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Review: Deliverance


Deliverance is the eleventh episode in Season Two of Stargate Universe.

Review

Weirdly, “Deliverance” is a good old-fashioned story of space battles with aliens, last minute heroics and the team coming together to save the day. In pure descriptive terms, a casual observer might assume that I was talking about a different Stargate show to Universe given its reputation as showing unlovable characters at odds with each other, too much character angst and not enough explosions or aliens. “Deliverance” is in many ways old school Stargate and as a result, it’s good entertainment, excellently paced and leaves me with a bittersweet aftertaste given the show’s cancelation. But strangely, while it feels like Stargate, it no longer feels like Stargate Universe.

If Season 2 has been about finding a better balance between the old Stargate legacy and the new Universe approach (in an oblique way the producers may never admit to in public), “Deliverance” is possibly the first episode to slide right over the dividing line and settle itself happily on the old Stargate side. There is a comfortable familiarity about the episode, from the space battles with aliens to the geeks saving the day with last minute software hacks and the military saving the day with determination and grit, to them all coming together as a team to save themselves. The focus of the plot is not truly on characterization (although more on that in a moment) but on the action -- how are they going to survive the confrontation with the alien drones? Here, just as in every episode of SG-1 or Atlantis, the characters are there to move the plot forward; even Chloe, who arguably gets the most character focus.

Elyse Levesque hasn’t been given the easiest of roles with Chloe and she does her best with what she’s given. No matter how they’ve tried to present Chloe as an “everywoman trying to be useful”, the character continues to come across as insipid and not all that interesting. The alien transformation had given her something that made her interesting but here that is reversed (maybe) as a way of adding another obstacle for the episode plot that the crew has to overcome (and presumably to service the wider series arc around the blue aliens attempt to get Destiny). While her conversations with others hint at the impact to Chloe as a person, there is no new character growth. On a side note, I could really have done without the romantic music undertone in the goodbye scene in the shuttle. So, again, this seems very much like old school Stargate’s take on transforming into an alien; let’s deal with correcting it and not on what it feels like for the character to go through it.

The other character that is focused on is Rush, who seems to have turned over a new leaf literally overnight and is suddenly being nice. Personally, I’m of the opinion that it is a continuation of Rush’s overall ethos of “for the greater good”, but his sudden desire to help Chloe (despite the possible future ramifications), and his praise of Eli, Brody and Volker all seem jarringly out-of-character. Carlyle does a good job of trying to sell the out-of-character behavior (particularly in the scene where he admits to Eli that his praise of the others got them out of the way) but this isn’t the slow character growth of previous episodes, it’s a leap – again, one required to service the plot. Equally, everybody else’s characterization is either limited to their ship function (TJ and Greer in particular) or beneath the covers (such as Young stepping up). Again, very old school where characters were mostly characterized by their function, and character growth was usually handled through subtext.

But beyond this the episode gives us for the first time the entire Destiny crew coming together to work as a team. It’s been the essential Stargate ingredient missing from Universe to date and has only been there in parts with sub-groups working together (usually against other sub-groups). Here, the entire team comes together to save the day. This actually works in the context of the wider arcs that have been playing out this season. So while very old school, it does feel like natural growth for the Destiny crew.

Beyond these points, perhaps the fact that the episode was directed by Stargate veteran Peter DeLuise also added to the old school feel. The episode was enhanced by its excellent pacing and I loved the section with the disjointed cut-aways that showed Scott’s frustration and tension while he waited for Chloe (excellently acted by Brian J Smith, too).

There is also the impression that with the multiple explosions (great special effects), the presence of three alien races (the Ursini -- who inexplicably commit suicide despite being the last of their race -- the blue aliens and the alien drones), and the usage of Park and James to up the female character quotient, that the producers are continuing to try and address criticisms leveled at the show in Season 1 (not enough action, aliens or good use of female characters). Unfortunately, given the cancellation and the loss of viewers to date, it’s clearly too late to make up for the perceived lack of these elements.

Overall, it’s a good episode and I very much enjoyed it but it didn’t feel like the slower paced, character-driven Universe that I’ve been watching. Is that a bad thing? Possibly not and perhaps it wouldn’t have quite so jarring had the show not gone on hiatus. Having said that, I do think there is a balance; the previous incarnations of Stargate were criticized for a reason as being too plot-driven and never having the characters deal with events. In trying to rebalance Universe, I hope “Deliverance” isn’t a sign that they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Previously published at GeekSpeak Magazine

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