TV & Film:TV Reviews
Stargate Universe "Light" - Detailed Analysis& Review
The second half of this Stargate Universe 'two-parter' brings a lot of emotions to the surface as the crew deal with their own mortality. With Destiny on course for a star, only 17 of them will survive to struggle on a barely habitable planet. The rest will burn up. This episode has some fantastic drama. I love this episode. Listen along with me to find out why.
Welcome to Nerd Heaven.
I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars
And I am a Nerd.
This is episode 54 of the podcast.
Today we’re talking about the Stargate Universe episode “Light”. This one picks up directly where we left off last time with “Darkness”.
I’ve been holding off recording the intros and outros of these podcasts, so that I can comment on any topical nerd stuff that might happen. But that’s preventing me from uploading and scheduling them ahead of time. I'm thinking of switching to do little mini-updates in between episodes to use for that purpose. That might be especially effective now that I’m on a fortnightly schedule.
Speaking of things to comment on, by the time this episode goes live, we’ll have seen the trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. So I may have already done the first of these mini updates.
The Description on Gateworld reads
With the ship on a collision course, Young conducts a lottery to determine who will escape certain death and try and find a habitable planet with the shuttle.
This episode was written by Brad Wright.
It was directed by Peter DeLuise
And it first aired on the 23rd of October 2009.
This is a very emotional episode. It’s got some fantastic drama in it.
The random Keno interviews continue to be interspersed through this episode.
Greer’s interview allows him to show an uncharacteristic moment of vulnerability.
Young has gathered everyone together to explain the situation. They’re on a collision course for a star, and there’s nothing they can do to change course. They still haven’t figured out how to take control of the ship. Its flight path is all completely automatic.
They have one day before burn up.
Destiny has a working shuttle and there are three planets in this system that may be habitable.
Young believes the ship dropped out of FTL here to give them a chance. It has shown intelligence and even care for its passengers before.
There’s only room and life-support for 17 people on the shuttle. Young will choose two people. The remaining 15 will be decided by lottery.
Can you imagine having to give this kind of news to a group of people? I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Young’s shoes right now. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be in any of their shoes right now. Imagine knowing that unless you were one of the 15 lucky ones, you would be dead within 24 hours. It’s unthinkable.
When Young announces he’ll be choosing 2, one to fly the shuttle, and one necessary for survival, somebody makes a smart-alec comment. This is when Young chooses to reveal that he’ll be taking his name out of the lottery. Confirming he’s going down with this ship no matter what. He then invites the smart alec to keep talking if he wants his name removed as well.
Young currently holds the power over everyone’s lives. That’s another hard thing to imagine, the threat of having your name removed. I tell ya, I’d be very well behaved.
Eli is looking for Chloe, but he finds her in Lieutenant Scott’s arms. So this is when it starts.
They’ve chosen to spend their last hours alive making love. They’ve been getting close since episode 1, when Scott offered Chloe comfort after the death of her father.
This is a common trope in stories, having sex at the end of the world. On one hand, I kind of get it. You might as well end it all doing something nice with somebody you love.
But when I really think about it, the prospect of certain death doesn’t exactly fill me with sexy feelings. I suspect I’d find it quite a turn-off.
But then, I’ve been happily married to my wife for 17 years. I have no regrets in that department.
But for Chloe, this may seem like a case of now or never.
But what about Scott? What does this act mean to him? Is Chloe just one last notch on his belt before the end?
Ever since I saw the scene in episode 1 where Scott and James are having sex in the storage room, I’ve had a pretty negative view of Scott. I misremembered that he and Chloe got together at the end of the pilot, in the wake of Senator Armstrong’s death, further confirming to me that Scott was a dirty-rotten womaniser who chewed women up and spat them out, taking advantage of Chloe’s pain.
Well, I was wrong about that. He just comforted her in the pilot. And this is when they officially get together.
I can’t know Scott’s heart. But I do know that this relationship is going to continue. He’s not using Chloe in the same way he used James. I still can’t shake the feeling that he’s taking advantage of this situation a little, but it’s all clearly consenual.
I still have this feeling that Chloe deserves better than Scott (and better obviously means Eli) but maybe that’s not fair. Maybe that’s just because I like it when the nerd gets the girl, like I did.
The next scene is really interesting. Camille comes in to see Young. She thinks he should choose all 17 people, and he should include himself. The survivors will need leadership. She feels this would be more fair than sending the wrong people because they were randomly selected.
Young makes the point that they are all the wrong people. None of them were selected for a long-term mission aboard Destiny. They were all assigned to Icarus Base, to solve the mystery of the ninth chevron.
When he asks her how the decision would be made, she switches from saying “you” to saying “we”.
“We’d make a short list, taking into account skills, age and sex.” Inherent is the idea that she wants to be part of the group. And making the decision seems to be within the purview of the HR Lady (which is what she was on Icarus.)
“Do we just pick those we like?” he asks.
That’s not what she’s saying.
And then Young says those blood-chilling words.
“Get out or I’m going to take your name out of the lottery. I may just do it anyway”
And Camille goes silent. And her attitude immediately goes from aggressive to passive.
