re having dinner together, but it seems he’s being himself at the moment, not pretending to be Young.


He says he feels an obligation to tell her something about her husband.

Young wants everybody on the ship in shape. And that makes sense. They don’t know what dangers they’ll face in the future. Physical fitness isn’t everything, but if you’ve got it, it’s one less disadvantage you have in a situation.


Eli isn’t overly keen to take part. IT seems he’s less enthusiastic about losing weight than the actor who plays him.


Young also wants TJ to do psych evaluations on everybody on board. And again, that makes very good sense. With all the stress they’re under, the hardship of being stranded so far from home, nobody is going to be in peak mental health. Some could be really struggling. Spencer seems to be one of them. Perhaps the pills he was taking were antidepressants or sleeping pills.


Rush has opened a new section of the ship and is exploring it. Eli can’t help him explore because working on a secret mission for Young. Rush is amused by this. From his perspective, Eli isn’t military, and therefore doesn’t have to do what Young tells him. Eli still sees Young as the leader of this community. The question of who is running this ship, and who should be, will come up again. We’re building toward something.


Anyway, the mission Eli is doing is research to see if there is any hope that Telford’s plan to get Destiny home might work. So far nothing.


Rush and Greer make a significant discovery. It’s a chair. Looks like a dentist chair, but if you are at all familiar with SG1 or Atlantis, you’ll recognise it as an ancient control chair.

Back on Earth and on Atlantis, the ancients created these chairs to operate a very powerful weapon that fired drones. These drones can rip through a Goa'uld or Wraith ship like it’s paper. But only somebody with the ancient gene can use it. The ancients all carried this gene, and a few modern day humans carry it as well. It was a security feature so the weapons couldn’t be used by their enemies.


Doctor Carson Beckett developed a gene-therapy that could give this gene to any human.


But with a little research, Rush believes this chair is actually closer to the ancient repository of knowledge that got downloaded into Jack’s mind back in The Fifth Race. He calls it a neural interface. This is a precursor to the device SG-1 found. Within the knowledge contained in this chair could be the master code for this ship’s systems.


Young immediately recognises the danger the chair represents. The ancient repository almost killed Jack. It would have if he hadn’t found his way to the Asgard galaxy so they could remove the knowledge.Rush can study the chair, but nobody sits in it.


Rush thinks the effects will likely be less severe. The only way to know for certain is if somebody sits in it. Of course, he’s not willing to volunteer to do it himself. Because he’s Rush. He’s too important in his own mind. This should be no surprise to anyone who knows Rush. He’s a coward at heart, but is perfectly happy for other people to risk themselves on his behalf. It is probably his worst quality.


Greer is almost ready to sit in it now if there’s a chance it’ll help them find a way home. But Young is adamant. Rush needs to prove it can be used safely, and that it can do something useful to them.


This chair will be an important element in the ongoing story so it’s pretty exciting to see its first appearance.


Lieutenant Scottt and Camille Wray are both using the stones to visit their families. This is the one break that the crew get from the drudgery of life on the ship. Well, that and exploratory missions through the gate.


Telford is back on duty again because Scott has swapped bodies with him. He’s eager for some of Eli’s test results. He has people back on earth that want to help with the plan. But Young doesn’t trust Telford any more than he trusts Rush.


Camille has a quick debrief with her IOA superior before heading home. She explains how Rush and Young are at odds, but right now Young seems to be winning. He has control of the ship and crew. She’s stuck between them and not sure which is the better camp to join. Her superior makes an interesting suggestion. Why don’t you start your own camp?


Again, this is sowing the seed of something interesting to come. This episode is doing quite a lot of set-up for the future, which is really cool.


Scott has received an unexpected letter. Remember back in the pilot, the flashback of a teenage Scott confessing his sins to the priest that raised him. He’d gotten a girl pregnant and she wasn’t planning to keep the baby.

Well, she’s made contact with him, but she doesn’t have clearance to know about the Stargate program, so he has to use a cover story.


Camille on the other hand, has gone home to see her partner Sharon, who apparently has just been told about it all. She’s skeptical at first, but Camille speaks to her in, what I assume is mandarin, asking if she’s thrown out the ugly chair yet. I’m not sure the exact rules they use to determine who can have clearance, but it makes sense that somebody’s next of kin would be informed, whereas an acquaintance from a long time ago would not.


Every now and then we cut back to TJ doing psych evaluations on the crew. Like the kino interviews back in Darkness and Light, these scenes give us little flashes of insight into the various characters. Of course Rush isn’t willing to participate.

Greer seems to have a real sore-spot where it comes to his father. This will be explored deeper in a later episode. Again, nice foreshadowing.


Brody thinks somebody should be allowed to sit in the chair if they volunteer. Franklin thinks it’s politics. Young is resisting at first, so if the chair works, he gets the credit, but if it fails, Rush gets the blame. Brody and Franklin seem to be feeling a bit of kinship with Rush at the moment. All scientists together against the overbearing military colonel. There’s a lot more subtle foreshadowing of things to come happening here than I remembered from previous viewings.


Camille is enjoying the simple missing pleasures of life, such as a hot water shower, and catching up with Sharon, enjoying time together. She makes the interesting observation that food doesn’t taste quite right in someone else’s body.

She has an emotional moment when she realises that she’s forgotten the rowboat in a picture that hangs on their wall. She’s been trying to recreate the image back on Destiny, but she’d completely forgotten the rowboat. This is a very uncomfortable reminder of just how far she is from home most of the time, and it causes her to break down. It’s a pretty moving scene.


