Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review - Stargate Universe Season 2 Episode 6 Trial and Error

The writers do their darnedest to portray Stargate Universe as anything other than the previous Stargates. It's almost comical how much they try. The most telling sign is the cinematography, which consists of dark and confined spaces. And the writers want to make sure everyone sees the characters struggle under the weight of being on board, with stuff like Eli's mother and the countless montages. It's pretty clear they want the audience to feel the characters' despair as well.

However, looking past the facade, SGU is essentially the same as the previous incarnations. The fact is, all those scenes about Eli and his mother are meaningless unless Eli acts differently afterwards. Increased characterization must result in plot development or there's no point. Characters always drive the plot, but can we honestly say they would've acted differently in "Trial and Error" with a mid first season mindset? Perhaps Young is more aggressive and Rush is more insane, but that's about it.

The biggest problem with "Trial and Error," though, isn't necessarily what plays out in the end, but what doesn't play out. Three times we're teased with the possibility of Destiny under attack, and three times it's all a dream. Just like that, a prime opportunity for actual intensity is negated for an episode of wondering what's going on with Destiny even though no one has a clue.

Stargate Universe loves playing around with the abstract--much like the reimagined Battlestar Galactica did in the last season--and it's getting repetitive and unproductive. Unless all this stuff adds up soon, we're only sitting on a pile of useless facts. Destiny was somehow testing Young, Franklin is still talking to Rush, Rush was the one who brought Destiny back to FTL, TJ's baby may or may not be alive, and Chloe is still turning into an alien. And... ?

With regard to Young, it's a huge cop out that Young doesn't have to face the decision of what to do with Chloe. He's still reeling from what he did to Riley, as anyone would, and with the choice of giving away Chloe in the dream, Young falls into a funk to the point where everyone urges Scott to assume command. The scene between Scott and Young is the best thing about the episode, and Young finally snaps out of it, but because the dream is assumed to be a test from Destiny and Rush makes the jump to FTL, letting everyone else think Young passed the test, the significance is far less than it would be if aliens had actually attacked.

Imagine: Ten alien ships pop out of FTL, start shooting Destiny, demand for Chloe, and Young shuts down. While the blue aliens board the ship and the crew does their best to fight back, Scott has the same talk with Young. Young gets up, does some commanding, beats back the invaders, and the ship jumps to FTL. And it's not a dream. Now that would be cool. For good measure, Ginn could have seen Eli's video before the attack. Then Ginn and Eli fight back to back before working together to jump the ship to FTL. After that, they have hot, sweaty sex. OK, maybe scratch the last one.

Creating central mysteries isn't bad, but it also must be balanced with a plot, you know, a sequence of events where the characters set out to accomplish something and actually do something. The plot of "Trial and Error" is structurally similar to most episodes. There's a huge problem in the beginning and the episode meanders along a unclear path, before a hasty conclusion which wraps things up without a climax.

Because I follow television ratings religiously, it's probably a good time to say that Stargate Universe doesn't have much life left. Following Caprica's cancellation last week, Stargate Universe is Syfy's lowest rated scripted show and has a fairly hefty budget (compared to Sanctuary which does marginally better). That said, there are still 14 episodes left in the season, so the ratings may go up.

Score: 7.6/10
Related Posts with Thumbnails