She begs. “Please don’t.”
She holds in her tears as best she can and leaves the room.
I think in that moment, she would do anything to convince Young to leave her name in the lottery. Whenever I watch this scene, I can’t help but put myself in Camille’s place in that moment, and it horrifies me.
It’s very powerful.
Eli has a flashback dream of being back home. His mother is hassling him about a job interview. It seems he pulled out of it. I found this scene confusing because the pilot seemed to suggest that Eli couldn’t study or have a career because he had to be at home caring for his sick mother. Here, we see a mother that is quite able. She’s walking around the house picking up his laundry. And she’s telling trying to get him to get a job.
Clearly, she has some kind of medical condition that involves a lot of financial cost, but she doesn’t seem to be the invalid we were lead to believe she was.
So …. Is Eli just lazy? That’s what this scene is implying.
Or am I reading too much into this? It IS a dream, after all, not an actual flashback.
Scott is convinced he and Chloe are the two that Young has chosen. He makes sense. He’s the only one that can fly the shuttle, given that Young has withdrawn himself from consideration. Chloe points out that being a senator’s daughter might make her sound important but it’s not going to help anybody on the planet survive. She’s not one of the two.
But she’s felt closer to Scott in the last few days than she’s ever felt to anyone. So this whole thing is real from her end.
In Chloe’s keno interview she talks about how her father gave his life so they could all live another day. Then she chuckles at how that’s turned out to be more literal than he might have hoped. It’s been more than a day, but not many days. The unspoken question in her statement is, “Was his sacrifice worthwhile, given most of them are going to die now anyway?” Perhaps she’s not so sure. But I’ll bet I know what her dad would have said. Because if I were him, and I could let one of my kids live just one more day, it would totally be worth it.
Young and Rush have a very calm and very reasonable conversation. The first two planets are proven to be uninhabitable. One is too cold, covered in frozen methane. The other is too hot. The third planet is behind the star and they’ll have to launch the shuttle before they get close enough to determine habitability, so it’s a gamble. A massive leap of faith. Chances are good, though, because it’s in between the other two worlds, in the goldilocks zone. But as it stands, there is no guarantee those chosen to go on the shuttle will survive any longer than those on destiny.
Rush wants his name taken out of the lottery. Coming to this ship was his destiny. His life’s work. He’s happy to go down with her.
And then there’s a moment of almost reconciliation between the two. Young admitting that Rush was right, and he should have listened to him earlier. Rush admitting he wasn’t himself at the time, too irrational to be taken seriously, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. There’s a tiny sliver of mutual respect going on here. And it almost chokes me up. Their relationship will go through a whole lot of ups and downs as the show progresses, but I really like this moment.
Young reveals that he has chosen lieutenants Scott and Johansen as the two. Makes sense. The pilot and the doctor. Essential personnel.
Rush suggests he could rig the lottery to choose people like Greer. There will be some who’ll assume he did anyway. I think he’s briefly tempted. Why not? But no, he’s firm on his principles with this.
The moment of truth has come. Scott and Johannsen are on board the shuttle, ready to go. Young is gonna draw names out of a box. Those chosen will go up the stairs directly to the shuttle. Those whose names are not called must remain in the gate room until the shuttle is fully boarded and ready to leave.
It’s gotta be a tense moment. You know those reality shows where they drag out who is being kicked off, or who is gonna be the winner. It would feel like that, except a million times worse, because if you’re not chosen, you’re going to die. I tell you, there must be a lot of hearts beating very fast. I try to put myself in the shoes of these characters, and I just get so overwhelmed by the thought of it.
If your name was called, I imagine you’d feel a great sense of relief, but also some guilt, that you were one of the lucky ones, and you’d be leaving so many behind to die. Plus also a little mix of fear and excitement at the prospect of going to this new world to make a new life.
Many of the names chosen are unknown to us, but Camille is chosen. Obviously Young left her name in the lottery. She’s sobbing as she arrives. All those mixed emotions. Probably some gratitude that Young didn’t exclude her too.
Lieutenant James is chosen. That could get awkward with Scott. Do you think, if Chloe isn’t selected, that he’ll try to get back with her? Are these people going to try to populate their new world with a new generation, or just let themselves grow old and die? Anywy, Scott wisely stations James at the rear door of the shuttle. She needs to guard it in case anyone else tries to force their way on board.
We don’t really know Doctor Park yet, but she’ll become a bigger part of the story over time.
Brody is another we’ll get to know more about.
We don’t hear all the names. The names that are not called are perhaps more important at this point.
So that’s it. That’s fifteen. Anybody else still standing there to hear this has to face the reality that they’re going to die on this ship.
Spencer, one of the military isn’t gonna stand for it. He says you can fit more people. He tries to get the others to rise up with him but Greer puts him down nice and quickly. I kinda like Greer in this moment.
They close the shuttle, Eli’s keno in place so that they’ll get one last look at the outside of Destiny. It contains all their messages. It’s unlikely anyone will ever find it, but it’s still meaningful.
Some of the remainders go to watch the shuttle leave from the viewing lounge.
Eli is most interested to get images from the keno.
