Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Stargate Universe S1 E16: Sabotage

"It's programmed to follow a predetermined path."
-Nicholas Rush-

Stargate Universe (2009-2011) delivers on a host of levels for the pressure cooker entry that is Stargate Universe, Season One, Episode 16, Sabotage.

Following a sabotage event of one of a number of Destiny's FTL drives, a series of partitioned drives that work like a kind of Blade Server, Matthew Scott, Chloe Armstrong and Eli Wallace miraculously return through the gate back aboard the Destiny.

While each episode highlights the character that is the ship Destiny, Sabotage presents a host of wonderful new renderings of the ship that are glorious to behold for fans of the craft's designs. See images to behold.

Composer Joel Goldsmith graces the audio component of the episode with some new compositions that further underscore yet another tense build of an episode. But it's also worth noting Sabotage is an exceptional illustration of the series use of silence. Sometimes the complete absence of music further accentuates the drama and the isolation. This approach is in evidence often throughout the entry to great effect.

The alien fleet returns recalling first contact in Stargate Universe (SGU), Episode 10, Justice.

Ensemble chemistry and additional subtext is examined with a finale that ends in excitement and mystery. Could it be ascension? Jeremy Franklin's fate is determined here in Sabotage via the Ancients' chair aboard the Destiny.

But the additional paraplegic character and Franklin's inability to communicate also underscore the thematic elements of physical sabotage on display throughout the story.

Once again, Robert Carlisle is given a chance to shine in his role with some dramatic and moving final moments that resonate with a female character that is further informed by aspects of the previous SGU installment, Human (S1, E14). What if perhaps Dr. Nicholas Rush is the most human of all? Ironically he sometimes comes across that way despite being painted a villain and Sabotage offers considerable character building to Rush compounding all that has been learned to date with an equally positive perception. Rush is indeed one of the most multi-dimensional characters and one that is not easily categorized, boxed in or pinned down as definitively bad or good---like many of us.

One of the basic human themes here in Sabotage is the underlining appreciation for movement, for physical control of our bodies versus sabotage of that control. This is conveyed beautifully in the writing for the entry though it is by no means the best story of the season.

Previously this writer waxed extensively about the similarities of SGU to Space:1999 (here). Once again we have the Ancients' communication stones connecting to Earth. Apart from being a darker series in terms of cinematography from the much brighter cleaner production work found in Space:1999, this element of the series doesn't allow the people aboard the Destiny to be completely separated from Earth in the same fashion as the once wayward denizens of Moonbase Alpha. In a sense, this connectivity is where SGU shares some comparisons to Stargate Atlantis. In the latter, the stargate team may have been in the Pegasus Galaxy far, far away, but residents of Earth were never completely severed from home. SGU does better in this respect, but it's never in complete isolation like it was for the residents of Space:1999.

Having taken a bit of a break from SGU and having enjoyed alien invasion story Colony and sister space yarn The Expanse, both exceptional, SGU proved to me once again to have its own unique and special pacing, mood and atmosphere in contrast with these more current series. Not only was SGU so removed in style from its sister series' Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, but it stands apart from just about anything out there. It really stands on its own two feet despite some nice aesthetic and visual touches reminiscent of Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) or sharing that sense of lost in space exploration that really surrounded and enveloped the stories of Space:1999 as noted in our coverage of SGU, Lost (E15). Otherwise this one (SGU) is special.

Sabotage would be the third contribution from director Peter Deluise behind the wonderful installments for Darkness and Light. Deluise was a staple behind the camera for Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. This would be the only contribution to the series or franchise for writer Barbara Marshall. The script may be imperfect but continues to flesh out character and expand the mood and atmosphere of its unique universe.

Stargate Universe is indeed a solid series and holds its own in the pantheon of great science fiction television series even at just two seasons.

Writer Barbara Marshall.
Director: Peter Deluise.

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