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Review: Visitation

Visitation is the ninth episode in Season Two of Stargate Universe.

Universe declares a change of pace with “Visitation,” delving into mystery, mythology and philosophy before the series heads into its mid-season and no doubt action-packed two-parter. Here, some plot threads are tied up as What Happened to T.J’s Baby and the Group Who Stayed Behind in “Faith” are revisited, while the sub-plot of Chloe’s Evolution moves on. Yet all are explored in a way that ties the whole episode together in a beautifully lyrical way as Universe looks at death, life after death and life before death.

The Group Who Stayed Behind provides the meat in the sandwich and covers all three aspects. This part of the story is fascinating as the group turns up in a pristine shuttle and the mystery of what happened to them is slowly revealed over the course of the episode. I loved this. I loved the creepiness; I loved the gruesome deaths that are revealed; I loved the resolution that the aliens had tried to fix their deceased bodies but had failed. I loved the exploration of death in this storyline.

After the opening episode and T.J’s almost fairy-tale “visit” to the planet from “Faith,” where the Unknown Advanced Aliens built log cabins for the settlers to shelter within through the Winter, “Visitation” reveals the truth – or at least puts forward a second version of events. This one is more harshly realistic: conflict within the group, love affairs, and shortening rations in the days leading up to death; the majority dying of hypothermia as the cold set in; the miraculous return to life and Destiny – only for the resurrection to fail. I love the sharp contrast of reality versus T.J’s dream. I love that Caine wants to believe it’s God while Rush believes fervently it’s science. I love the exploration of whether in ‘fixing’ the dead humans the aliens have failed to consider their souls. I love the metaphysical debate about faith and death that is put forward here. I can already anticipate the “Save BAG” campaign hitting the internet.

Inextricably tied up with this thread given “Intervention” is the What Happened to T.J’s Baby thread. This too looks at death and life after death. The group from the planet arrives without the baby and T.J’s hope that her little girl somehow survived, was transported to the planet to be cared for, is crushed. While I’ve probably gone on a LOT about Alaina Huffman and the brilliance of the performance she gives as TJ in my reviews this season (and last), I’m going to do it again here because she does just deliver in spades. You feel T.J’s hope when she waits for the shuttle to open; her desperation as she darts inside; her disappointment and pain as she realizes that her baby isn’t there. Equally, at the end as T.J comforts Caine – as Caine comforts her, there is the sense that T.J is accepting the truth of it and finally dealing with the loss. There are some nice moments between Young and T.J in this; some good beats of non-verbal interplay worked out between Huffman and Louis Ferriera which makes their relationship real.

If the T.J thread deals with death and life after death, the Chloe Evolution thread deals with the opposite angle: life before death. It has occurred to me that it’s easy to underrate the performance that Elyse Levesque continues to put in as the evolving Chloe but her seamless transitions between Chloe and Not-Chloe are brilliant. The audience knows at a glance which is which.

I loved this thread too; the idea of Chloe leaving kino messages for her friends; her understanding of what is happening to her; her forgiveness of Greer; her trying to push Scott away from her. It all is a great exploration of someone trying to come to terms with a fatal illness. If I adored the scene between Scott and Greer with the “butter bar lieutenant” jab, I loved the scene between Greer and Chloe. Greer’s simple request for forgiveness because it’s likely to be him that Young will order to deal with Not-Chloe when the time comes; his simple expression of faith in saying he prays for her every night (a wonderful contrast to Caine’s more obsessive take on faith). I maybe somewhat in love with Jamil Walker Smith’s portrayal of Greer.

The beautiful thing though is how the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This is a tightly woven storyline, packed full of character development and moments, with plenty of sci-fi and philosophical life questions posed for the audience to chew over. Who are the Unknown Advanced Aliens? How advanced are they if they can fix up the shuttle but can’t fix up the human body? Does the soul matter in these equations? Does God exist? What is the nature of faith and how does it differ from science? This episode is right up my street and I’m looking forward to more from new writer Remi Aubuchon.

This is an episode that could have ended up feeling like just an excuse to get the shuttle back but which avoids that in spades. So, yes: I loved this episode although I acknowledge that probably it doesn’t do very much for the crowd who need explosions and alien space battles. However, the next episode being the first of the mid-season two-parter will no doubt deliver that and I’m happy to get this wonderfully thought-provoking and intelligent episode in the meantime.

Previously published at GeekSpeak Magazine

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