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Stargate Universe “Pain” Detailed Analysis & Review

August 9, 2021

The crew of Destiny are having strange hallucinations. But what is causing them? Will these visions be the death of them, or a chance to heal some of the hurts of the past?

Join me as I delve into this latest episode of Stargate Universe.


Welcome to Nerd Heaven

I’m the Pizza Jedi

Because it’s been a bit cold around here lately.

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

because I am a Nerd


And if you’re not watching the youTube version of the podcast right now, you’re likely very confused. I’m currently wearing an oddie, which is kind of like a blanket with sleeves and a hood, and it’s got prints of pizza slices all over it.


This is episode 66 Of the podcast.


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


The description on Gateworld reads

The ship's crew is plagued by hallucinations that manifest their fears and desires.


This episode was written by Carl Binder

It was directed by William Waring

And it first aired on the 14th of May 2010.


We begin with a pretty shocking scene. Lieutenant Scott and Lieutenant James are in bed together, doing what people do. They push this scene about as far as they possibly can without showing actual nudity. More than I thought was necessary personally, but anyway.


 It’s clearly on board Destiny, so not a flashback to their time together on Icarus. You can’t really tell who these people are until it’s all over, so the reveal is surprising. Once they’re done, Scott immediately starts to leave, saying “We can’t be doing this.” But, of course, he’s just done it. And the dialog suggests this isn’t the first time.


James isn’t having any of this. She won’t let Scott push her away again, but she won’t be his mistress on the side either. Scott has to choose. Her or Chloe. 

And then things get violent between the two of them.

And it results with Scott lying on the deck with blood flowing from his head.


As I said, pretty shocking.


Meanwhile, Volker is having door problems. They won’t open for him. But they work perfectly for Riley, as he stares smugly back at poor Volker.


Greer finds Camille acting very suspiciously in the gateroom. And Eli is looking for Scott.


At this point, we’re all probably suspecting that the show is using a sci-fi trope we’ve seen before. Everyone on the ship is having nightmares.


Except that Matt appears to be missing in Greer’s dream, while he lies dead in James’s dream.

Is there are connection? Is this coincidence? Or is it not a dream?


Just put yourself in James’s shoes. You’ve just killed someone, one of your fellow crew, by accident. And then the radio calls asking why you’re late.

What do you do?

You know there’s no coming back from what you’ve done. You know that Scott’s death is going to be discovered. It’s all but inevitable.

But how do you tell your commanding officer, “Ah, actually sir, I kind of just killed Matt.”

It’s a very surreal moment, as she’s paralysed by fear, regret and uncertainty.

What does she do?

She could try to hide the body, of course. Make it look like she’s not the killer. But that’s not going to be easy, especially in her current emotional state, which is pretty psychologically realistic, I’d say. Wonderfully performed.


Volker is now trapped in a hallway, surrounded by doors that won’t open on all sides.

Until he hears his name, snaps out of it, and fins himself standing in a much larger room.

So, not quite dreams. More like daydreams. Hallucinations. Scary stuff. I think I’d be more scared of the fact I was losing my mind in this way, than I would be by the scary dreams themselves.


It’s significant that the person who snaps Volker out of it is in fact Scott. He’s alive.


Good news for James. But she doesn’t know yet.


Scott is also dreaming now. He sees his son, Matthew, walking around the ship

Young and Rush go to confront Camille about her actions in the gate room. They know nothing about it. She denies ever being there. But Greer is not present. So is this the real world now?

It’s kind of hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t in this episode.

Which I think is deliberate. It’s making us feel exactly what the characters are feeling.


Another crewmember believes there is a snake under his skin, causing him to freak out.

Of course, TJ can’t find anything.


Greer’s suspicion of Camille makes sense. She lead that civilian uprising against the military.


Rush seems better able to accept the dreams as false and push them aside, given his highly rational mind. He thinks Greer is spying on him, but evidence suggests otherwise. Ok, he thinks. I must have imagined it because it cannot be. And moves on with his life.


Young finds JAmes in her quarters, sitting on her bed in tears. “I’m so sorry, she says. Of course, Young can’t see the corpse that she can see.


Scott finds his son. He knows it can’t be real. There is no way Matthew can be on board the ship. And so he is able to rationalise it in much the same way Rush does.


The trouble with James’s vision is that it’s more realistic. I don’t mean to say she’d really kill Scott, but her dream doesn’t involve any people that can’t be on board, or situations that are impossible.


She is so relieved to see Scott alive when he walks in.

Have you ever had a nightmare, where you think someone you love has died, or your spouse has left you, or you’ve made a terrible mistake, and then you wake up and realise it was just a dream. Have you ever felt that huge sense of relief? I have. It’s powerful.

But she’s still freaked out, because this means she’s been hallucinating. Which as I said before, would be really scary.


I’m jumping all over the place in my analysis today, because that’s exactly what the episode does. Lots of quick chops and changes, which adds to the feeling of disorientation.

It’s quite effective.


Now that people are starting to talk, they’re aware that many of them are seeing things. That’s good. At least now they can start to deal with it.

They talk about several crew members who were on the last away mission to a planet.

There’s a strong link between those on the away team and those having hallucinations.

So….I guess this means they’ve already arrived in the next galaxy?


I was all set to talk about how doing a ship-bound character episode made a lot of sense right now, because they’re still travelling through the void between galaxies. They can’t visit any planets, so this is the perfect story to tell, and show that travelling between galaxies takes a while.


I’m pretty disappointed that’s not what they did.

I’m not saying it’s invalid to skip over the rest of the trip and pick up the story on the other side, but I think this was a missed opportunity.

