In the last of the resource-gathering episodes of Stargate Universe, we head to an icy planet in an attempt to find drinkable water for the crew. Meanwhile, back on board Destiny, the mysterious alien swirling wind from the desert planet has stowed away and is stealing what little remains of their existing water.
Let's dig in and see what we think of this 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 55 of the podcast
Today we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Water.”
The description on Gateworld reads
Severe rationing can't save the Destiny's dwindling water supply, forcing Colonel Young and Lieutenant Scott to seek out drinkable water on a deadly ice planet.
The story was written by Brad Wright & Robert C. Cooper and Carl Binder
The teleplay was written by Carl Binder
It was directed by William Waring
And it first aired on the 30th of October 2009
It’s no secret that this show was heavily inspired by Battlestar Galactica. It had a similar tone and shooting style. The stories are very different, of course, but if you look, you can see some commonality in the early episodes. Both stories find a group of people, many of them civilians, on a long-term space journey they weren’t planning for. This brings certain practical problems. The need for things like air, food, water, power.
Both shows dealt with these issues early in their first seasons. In fact, Battlestar Galactica had an episode dedicated to providing for the fleet’s water needs. Like this one, it involved going down to a dangerous ice planet. The difference is, that episode focussed on recruiting the people who would do the work, in that case, criminals on a prison ship. Here in Stargate Universe, we focus on the mission down to the planet.
Similarities like this are to be expected when you’re dealing with a space setting, but it’s interesting to note them.
So we’ve solved the air problem, and the power problem. But water is still a concern. Greer is chatting with Riley who tells a story of some trapped miners who survived by drinking their own urine. That’s gotta be a bad idea, since it’s all the waste product your body wants to get rid of.
But it’s even worse. The water levels are going down faster than they should. Young has guards on duty making sure nobody takes more than their share. It’s a bit of a mystery.
They’ve actually got half of what they had when they first arrived. Rush and Eli can’t explain where the water is going. There’s nothing wrong with the system.
As far as Young is concerned, this is all moot. Now that the ship has recharged itself, they should just be able to dial Earth. And that’s when Rush reveals that the ship has not charged itself up to full. It’s about 40% of original design capacity.
Young thinks it’s pretty clear Rush is just pulling that number out of his butt, he doesn’t say butt.
But Eli admits he was actually the one to pull it out of his butt.
It’s an amusing moment. Yet another episode that has humour in it.
The humour in SGU is a different kind of humour. It’s more character-based humour. Moments that we laugh at, but they could believably happen with the situation the characters are in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed Jack’s pithy one-liners, and Teal’c’s awkward turns of phrase, but this type of humour fits much better in a more serious show like SGU.
The show is not devoid of humour. It’s just a different type of humour.
Anyway, the point is, Rush is not making this number up. The ship is charged and functional, but it’s not full. And they still don’t have the ability to dial Earth.
Remember, it took the core of a planet to power the gate to travel from the Milky Way to Destiny. Even a zero point module wasn’t enough. So it’s not surprising that dialling back from this spaceship is not so easy.
Young wants Rush to bring Brody in on the problem because he’s an engineer. Meanwhile, Young wants to borrow Eli.
And the conspiracy theories are still running rife. One of the other civilians is telling Volker he thinks there is more water than they’re being told. He reckons the military are hoarding it, so they can control the civilians. I’m really curious what it is that leads people to this kind of thinking. I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories.
Anyway, Young wants to know who among the crew he can trust, so he has Eli using the Kenos to spy on people throughout the ship. If people are planning sedition, Young wants to know about it.
I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I can understand Young’s perspective. This is a desperate situation, which is likely to bring out the worst in people. There might be a real danger from people trying to overthrow the command structure. Not conspiracy nuts like the guy talking to Volker. Young knows he’s harmless. But others. So it makes sense he needs to keep a tab on what’s going on.
But it feels kinda icky. Eli hates what he’s being asked to do, and I don’t blame him.
And then we see a wispy breeze full of particles blow past Eli. That should look familiar. You remember Scott’s strange encounter back on the limestone planet? It blew about the sand, taking the form of the priest who raised him, and ultimately helped him find water.
