Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stargate Universe - "Cloverdale"

Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle) officiates over Chloe (Elyse Levesque) and Matthew's (Brian J. Smith) "wedding".
Photo Credit: Syfy
Review by Paul Steven Brown

'Stargate Universe'
Season 2 - Episode 5

This sort of episode has become a sci-fi staple: a member of the cast is injured and while unconscious, he or she has visions of another life where those familiar to them have been recast in various roles. One of my favorite takes on this ideas was a sixth season episode of 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' called "Far Beyond the Stars". Captain Sisko had visions that he was a science fiction writer in the 1950s where he worked along side other writers that had the same faces as his crew mates. Other than the fun factor of seeing this ensemble play other personalities and some without their usual alien prothstetics, the episode added depth to Sisko's struggles as the Emissary to the Prophets, and commented on racial attitudes of the mid-twentieth century.

"Cloverdale" plays with a similar idea, but it certainly lacks the punch and power of that aforementioned 'DS9' episode. In fact, Matthew Scott's dream seems more like an attempt to pad out the episode. Ironically, it was probably written the other way around, with the dream and the recasting as the original idea and the away mission and resolution being added later.

Initially, the recasting of roles in Scott's dreamworld seemed to say something about how he viewed various members of the crew. Young is certainly a father figure and Greer is the closest thing he has to a real pal. I found his dream version of Eli as Chloe's brother and interesting choice. I'm sure the real Eli would have seen that differently. On Destiny, Brody created the still, while in Cloverdale he owns the bar. Telford is the local sheriff, another type of authority figure, and Lt. James is an ex-lover.

It's Dr. Volker as the Cloverdale pharmacist that was the highlight of the hour. Normally, Volker is serious and frowning. Here he's all smiles and awkward in his attempts to keep the party secret from Matthew. It's a fun, brief, but hilarious display of underused comedic timing from Patrick Gilmore, and another reason why I want to see him and other members of the science team (Peter Kelemis as Mr. Brody and Christina Schild as Dr. Park) more often.

Unfortunately, I'm not too keen on the new roles Scott's dream gave Rush and TJ. Rush is the justice of the peace that officiates over the wedding. While he is another sort of authority figure here, he has an almost moralistic authority, too. I've never gotten the feeling that Scott has ever seen Rush as someone of that nature. Also, TJ is made into a paramedic. While the job matches up with her role on Destiny, she and Scott are complete strangers in Cloverdale. I would have thought they would be a little closer.

Notably missing was Camille Wray. From my understanding Ming-Na may have availability issues and she wasn't in every episode of the last season, despite being a regular member of the cast. It would have been interesting to see how Scott sees her. Antagonistic future mother-in-law, maybe? Also missing were the Lucian Alliance members, but their absence is understandable given the nature of Scott's dream, and it probably saved money.

The big theme of Scott's vision is his unease about the progress of his relationship with Chloe in form of wedding day doubts. To tell you the truth, we've never really seen these two act like a real couple. They have sex and they've been on away missions together, but they don't talk and interact like friends. The dream Chloe asks Scott if he is marrying her because he's supposed to. I think an examination of their real relationship should performed by Matthew Scott as well.

The wedding ceremony takes place while Scott is receiving an transfusion from Chloe and her alien blood. Given the physiological properties of Chloe's altered biochemistry, this sharing of blood may present a deeper bound than the current state of their romantic relationship. While the bulk of the episode felt fairly empty, the implications of resolution could lead to some compelling situations.

"Cloverdale" tries to be a really interesting take on the 'SGU' experience, but ultimately it falls short. However, the ending sets up some interesting ideas. At least there wasn't a communication stone in sight.

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