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Review: Common Descent

Common Descent is the seventeenth episode in Season Two of Stargate Universe.

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

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