This would appear to be related.
Destiny drops out of FTL and dials the gate. This is a common pattern. This is what the ship is programmed to do. It enters a system and drops out of FTL for a time. It sets a timer, letting the crew know when it’ll jump away again.
It seems the ship can sense that the crew need water, so it’s found them a planet with water ice. But it’s pretty cold down there. Eli gives us a nice little Star Wars reference. It seems he’s an original trilogy purist. He refuses to call Empire Strikes Back Episode 5.
I’m kind of the other way. I love viewing those movies as a 6-part whole in chronological order. I know, most people will call me a heretic for that. I don’t care.
The bad news about the planet is that it doesn’t have much of an atmosphere, and what little there is, is poisonous. They’ve found some spacesuits onboard Destiny. They’ll have to use them. The suits look pretty cool. They’re metal and look like armour. They probably doubled as combat suits.
So the gate we see in this show is different to what we’ve seen in the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies. There’s the obvious difference that the entire gate spins. I really quite like that. But there’s more. I don’t think I talked about this in the pilot, but after the wormhole disengages, the gate vents out steam or gas, or something. It’s like it builds up heat while it’s running and has to dissipate it. IT gives these stargates an old-fashioned feel, like they were a prototype before the milky-way gates were perfected. I like it. It’s a nice touch.
Young calls for Scott but he’s not answering his radio. Turns out he’s too busy sucking face with Chloe. And who should be sent to find him, but Lieutenant James. She’s not too happy to find him in this position. She has a right to be annoyed with him. He shouldn’t have his radio off. Remember, it was a radio call that interrupted the intimate liaison between these two back on Icarus. There’s a time and a place, and Scott seems to have little concept of that. IF he’s on duty, he shouldn't be getting busy with the ladies.
I love the stinging remark she gives him as he walks past. “What, you couldn’t find a broom closet?”
Then she looks at Chloe, who I think is feeling embarrassed at being caught in the act, so to speak, and probably sensing the tension between Scott and James. I don’t know how much Scott has told her about them. and kind of gives her this half smile. Anyway, I think the smile conveys a kind of “be careful, I’ve been where you are,” kind of sentiment.
So far they only have two working suits. It’ll take more time that they have to repair any more.
Doctor Lisa Park makes her first meaningful appearance on the show. She’s been seen and mentioned in the past, but hasn’t had much to do. The Stargate Command wiki refers to her as a scientist, and she clearly has a doctorate. She seems to be an engineer, given the work she’s doing. She was helping Rush repair the life support system back in Air, and here, she’s repairing EVA suits and equipping the away team with ancient tools like a plasma cutter.
Of course, there are plenty of engineers with doctorates. I’ve worked with a bunch in my day job.
Young pouts TJ in command while he and Scott are on the planet. That gives us some insight into the chain of command. I would have expected Greer to be the one, but I guess, despite being a medic, TJ has the highest rank.
Rush isn’t impressed, but he doesn’t argue. In his own mind, he sees himself as the most important person on this ship, but I don’t think he needs Young to validate him. He cares nothing for military chain of command. Let the soldiers go do what they do, while he gets on with the important stuff.
Is this the first time we get a first-person view of travelling through the wormhole in SGU? I think it is. They’re using the same visual effect that they used in later seasons of SG-1 and Atlantis, although they may have recoloured it. I’m not sure.
The visuals of the gate on the dark icy planet are pretty spectacular to look at, given how dark it is. The glow of the event horizon and the wisps of snow catching the light are quite beautiful.
The first thing they do when they come through is test the ice. Which is smart. Sadly, it’s full of dangerous chemicals. They’re going to have to explore further into the planet to find pure water. Luckily, Eli has invented an anti-grav trolley, like in Star Trek, using ancient technology. It’ll allow them to carry a lot more ice than they could manage in their hands.
Now more bad news. The water level has dropped again. Nobody has been using water, and nobody has been allowed in. So what’s happening to all the water?