When it’s time for Camilla to go back, Sharon has some encouraging words for her, and promises she’ll be here waiting when she makes it back to earth. But when Camille leaves, all the bravado drops. I think the big theme here is that life may be hard for those stranded on the Destiny, but it’s also hard for their loved ones back on earth.


Originally, Camille wasn’t going to see her parents. They don’t have clearance, so what’s the point. In the end, at Sharon’s suggestion, she visits them briefly and tells them Camille is okay. At least she gets to see them.


Meanwhile Scott has found a child, all alone, at his old girlfriend,  Annie’s house. It’s been hours and no sign of Annie. Scott’s military chaperone is ready to call child services.

Then finally, she arrives home.

Scott pretends to be Telford. He tells Annie that Scott is away on a mission. She invites him in. And then he hears her call her son Matthew. She confirms that the boy is Scott’s son. She couldn’t end the pregnancy. 

This must be a moment full of many conflicting emotions for Scott. I mean, I remember the moments when my wife told me she was pregnant. It was a huge mis of excitement, anticipation, and fear.

For Scott, there’s the added complications of relief, that she kept their son, but also anger, that she didn’t tell him he was a father.

It’s the anger that finds expression. And Annie is understandably taken aback. “Why didn’t you tell him?” He demands. Not the way a co-worker would usually react.


But they get talking. It turns out life as a single mum is pretty hard for Annie, especially since her own mother died. She works as a dancer, and by that, I assume she means stripper. Scott is horrified. Annie had planned to go to college and become a lawyer. But those dreams never happened. 


So Scott organises to have her financially supported so she can quit her job and go to college.

But she says she’s happy with her job. She doesn’t see herself as a lawyer anymore.

This is really hard for Scott to hear. He wants to save her from the life she’s living, of course he does. But I guess she doesn’t want that help. She’d be glad to receive some financial assistance, but I guess she feels it’s not Scott’s place to come in and dictate what she should be doing with her life after all this time.


Rush has made a discovery in the computer. He’s managed to contact one of the seed ships that went ahead of Destiny to place stargates on planets. He now has information on thousands of stargates out there. One in particular is interesting. It’s a planet with naturally occurring naquadrian. Apparently that’s what made icarus base able to generate enough power to dial the 9-chevron address. Naquadrian is a rare mineral, even more powerful than naquada, which the stargates are made out of. It’s very very rare. There’s only one other planet in the universe known to have had naquadrian at one time. Jonas Quin’s planet. Of course, there are problems. The planet is a year away, and they’ll need to learn how to steer the ship and take the ship into orbit. Not to mention, how to use the mineral to dial the gate.


I think it’s pretty obvious that Rush has been looking for just this. Not this specifically, but something he can use as leverage to convince Young to let someone sit in the chair.  This is a strong case, but it’s not enough to convince Young. He says the chair is still off-limits and Rush has a year to figure out the master code for the ship.


Young wins another round.


Most people react to the news positively. There’s a way home, even if it is a year away. But Spencer freaks out. He can’t manage a whole nother year. He nearly kills Brody when they collide in the hallway. Things are not looking good for that guy.


Scott has a dream of sitting and talking with Young’s wife. He knows it's her because he met her once. Young theorises it’s a residual memory from Telford. There’s no proof, of course, but Young now suspects that Telford is hanging out with his wife.

Young takes the next opportunity to use the stones and follow Telford to his house to confront him. His wife claims Telford never pretended to be Young, and that they never slept together. That may be true. Unless he only told her who he really was some of the time. She says he’s a friend supporting her through all this weirdness. You’ve got to admit, though, it’s a little weird. Telford’s biggest crime here seems to be that he’s told Young’s wife that Young is still involved with TJ, which is a lie. While I don’t doubt the wife here, I have no illusions that Telford’s motives are pure in any way.


Some of Stargate Universe’s detractors have said the show spent too much time focusing on character drama instead of science fiction. I don’t feel that way, I never have. I appreciate all the character stuff the show puts into episodes like this, and SGU is very much a science fiction show in the truest sense of the word,  but I do have to admit that this particular storyline is getting a little soap-opera-ish. None of these three are behaving like mature adults.


And now the truth comes out. Rush lied. The whole thing about an icarus type planet was fake. He planted it in the computer. It was all a ploy to get someone in the chair.


Rush justifies it as a way to give people hope, but we all know the reason he did it.

Eventually, Young tells Rush, if you want to go sit in that chair yourself be my guest.

And Rush shows his true colours. He’s not willing to risk it on himself. He wants to risk somebody else.

As Young says, “That’s what I thought.”


The episode closes out with a repeat of that same song from the beginning.

It’s been the worst day since yesterday.


After everything, they’re all still in that same situation. Nothing has gotten better. There’s been new heartaches, but also a few glimmers of hope, such as the plant that one of them has finally managed to get to germinate.

In the end, they still just have to pick themselves up each morning and carry on.


This episode has a bit of a depressing tone. But that doesn’t bother me. It’s a day in the life kind of episode for the characters on this ship, and right now, life is pretty hard for all of them. They’ll have good days and bad days, but lately, there’s been a lot of bad ones.

But there is still hope. There is always hope.

Next time, we’ll be looking at the episode Justice. Things are really starting to heat up with the arc of season 1 at this point. Some of the things that were set up in life are going to pay off in a big way next time. Especially in regards to the Rush / Young relationship.

I look forward to talking about it.


Please consider leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts, and spread the world about Nerd Heaven to anyone you think might enjoy it.


Have a great two weeks, and I’ll see you next time.

Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App