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FAN REVIEWS: 'Common Descent' (217)

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    FAN REVIEWS: 'Common Descent' (217)

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    Destiny comes upon a colony of humans who claim that their civilization was founded two thousand years earlier ... by Destiny's own crew.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 1, 2021, 11:45 PM.

    Divided. Again.

    It's not often that you can see all of your ideas and decisions play out over thousands of years. Fortunately, we have science fiction, and 'meeting the descendants/ancestors' is a standard science fiction offering.

    From season 1, the divisions that have existed amongst the crew developed and became sharpest in the episode “Divided”. While there were variations and degrees, the crew fell along two sides: those that chose to follow Young and those that chose to follow Rush.

    Those divisions weren't simply a matter of whether one belonged to the military or the civilians, but deepened to a way of looking at the basic questions of life, the mission at hand, and the future. In 2000 years, the alternate crew of the Destiny has had a lot of time to allow those divisions to solidify and grow large over the years and in this way, show the current crew of the Destiny how all of their viewpoints and beliefs could play out over time for both good and ill.

    Like the current crew of the Destiny, the Novans are also essentially 'good', although not as good as they'd like to be. They have the luxury of eliding over the less perfect aspects of their ancestors, elevating them to the status of perfect, heroic and noble beings. In this way, the Novans deal with the original Destiny crew much in the way that people from earth dealt with the Ancients, and I believe that is the point we are supposed to take away from this episode. That we are the descendants of the Ancients, looking back on what was best and filtering out the less flattering. Through the years, we played the biggest game of telephone, with the 'story' changing over the years, to the point where, if the original story appeared, we would scarcely recognize it.

    Still, there are some things that remain unchanged and it is in the core elements of the characters, of the 'sides', which became the political realities, that we see a reflection of 'Young' and 'Rush'.

    Young's people created a home, Tinerra, in lieu of the one they would never be able to reach. They built a community with some enviable qualities, voiced by the settlers on the new planet when they increased their own hardship in order to help the Destiny crew. They have technological advancement but it hasn't overwhelmed their essential humanity. Those that lined up behind Young, both during “Divide” and now, tend to view the mission as getting home first, wherever that home ends up being located. This group looks towards itself, to its humanness, to further their survival and community.

    While Alternate Rush never made it onto Novus, he is there fully in spirit. It is Rush's people that view the mission as more science and technology based. They look outward rather than to each other, waiting for Rush and the Destiny to come back and save them. In Futura, Brody and those that make up the Rush viewpoint have put their hopes in a man they have, by turns, deified and demonized. Rush becomes a near-god figure, and while they appear to worship his dream, they fear him and what he's imagined to be capable of. Not alone in vilification, Eli joins Rush, as the man responsible for stranding the alternate crew, through his star-dialling. In short, a society where technological advances are something to strive for, and something to fear.

    Seeing these divisions play out in their alternates isn't easy for some of the crew. Rush, Brody and Eli seem especially troubled about the actions and beliefs of the alternates. In Twin Destinies, Eli took responsibility for the actions that led to the “deaths” of the other crew. To find that they lived is a wonderful thing but in the ongoing condemnation for the action, it is another stark reminder that science has consequences.

    Both Brody and Eli have, by turns, supported “Young's side” and “Rush's side” depending on what they believed was right at the time but Brody seems to be quiet and reserved about having created, in essence, a society that deified Rush, in the hope that Rush would come back for them all. It must feel awkward now. And of course there's that name Futura. A font, of all things. Not that Novus Mundus is much better.

    Rush appears to be the most deeply affected. Having never made it to the planet, it is the 'idea' of Rush and what people thought of him that made it there. Unlike the others, he never gets to see his children, never gets to see what he's created, only what's created in his name, and it doesn't sit well with him. While there are lines scattered throughout the episode about not telling Rush that he was a god, I believe the idea of deification would offend him, given his own ideas on such matters. To be seen as a demon isn't much better and, just as Eli is served a constant reminder of his blame in stranding them all, in demonizing Rush, it's a continued reminder that he's not to be trusted, that his motives and actions are questionable and that, finally, in putting their faith in Rush returning for them, he has let them down again.