They’ve ruled out a leak in the system, which only leaves one option. Someone, or something, is stealing the water.
Young and Scott are a long way from the gate but still haven’t found any usable ice.
This seems a little familiar. The expedition to the desert planet went a similar way. They had to travel a long way from the gate to eventually find what they were looking for.
And this makes perfect sense. A planet is a big place. The ship shows there is water somewhere on the planet, but it may not be right next to the gate.
TJ sees the wispy wind thing, and it mimics her face, which is creepy but cool. There is clear intelligence behind it.
Meanwhile, Spencer has been hoarding food and water, so they dump him in the brig for Young to deal with when he gets back. Remember, he’s been a bit of a loud-mouth problem since the beginning. He was one of the ones who cornered Eli, believing that Young and Rush were hiding things from the rest of the crew. He’s also the one who tried to incite a riot when they were holding the lottery when they thought the ship was gonna burn up in a star.
The water still doesn’t come close to explaining the losses, though. I think TJ is already suspecting the wind monster.
Good news, though. Young and Scott have found a frozen waterfall. It’s pure. They can carve it up and haul it back to the gate.
Greer is searching everyone’s quarters for stolen rations. Chloe understands why this is necessary and doesn’t complain. Franklin is pretty annoyed when he sees it, though. He was the one spreading his conspiracy theories to Volker earlier.
Eli’s response is pretty amusing when TJ shares what she saw. Tiny alien organisms that fly around in a cloud. Rush just takes it at face value and nods like it’s another day in the office.
But these are Eli’s first aliens. He’s never encountered a Goa'uld, a wraith, an asgard, a Nox or a Reetou. So he’s a little freaked out. Again, this is logical. Psychological realism. And he deals with it the only way he would - as a sci-fi geek like the rest of us. He references a movie. “What if they start bursting out of our chests?”
I’d probably try to calm myself in the same way.
Rush thought Scott was delirious when he saw them on the desert planet, but now, he freely admits that he was wrong. I like that about Rush. For all his faults and his arrogance, he is capable of admitting he was wrong. He wouldn’t be worth anything as a scientist if he couldn’t do that.
There’s a nice little moment between TJ and Rush. He acknowledges she’s in charge, and she says she wants his advice. This whole thing is quite outside her area of experience.She’s handling it pretty well. I wonder if she’s ever had to be in a position of command before.
Gorman spots the alien cloud and shoots at it with a pistol. Pretty silly thing to do. OF course, it does nothing to hurt the cloud, but it senses hostile intent and attacks the guy. Hundreds of little creatures, the size of a grain of sand, attacking you, ripping apart your skin. It looks like a horrific way to go.
But he’s apparently not dead. TJ is treating him. They’re not sure if he’ll come to or not.
They seem to have a good system for unloading the sled so they can get it back through the gate as quickly as possible.
Rush and Eli have a significant disagreement about how to deal with these creatures, and what to tell Young about them. I’m afraid I have to side with Rush on this one. They desperately need the ice. That’s vital. There’s not a whole lot that Young can do on the ship that isn’t already being done.
Greer is ready to go hunt down the cloud and kill it with a flamethrower (Assuming that does any good). Eli seems to kinda be on the same page. TJ thinks the cloud may have acted in self-defence, which of course, it did. I think they all need to take a deep breath and cool down for a second. IF they go attack those things now they could just make it worse.
Maybe this is the Star Trek fan in me talking, but what they really need to do is understand the creature and try to find a way to communicate. The primary danger it represents right now is the stealing of the water. It’s only ever attacked when provoked.
Attack may become necessary, but they’re a long way from that right now.
Rush seems to understand this.
The aliens can make themselves seem invisible, like vapour. That means there’s a lot more of them on the ship than we realised. And they’re growing exponentially. That’s a big problem.
Now Rush agrees they have to get them off the ship. But he still counsels not to antagonise them.
I find it amusingly ironic that Scott is talking about how maybe they’ll find a planet later on with a lake right next to the stargate because they deserve a break. And at that moment he falls through the ice.
Now this has become a rescue mission.