Babylon 5 used to allow for travel time. You’d see people leave the station and then several episodes later they’d arrive at their destination. It added a big sense of believability to the show. I think it would have been great to do something like that here.

Do a little character-driven story while they’re in transit, and then next week have them arrive in the new galaxy at the beginning. And have a little fanfare about it. A brand new galaxy to explore. At least one or two of these people must be able to get a little wide-eyed about that, surely.


Anyway. That’s my little rant. So they’re in the next galaxy now, and they’ve already been to visit one of the planets off-screen.


There’s a problem with their theory, though. One of the people on the last away team, Barnes, has not had a single hallucination. Maybe she’s naturally immune.


But that’s when TJ finds little creatures, like ticks, attached to the back of the heads of all of them except Barnes. That’s our connection.


These ticks are the first native inhabitants of this galaxy we’ve met.

The prospect of having the tick removed produces mixed emotions for Scott. He doesn’t want to see things that aren’t there, but at the same time, this is the only way he can see an interact with his son. And he knows it’s not real. But still….


Unfortunately, the removal failed. The tick has dug in even deeper.


Greer is still seeing Camille sneaking around the ship. Was he on the away team?

It’s nice to see the consequences of the uprising still hanging over our characters, as well it should. Trust was broken during that incident, and no matter how hard both sides have been working to put it behind them, the wounds are still there.

Honestly, Greer is probably wise to be keeping an eye on Camille and Rush, but in his current state, his natural caution is descending into paranoia. The difference is, he has no proof, not even any real evidence. Just a feeling that is overpowering him.


And surprise, Chloe is seeing her father in the cockpit of the shuttle where he died.

The effects of these ticks seem to be spreading.

Or maybe it’s not the ticks at all.


It’s a difficult emotional moment for her. In the end, she allows herself to fall into his arms, because real or not, this is the only way she’ll ever be able to embrace her dad.

The  plot of this episode allows the characters to deal with some things from their past. In Chloe’s case, it’s helping her to find some closure, by talking to her father about her feelings.


TJ is going to try to anaethsitise the tick using the venom from the time planet, but she can’t find it. Could it be that the tick transferred from Scott to Chloe?


Eli is pretty worried about Chloe when he finds her talking to her imaginary father. When he learns what’s going on, he’s understandably keen to get her to the medical bay. But Chloe doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t want her father to leave. Not yet.

She knows this is an alien parasite. She knows it’s injecting a toxin into her.

But this is a chance for her to see her father, hear his voice, be encouraged by him. She doesn’t want to give that up. And I can understand that too.


She begs Eli to give her some more time. Keep it secret just a little while, so she can have a bit more time with her dad.


Now Rush is being affected.

It’s interesting that some people experience pleasant hallucinations, while others have truly nightmarish experiences. Like Rush, who thinks he’s drowning. Pretty terrifying.

And then he sees one of the blue aliens. The stuff of his real-life nightmares.


The venom works. TJ is able to remove the tick from James. And she realises that Chloe was in the med bay earlier and might be affected. Scott goes off to find her.


When Scott finds her, and she lies to him about seeing her father, Eli is faced with a difficult decision. Lie on her behalf, like she asked him to, or tell Scott the truth so she can get help.

You can see the conflict on his face. Ultimately, I think he did the right thing by telling Scott. They don’t know what long-term effect this tick toxin has on people. It could be dangerous to let this go on too long.

She gets to say one last goodbye, but ultimately, she has to lose him all over again.


But as they drag her, screaming, from the observation room, her father begs her not to leave him. The tick doesn’t want to let go of her.


As the hallucinations get more and more worrisome, Rush is finding it harder to dismiss them. He’s caught up in it all.


And now Greer is seeing the aliens too.

Young tries to talk him down, but in the hallucination, Young’s voice says something very different. So now he’s running around the ship believing he’s been given permission to use deadly force. That could be a problem if he sees his crewmates as aliens.


Even worse, he thinks Rush is working with the aliens.


And Rush is seeing Greer as an alien.


TJ theorises that the away team brought back more than one tick, which explains how Greer and Rush are infected.


The people in the medical bay are also making theories. The ticks target the lymbic system which is linked to human emotions. It draws out Scott’s guilt over not being there for his son. Chloe’s grief over her father. Volker’s claustrophobia. A fear of snakes.

Things get really awkward when they look at James and say “and you?”

So….deep down, does James want to hurt Scott for the way he played with her heart and then abandoned her? Has she fantasised about killing him?

There are times when we really don’t want our inner-most thoughts and feelings to be exposed to those around us,.


Camille is wounded and losing blood. Greer has been pretty rough with her because he believes she’s taking over the ship, in league with Rush and the aliens.

\And another little callback. Greer sees his father, telling him to shoot Camille.


Scott tries using C3 on the door that Greer has locked.

I always get very nervous when people use explosives on board a space ship in stories. It’s never a good idea.


Scott is able to diffuse the situation before anyone gets hurt.

But those who experienced the hallucinations are all facing the uncomfortable after-effects of their experiences. Perhaps this stuff wasn’t so healing after all.


At the end of the episode, they encounter a new planet. Everyone seems a little hesitant to send a team, after what happened last time.


Young is feeling it too, but he pushes past that. “Our luck’s gotta change at some point, right?” he says.

Three episodes left. Next time, we’ll be talking about Subversion. That will lead us directly into the two-part season finale, Incursion. We’ve got a big new plot arc that’s about to take off next time. You won’t want to miss these next few episodes. I’m really looking forward to them.


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