    It isn't all uncomfortable, however. To survive, to make a home, a community, is a wonderful outcome for people that will never reach Earth. The simple delight from people like Eli, Wray, Scott and Greer at having children, families, was touching and sincere. It is human nature to want to leave something behind, some mark that we were here. The current crew fit in well with their descendants and even with the passing of so much time, the essence of what they are and what they believe remains true. In wanting to save the Novans, and in the pure joy at being rescued, it's proof that the two groups haven't changed in this regard.

    The most wonderful development is the renewed relationship between Young and TJ, or at least their alternates. For whatever reason, Varro is nowhere to be found and TJ and Young have picked up where they left off, having the first child born on Novus. Getting to see their relationship, even an alternate relationship, is a powerful moment for the two on Destiny, given the loss of their first child. With the first pregnancy, Young had so much on his plate that he wasn't there for TJ. Not yet divorced, he was distant and later, so torn up that TJ turned to another man, Varro. But TJ loved him for some reason and I believe that in getting to Novus, she found that again; she got to see Young as a better man and for both of them on the ship getting to watch this play out, it will be sure to have consequences, as their feelings for each other have remained strong.

    It is this idea of Young as a better man that affects not only TJ and their relationship but the colony as a whole and it can be summed up quite well by Young himself:

    YOUNG: I remember when we first came here was ... well, it feels like a long time ago now ... we had *very* little. It was really hard, but I think it brought us together. Everything we have here, we built with our own hands. And now we stand at a precipice. Some of us want to divide. Sure, yes, we have our issues and we have our differences, but we can't lose perspective. As your leader, I may not have been perfect, I know that, but I know that I tried my best and that I persevered. Now, as a group, we will survive. We will prosper as long as we can remember above anything else that we need each other, and we need to *help* each other.

    These words resonate with Young, which is clear in his expression but what he wants to do and what he's able to do are very different things. This is an echo of the stairway speech from season one, where he presses the frightened survivors that they will make it if they stick together. This is Young at his best and is true of a great deal of what drives Young – that he is hopeful and good but not stupidly so.
    It is perhaps fortunate that the choice is taken out of his hands by the actions of the drones and that the crew must take on the alternates as it forces Young to remain true to those principles. When Scott and Eli find a way to call the Destiny, Young isn't left with the worst choice but can do what I believe his heart would do and while the Novans have perhaps had their visions of a perfect leader dashed, in the end, he still did what was right.

    Lastly, a note on filming locations. A set could have easily have been created somewhere but in choosing the real life location of Fort Langley to film the “Young colony” sections, this touched a spot in my heart. Fort Langley was built in 1827 and while it is currently a tourist attraction, it's a reminder that we all started a little smaller, by people that carved their existence out of the wilderness. The Lower Mainland has grown up a lot in the past 170 years or so and coming from the soaring glass and steel towers of Vancouver, it's hard to imagine that we could have ever lived in a place like the fort, but we this place was built on that smaller society. I have to wonder if we live up to their ideals, or if they'd live up to ours?

    Rating: 8/10



      As this is the last Stargate episode written by Robert C Cooper, I was expecting great things. What I got is a decent enough opening to a two-part storyline with space battles, time travel shenanigans and dodgy CGI. But as interesting as the concept is, the story misses the opportunity to deliver something truly spectacular.

      OK, so regular readers will recall that I love time travel episodes. They’ll also recall that I love Stargate time travel episodes in particular and that “Twin Destinies” (2-12) got a resounding seal of approval from me for being awesome in many different ways. This story is really the follow on to that episode since it answers the question of what happened to the rest of the crew of Destiny since they didn’t make it to Earth like Telford or go back in time on Destiny like Rush. The answer: in stepping through the wormhole they went back in time 2000 years, ending up on a planet, and so our Destiny crew end up meeting their descendants.

