Entertainment Magazine

Review #2471: Stargate Universe 2.17: “Common Descent’

Posted on the 21 April 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

It’s really disheartening to think that these last few episodes of “SGU” could possibly be the last we’ll ever see of “Stargate”. The franchise just isn’t drawing viewers in like it used to. So the least we can hope for is that the show will go out on a bang.

Review #2471: Stargate Universe 2.17: “Common Descent’

David Hewlett’s opinion on why “SGU” failed to find an audience rings true. “Stargate” has been a sci-fi adventure franchise that the whole family could watch, and “SGU” was clearly targeted at an older crowd. It was a risky experiment, and it resulted in what I believe has been an excellent show. As I’ve made clear in the past, I was about as resistant to the new show as any “Stargate” fan could be. But once I got over my initial pessimism and gave “SGU” a chance to stand on its own merits, it held up remarkably well. Season 2 has been weaker than the first, overall, but much of what made the show great has remained. Perhaps, as David Hewlett said, “SGU” would have been more successful if it hadn’t tried to ride on the “Stargate” name. Personally, I’ve enjoyed how connected the show has been to previous “Stargate” shows. And I think that a dose of maturity was exactly what “Stargate” needed at the time. But maybe living without that connection would have been worth it to extend the show’s lifespan.

“Twin Destinies” certainly seems like a more important episode now that I’ve seen “Common Descent”. After last episode’s stand-alone story, this installment appears to set up what will be the season-ending arc. Setting aside the fact that it’s beyond ridiculous that human descendants would still speak the English language so similarly that they even use common colloquialisms, the idea of meeting one’s descendants is an interesting concept, and one that “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” also covered in its first season (an episode I haven’t seen). “SGU” has prided itself on being more believable than its predecessors (no aliens inexplicably speaking English, etc.), so it’s a bit of a disappointment that they’d make such an error. But really, I can understand why they might have purposefully chosen to do this, for the sake of storytelling.

The descendants concept is pretty extensively milked for both entertainment and the emotional nature of the situation. (It’s important to remember that the Destiny crew we see founding the civilization was the same one we saw in that excellent flashback scene in “Twin Destinies”.) It was pretty amusing to watch the Destiny crew react to all the surprising revelations about the civilization they spawned.

The writers play around with some great social commentary on how irrational religious beliefs are formed. The Destiny crew are just as human as their descendants, but their descendants see them as as these mythic figures worthy of worship. Roughly half of the entire civilization has formed around the belief that Rush would one day return in the Destiny to save them (thanks to Brody), while the other half has formed around Young’s leadership and the desire to make the best of their situation. Just as many worship Rush as a god as those who think he’s an actual demon, which seems completely believable and hilarious at the same time. Just as he does now, Rush inspires both fear and reverence. Thankfully, the descendants that our crew has met seem to be of the more enlightened variety that no longer take the old superstitions seriously, especially not after meeting the real human beings behind those beliefs.

This concept of civilizations deifying other beings, or beings deifying themselves and demanding worship and belief from lesser beings, is central to “Stargate” as a whole. I’m actually beginning to wonder if the other Rush actually might return at some point to save the day, thereby validating the faith of the Futurians. From what we know now, it would seem that the other Rush would have been uploaded into the other Destiny’s mainframe just before it crashed into the star. But I can’t rule out the possibility.

The episode ends on something of a cliffhanger, in which the Destiny crew reaches the civilization’s homeworld and finds a city which seems to be abandoned. It’s surmised that the volcanic activity has, in the past 30 years, rendered the planet uninhabitable. But things may not be exactly as they appear to be. This is a rather good hook, and I’m glad that this descendants concept continues into the next episode (and hopefully right up to the finale). I’d previously criticized the season for seeming to have no direction. This episode does seem to finally give the season a direction, and the strong connection to “Twin Destinies” and the whole drone scenario certainly helps. But I still wish that they’d done a better job of building up to this over the course of the season.

I struggled to decide whether or not I should even mention this, but I find Katie Findlay, the actress playing Ellie, to be stunningly beautiful. I found it difficult to pay attention to anything else whenever she was onscreen. I wonder if there was a conscious attempt to cast actors for the Jason and Ellie roles that had something of a resemblance to Scott and Chloe? Jason, in particular, looks a bit like Scott, though perhaps a lot of that can be attributed to the hairstyle. It’s a bit of a stretch, but maybe their ancestral respect to Scott has led to the hairstyle remaining popular throughout time. After 2000 years, I can’t imagine why they would be expected to bear any resemblance to Scott and Chloe.

Rush’s behavior, though perhaps characteristic of Rush in the past, now seems a bit odd. Not only is he completely disinterested in the descendants, he also seems callous and cold toward them. Not that I’d expect Rush to abandon his typical pragmatism, but I’d certainly expect him to be as fascinated by their existence as Eli is. One possible explanation is that Rush is resentful that they’re not his descendants. But surely, the fact that approximately half of the civilization is based around him should make up for that? I know Rush wasn’t made aware that many worship him as a god. But I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have heard about Futuria at some point. Personally, I think that some other motive is in play here.

It would have been nice to see a bit more development on the cosmic background radiation being/beings, the Lucian Alliance threat, or perhaps the blue aliens before the end of the show. If there were going to be three more seasons, I’d be happy to wait and see those elements be further explored in another season. If that were the case, the descendants concept has the potential to be plenty cool enough to finish off the season with. With that in mind, I’m going to try to judge the remaining episodes only in the context of how good they’d have been had they come before the three remaining seasons.

Rating: 8/10

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