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Review: Faith

Faith is the thirteenth episode in Season One of Stargate Universe.

Review

After the excitement of space aliens and onboard stand-offs between the military and civilian characters, Faith provides something of a breather for Destiny’s embattled crew, and for SGU’s own audience. Yet somehow Faith manages the impossible and makes a slow episode intriguing thanks to a combination of exploring one of the best characters on board, TJ, a mystery posed by the story that it purposefully never answers, and some great pacing.

I have complained about the pacing a lot in SGU and in terms of its first season report, better pacing would be one of my first suggestions for improvement. Too often the stories are as slow as treacle but here even though the story is slow in content and actually covers four weeks of actual time, the pace is remarkably well-judged.

Most of this is down to the balancing act the story plays with its two mysteries. The first of these is the discovery of the star and the perfect planet which appear from nowhere and should by all accounts be impossible. The idea that a highly advanced alien species or higher power has created the planet specifically for the crew is played with through the likeable character of Doctor Caine. The mystery is intriguing but there are no answers. And I personally like that. It underscores the transitory nature of Destiny’s existence – she’s always travelling, always on the move. Sometimes, the crew won’t have time to solve the problem or discover the answer. Maybe the planet was placed there as a trap; maybe as a sanctuary. Maybe the people who stayed will be back to Earth before those who travelled on with Destiny.

The problem of some of the crew wanting to remain behind provided some nice drama at the finish of the story which was nicely tied to the second mystery that unraveled through the episode – that concerning TJ. TJ is without question my favorite character; she’s level-headed, she does step up when it matters even though she questions her own abilities and has self-doubts. She’s compassionate and vulnerable; curious and surprisingly fearless in the face of an unknown cloud of aliens. The exploration of her in Faith is great and Alaina Huffman once again nails her performance with the reveal of TJ’s pregnancy and confirmation of her affair with Young. I felt her struggle to remain professional with Young when they left; the sense of escape she felt away from him and the ship on the planet; the relief and gratitude she felt at Scott’s friendship after he reveals he knows of the affair and will support her; how bereft she felt at having to return. I welled up at the end with the final shot of TJ sitting in the infirmary, crying. It will be interesting to see how the baby storyline plays out given a large part of the reasoning behind giving it to TJ according to Mallozzi was to accommodate Huffman’s own pregnancy. But here, the character story was wonderfully and subtly told.

And so was the rest of the story, particularly in respect of the crew’s military versus civilian division, the question of leadership and the slow healing after the abortive coup in Divided. This story is very clever in how it balances this. It’s great to see there is fallout; lovebirds Scott and Chloe aren’t speaking at the start of the episode, for instance. Yet because the story does cover so much time (four weeks pass in the course of an episode), it allows the crew to move past it; Young reaching out to Rush, Eli and Wray striking up a friendship, Greer encouraging both civilian and military to work together in his own unique way, Young conferring with Rush and Wray over what to do, and Scott and Chloe reaching some kind of understanding. It allows the ramifications of the previous episode to be acknowledged but enables the show to move on quickly.

What I also think was well-judged was the balance between life back on board Destiny and the events on the planet. It was great to see exploration of the ship and the crew mending and repairing the Destiny. I loved the Park and Brody double act, which provided some humor to lighten the rest. The montage in the middle of the episode switching back and forth between Destiny and the planet was well done.

If I have any criticism of the episode, I will say the choice of location for the perfect planet was unfortunate for long term franchise fans. As TJ looked out at the admittedly gorgeous vista I was half expecting Jack O’Neill or John Sheppard show up all rumpled and sexy, given this was the self-same location for SG-1’s Paradise Lost and Atlantis’s Harmony.

That aside, I really enjoyed this episode. It was a vital for the series to progress beyond the military and civilian power-mongering and while it could be argued nothing very much happened beyond that – that was the point. Personally, I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of the season is as beautifully paced, balanced and judged as Faith.

Previously published at Geek Speak Magazine.

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