      It’s a fascinating idea and I love the concept. So much time has passed between the crew being stranded in the past and ourtimeline!Destiny’s arrival at the settlement that the crew we know and love (or hate) have become historical figures and in Rush’s case almost mythological in nature. It’s an imaginative idea. What would your descendants make of you? Would they consider you a demon or a God? And how would they deal with the reality of you? That you couldn’t rescue them as promised in historical prophecy? Yep: I love the idea of this episode a great deal.

      Unfortunately though, the execution of the episode isn’t as fantastic as the concept. The story tries hard to create tension and excitement through the reappearance of the automated drones and the drone command ship which attack Destiny and later the settlement. But there’s never any doubt that Destiny is going to survive or go back for Scott, Eli and Camile so it’s all a bit anti-climatic and pointless.

      OK, so it does give us some nice special effects and the military taking over the bridge so Scott flies the ship (about time) and Greer plays shoot out with the drones (also about time) is fantastic. But since the upshot of the drone situation is that they’re probably going to have to stop using the Stargate…well, color me bemused because isn’t this Stargate Universe. I’m sure this will have a denouement later in the final episodes but right now the drone storyline just feels like the blatant plot device it is and not an integral part of the story.

      The other aspect to the story that should have been interesting but just isn’t is the relationship of the settlers to the Destiny regulars. Unless I missed it nobody claims a direct relationship with any of them – they’re just the Ancestors/descendants in a vague way as though Scott and Chloe are Adam and Eve. A direct relationship between at least one of the settlers and the crew would have created a personal connection that is somehow missing. That’s compounded by the fact that these settlers are an expedition sent out by the home-world – this isn’t even the planet the others ended up on. When they finally get there at the end of the episode, the city is so obviously fake looking – a model or a painting but definitely an effect – that it’s a disappointment.

      The other issue is that the kino recordings of the other timeline Destiny regulars are short and don’t reveal too much more beyond that described in endless exposition scenes. Sure, there’s some attempt to give life to those by having different people explain different things to different audiences but ultimately it’s still exposition and it’s still not all that interesting.

      The kino recordings do give a peek at the fate of the timeline doubles of our Destiny regulars and what is shown and revealed is interesting enough – the division that happens in the crew between the Young supporters and the Rush-ites, TJ apparently getting together with Young and having another baby – a son. But there’s no context to show how they got together and that means the peek remains just that; a peek. Interesting on an intellectual level but not something to grab at the audience and pull on the heartstrings.

      The acting is good and the make-up on the old Young excellently done but the cast isn’t given much to play with really. There’s nothing for them to get their teeth into beyond TJ’s scene at seeing her double give birth to a healthy baby (Alaina Huffman in good form with Elyse Levesque doing a great job as a supportive Chloe).

      In conclusion then, this is OK as a set-up but so far it’s not a fascinating time-travel story; it’s not even a fascinating drone-attack story…it’s just not an interesting story full stop, which is a real shame because the concept is outstanding.

      Originally posted at GeekSpeak Magazine
      Women of the Gate LJ Community.
      My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


        Common Descent

        At this point in time it's unlikely SGU is ever going to get going and here comes to my surprise... A good episode of SGU and one that finally gets it moving at that. Seriously it took this long?