This is the first time they’ve ever been able to see what the ship looks like from the outside. They all crowd around the tablet to get a glimpse.
Rush’s expression of thanks is particularly heartfelt.
It hits me right in the heart when Young and Rush shake hands.
Rush apologises for getting Eli involved in this. But he’s not sorry. He’s got to see such wonders. He jokes he might be sorry by the end of the day, though. Yep, another little moment of humour.
Rush explains to Chloe how the destruction of the ship will go down. He hopes it will be quick, but he can’t guarantee that. He doesn’t know.
There are so many great character moments in this episode. I’m so glad they chose to take their time and do this properly, rather than jamming the whole thing into just one episode.
We learn that the reason Greer was in the brig back on Icarus is because he hit Telford (a superior officer.) I can think can all assume Telford probably had it coming.
Different groups of people are choosing to spend their final moments in different ways.
Young is walking the ship and thinks about his wife.
The “fun people” are playing cards. There’s a group reciting the Lord’s prayer together. It’s a very ritualistic kind of prayer, but also a very inclusive one. It’s pretty core to all flavours of Christianity.
Rush finishes a mediocre book while listening to music.
Eli and Chloe watch the star together, holding hands as friends.
Greer takes off his shirt and sits on his bed. He’s meditating.
Do you think any of them are planning to end things early? I’d be surprised if some of them didn’t at least think about it that.
How would you spend this time, if you were on that ship?
I would probably be praying, but probably something a bit more personal and heartfelt that the recital of the group we saw earlier. I’d like to think that I’d express gratitude for the many blessings in my life. Probably also praying for courage for what’s about to come. Not the death part. But fear of how it’ll happen. Fear of any pain or discomfort I might feel as the ship tears itself apart and the heat increases.
In all honesty, I’d probably be trying to do anything to distract myself from that fear.
The shuttle crew get their first readings of the planet. There’s very little vegetation and the temperature won’t be spending much time above zero, but they’ll technically be able to survive.
It’s gonna be a hard life for them.
Rush finishes his book and stands. You can tell something is going on in his mind. He goes to his lab and looks at a computer. Then laughs.
Such a heartfelt genuine laugh of relief.
The laugh of hope.
He goes to the viewing room where Eli and Chloe are waiting. He laughs out loud and tells them they’re gonna live.
The turbulence and heat should have happened by now, but the shield is protecting them.
How can it be doing that? They’re out of power.
Rush has never been so glad to be wrong in his life.
Of course, being wrong is part of life for a good scientist. You more just as much, maybe even more, from being wrong than you do from being right.
But this isn’t just an experiment. This is their lives.
Then there’s that wonderfully triumphant moment as the ship’s solar collectors deploy, and the ship stars sucking in power from the sun.
This is what destiny intended from the beginning. The ship draws its power from the stars. When it gets low, it flies through the corona of the star, protected by the super awesome magic ancient shields, which are powered by the star itself.
This is such a great pay-off.
But there’s still a problem. Those 17 people on the shuttle.
TJ announces that the people on the ship will all be dead now. She wonders if they’re the lucky ones. Scott tells her not to think that way.
That’s when they get a message from Young.
Scott sets a course for Destiny, but the ship is accelerating away and the shuttle can’t match its speed. The computer can’t figure out an intercept solution and Scott can’t come up with a manual solution.
Rush’s solution is the classic sci-fi concept of sling-shotting around a planet to accelerate.
Rush tells everyone they need to trust him, but it’s Math-Boy Eli who figures the numbers out first. Now Rusi s the one who has to trust. It’s hard for him. Rush is used to being the smartest person around. But credit to him, he sends Eli’s numbers.
This episode is such a roller coaster. We’ve gone through all that emotional character stuff, and then the triumphant bit, and now it’s really tense and suspenseful.
It’s a great sequence. They manage to get back to the ship and dock.
There’s a tiny moment of bittersweet for Eli and he realises that now Scott is back and he and Chloe will be together. But he doesn’t let that hold him back for long. This is a moment for celebration.
Young tries really hard to reach out to Rush in the mess hall. He genuinely wants to praise Rush as a hero.
And then a dark thought crosses his mind. What if Rush took his name out of the lottery because he knew Destiny would make it.
What kind of a person does that make Rush?
Eli is convinced that Rush didn’t know. He saw his face. And I agree with Eli. Rush didn’t know. He was surprised and elated.
Greer and TJ both tell Young to let it go, but he’s not quite able to.
The episode ends with that line again - “A lot of work.”
In a way, I think that sums up both Rush and Young. Certainly their troubled relationship.
So that was Light. I love this episode. It was fantastic. A beautiful character piece that examines how we all deal with our mortality, but then also an exciting action-packed story at the end.
Episodes like this are one of the many reasons I’m a fan of Stargate Universe.
Next week, we’ll talk about the last of the “resource gathering” episodes. And we’ll revisit the swirling wind alien from Air part 3.
Please consider spreading the word about this podcast. Tell a friend who likes Stargate, or share episodes on social media. There are a lot of SGU fans out there, I just have to find them.
Have a great two weeks.
Live long and prosper.
Make it so.
It is Free