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Review: Human


Human is the fourteenth episode in Season One of Stargate Universe.

Review

Human is a fascinating mix of old school Stargate mixed with the new. On one hand it delivers the standard format of going through the Stargate and getting into trouble, and yet on the other a compelling character study as the story delves into the inner workings of Nicholas Rush. The combination is used to great effect turning the expected ending on its head as we’ve come to expect from SGU while delivering a well-paced and engaging story with superb acting throughout.

This episode feels most like the Stargate of old than any other to date, apart from the superb Time. Interestingly enough both were directed by Robert C. Cooper, and perhaps some of the old school feel comes through his direction despite new techniques (shaky hand cam was back). I think mostly, though, it’s because of the combination of several elements, the first of which is the ‘B’ plot which is all about going through the Stargate and getting into trouble.

The ‘B’ plot seems to be there for two reasons with the initial one being to provide some humor: from Eli and Chloe’s impassioned plea to go on the mission (“Say something archaeological”), to Eli ‘joking’ with Greer (loved the “Please don’t kill me”), to shooting the humongous spider and the exchange between Scott and Young (“it was a sizeable spider, sir”). It serves well to lighten the episode; the ‘A’ plot is certainly very serious and dramatic by comparison. The second reason seems to be to provide an urgency to find the information in the database in order to stop Destiny and ensure Team SGU don’t get left behind on the planet.

It’s a good solid ‘B’ plot and one that emulates Stargate of old by using the tried-and-tested format. This is emphasized further with the team formation: Scott, Chloe, Eli and Greer nicely echoes Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal’c in terms of roles (leader, diplomat/archaeologist, scientist, and warrior). Team SGU is new but feels very familiar. Moreover, the use of humor – mixing light and dark – is very Stargate and it’s nice to see it used more in this episode. Yet, if the ‘B’ plot feels like old school Stargate for the most part, the shock ending of Team SGU being left behind is very new school and this is nicely tied to the ‘A’ plot which is arguably more new school in its concept.

I say arguably because although the ‘A’ plot focuses on a character study of Nicholas Rush and is therefore more in line with the character-driven principle that drives SGU compared to its plot-driven predecessors, Stargate has used episodes to examine character before (Forever in a Day and Grace being two examples). Perhaps because I’ve always liked these types of episodes anyway, I really loved this part of Human.

It’s a great examination of one of SGUs most enigmatic characters, one whose motives have been most questionable. The back-story of Rush’s wife and her illness, his feeling of failure in not solving the ninth chevron puzzle and thereby feeling as though he wasted time he could have spent with her, his devastation and anger at her death – all of it provides a good character reason for Rush’s behavior to date. Moreover, in exploring these memories, he begins to face them and realize his behavior since has been unacceptable – something that fits with Rush as a character as he’s much more likely to respond to an internal prompt to change than he is to an external. Louise Lombard does a great job as Gloria (although she looks surprisingly healthy on her death bed), but Robert Carlyle just provides a stunning performance as Rush. The scene at the end is heart-breaking because of the way that Carlyle plays it. Bravo.

The ‘A’ plot also incorporates a great deal of Stargate mythology making it feel more old school than new, and this is emphasized by the presence of Daniel Jackson throughout Rush’s memories. Michael Shanks does a great job of his cameo, although admittedly he really doesn’t have to do much. But I loved the allusion to his losing Sha’re as a point of shared understanding with Rush; loved the way the story uses Daniel with his connection to the Ancients and the Ascended Beings as the person in Rush’s dream who points him in the right direction. It’s all really well done – and great special effects throughout with the streaming of Ancient data that Rush can see around him.

If there is one aspect to criticize, it’s probably in Young’s characterization and the flow, given the previous episodes from an arc perspective. While it’s believable that Rush would get in the chair without telling Young, since in Faith we see Young make overtures to Rush following his leaving him behind to die and subsequent coup, his reaction here (which seems to be all about how not bothered he is if Rush dies) seems off. I think this part of the episode needed more polishing and smoothing out, based on previous events.

Overall, this episode uses the best of old Stargate and the best of new to deliver something which is just great entertainment. Perhaps it’s not quite as polished as Time, and that’s possibly why it doesn’t quite reach the classic feel of that episode, but it’s still an excellent installment.

Previously published at Geek Speak Magazine.

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