        In all seriousness the idea behind the episode is interesting, for so long we have traveled through SGU without nary the sight of a human. All of these planets, all of these worlds and yet barely any life exists, besides the few aliens that inhabit the world and loe and behold, we come across a race of humans of our own descent. Utilizing the idea established in "Twin Destinies", they create a vast world of possibilities, technology, history, culture, political ideologies; you barely get to see the world but the way they talk about and present it really creates an idea of the world in your head, I personally would of liked to see more of it in this episode but the strength lies in the idea of it, what you perceive of it as a whole. The actual exploitation of this is surprisingly good as well; it's somewhat like Atlantis's "The Game" in that our heroes are given the highest of praise but better in that it's done in a more competent, more serious role... Throughout the episode we get a feeling that these people are legitimately praising them for the accomplishments that they done, the world that they built with their own two hands; they're treated as deities with a sort of religious bible based on their actions but it felt like these people truly are what they believed in and the common similarities between the people and the crew are also shown here, we have people of different hairstyles, different clothes and looks but at the same time the looks of Chloe, Scott or even Wray. They all have different personalities but the origins of where they came from are all the same, truly enforcing that these are our descendents and it provides much discussion into how we, a group of people can be similar to another group of people who've taken another path...

        Throughout the episode we come to know and love these people, thinking of them more as just a possibility and as an actual race of people; they've got lives, they got resources, they even got similarities which really fuels another plot going on, the one for survival. Their appearance really raises a lot of issues; whether or not we should leave someone off the planet to live another day, whether we should leave our crew behind whenever the tough gets going and many of those scenes consist of the best moral usage the show has ever done; they really hit hard on some of the thoughts, showing us the fatal consequences of what could be considered an inconvenience, the sheer strain of our descendants, an unexpected obstacle if you will and the fact that they show makes us more invested in the characters; it provides the characters on the ship a chance to think and express themselves and it really allows for that one thing which the show has been lacking in, exploration, which is really appreciated. However, the moral issues aren't exactly golden, issues such as responsibility to the humans, whether or not to bring their people to a planet which may or may not have been destroyed and the state of the planet itself are strained right from the start; they make an effort to tell us that they're similar to us but they don't go farther contrasting the survival with the payoff that we get from supposedly doing this which could of made the argument decent; I can understand the "no man left behind" mantra but it needs to be more in a show that claims to explore these issues. They also make tons of arguments based on the guesses of the planets but it doesn't seem to go anywhere, in fact it just seems like the same old, same old. Looking for hope is looking for hope no matter how it's dressed but in this case it's better dressed here.

        In an unexpected surprise, several of the characters manage to act their best here (much in Kino video which is admittingly decent); TJ for example puts on a surprisingly good performance of a woman in labor, providing what could be a justification to her entire character, it's funny because TJ has consistently been underwhelming but here it looks like she's finally found her muse. Also a surprise, Wray who's race and culture come into play here; though she's still somewhat weak, she's letting out her natural character, not concerned about trying to force her way into a position or serving the action of the plot, It's nice that we get to see her true side and even Scott manages to act good too. That doesn't mean the usual suspects don't pull their weight. Eli manages to seem optimistic, awkward and determined at the same time; his warmth is evident here, whenever he speaks, he truly seems to be doing it from the heart, parlaying the possibilities that exist in his mind, being a witness to history being made. Young manages to be who he always was, analyzing the situation of the ship, providing a tantalizing speech that shows how far they made it; even managing to make hesitant decisions too and Rush, well he's somewhat subdued but he at least manages to be helpful in times of need. But... Much of the character is dragged down by humor that's both natural and awkward. Hearing constant references to "Futura", "New World" and some geek references threatened to drag the whole thing down; this season may be trying to incorporate humor but this needs a lot more work before it can be used competently, otherwise it dilutes the serious mood. The plotting is also in question; we have what appears to be the leaving of our people leading into a attempt for them to go home which leads to them staying which leads to our heroes being stranded which leads them onboard and to the planet. Hint for writers, If you're planning on getting to a planet, you can't insist a what if that serves as the end of this episode constantly; an episode has to have a consistent plot which know what to do and when to do it, not possibilities that are quickly shown and than taken away.

        Despite all this, this is still a good episode of SGU. A new planet comes new potential and the new potential is properly exploited in this episode which provides a good plot, good characters and potential for the future. It's unlikely it's going to be explored in the 4 episodes that we have but hey, at least it's finally getting somewhere right?

        Back from the grave.