He’s wedged in so good that Young can’t pull him out. And to make things even worse, the ground starts to shake.
Eli points out that they’re all lying to each other over the radio. Downplaying the severity of their problems. And it’s silly because they all know each other is lying.
There’s no reason they can’t be honest about how their situations are, they just need to be wise regarding what they do about it. For example, Young not hurrying back when he needs to be harvesting ice.
Scott’s situation gets worse when another tremor hits and now he’s losing suit pressure.
James tells Chloe the bad news. She thought she’d like to know.
Now Chloe joins Rush, Eli and TJ.
That’s actually the last thing anybody needs.
She reacts just like you’d expect her to, when she hears Rush suggest that Young might have to leave Scott behind.
Of course Young picks up on the truth. The only thing Rush cares about is that the ice makes it to the ship.
Greer traps the cloud in an air-tight room. They can’t get out. It doesn’t take long for them to get annoyed. They’re starting to escape. Probably cutting through the metal door like they cut through Gormon’s face.
Young and Scott are facing the very real dilemma of when it’s time to leave Scott behind. They both know it may come to that, but Yong hasn’t given up yet. There’s still time to get trying. But they have to think. They need a new approach.
When Scott loses consciousness, Young just reverts to the old plan. Trying to pull him out. I guess with all the rumbling going on, the pressure might have loosened a little. Young managed to wake Scott by talking to him through the radio, and he helped climb out the last bit.
If Scott had passed out from lack of oxygen, I doubt Young could have woken him just by yelling. It seems a bit unlikely.
TJ is going to use the water as bait to lure the cloud off the ship.
There’s a tense moment between TJ and Greer, where she admits that she doesn’t trust him. He’s a little too trigger happy.
They send the bugs though the gate to the ice planet. That’s actually a good place for them, given how much they like water.
As they go, they form the shape of Scott’s face. Maybe a final farewell to him after their encounter on the desert planet.
I’ve gotta wonder though, they don’t seem to have been suited for that planet. There wasn’t much water there.
So they’ve solved both their problems just in time before Destiny jumps back into FTL.
Young goes to see Spencer in the brig. He says if you step out of line one more time I’ll have to deal with you. Spencer claims to understand but Greer doesn’t think he does.
Do I understand? What exactly is Young saying here? Is he gonna space the guy if he acts up again? Maybe.
The episode closes with the sad acknowledgement that Gormon died from his injuries.
So as far as I remember, this is the last we’ll see of the wind aliens.
So here’s a question. Do you think this was the originally planned pay-off of Air part 3, or do you think they had something else in mind? The reason I ask that is that the behaviour of the alien swarm seems very different in this episode.
When we first saw them, they seemed highly intelligent, as well as benevolent.. They saved Scott’s life and helped him find the lime he needed. We also saw they had the ability to telepathically project images into Scott’s mind. Kind of an attempt to communicate perhaps.
In this episode they seemed more animalistic. Their only concern seemed to be reproduction and the consumption of water.
But that raises another question in my mind. Was the swarm actually responsible for the visions? Is it possible there was another alien presence on that desert planet? In air Part 3 we saw the swarm spin around in the sand and draw up the water that woke Scott. But perhaps the swarm was being controlled by something else. Something much more intelligent.
Our characters will be experiencing some powerful forces as the story continues, so who knows. We may never get the answers now.
That was a good episode. A good solid science fiction story.
Honestly, there are very few, if any, episodes of this show that I don’t like.
I think this is the last of the survival stories we’ll have for a while. We’ll be moving into a new phase of Stargate Universe from here.
Well next week we’ll be looking at the episode Earth, which does some interesting character stuff, and serves as our first “Will they get home” episodes. Let’s see if SGU can do a better job with this concept than Star Trek Voyager generally did.
Please consider giving this podcast a review on iTunes. Even if you listen elsewhere. I’m an android guy myself, but iTunes reviews are especially helpful to podcasters. And if you are an iPhone user, it’s apparently really easy to do directly from your phone.
Have a great two weeks.
Live long and prosper.
Make it so.