You know, you’d figure being stranded on this ship in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers would be the problem. But that isn’t it exactly. It’s not, it’s not so much being out here as it is not being there. For the birthdays, the weddings, the funerals. Simple things like just taking your nephew to school on his first day, or even taking the dog for a walk, you know. Just not, not being there.
There are several moments that bear weight in this episode but none of them can come close to Riley’s death and, in Riley’s death – Riley’s life. A secondary character, he was perhaps supposed to be a buddy for Eli or maybe a spot of comedic relief but he went on to become much more than that.
Riley approached his life on Destiny with such a noble dignity that, even though he was a secondary character, the Destiny is less with him gone. His friendship and quiet competence was a solid rock to several other characters and can be seen through his interactions with others. In “Earth”, it’s Brody that is deeply affected when Riley is injured and in “Aftermath”, each time that Eli asks about Riley, there is such a stricken look on his face that is just painful to see. Eli is slowly fitting in to the Destiny but there are still few people that he can truly call friends and Riley was just such a friend. Both Scott and Young are in tears over the loss of Riley and even Park, who has managed to retain her positive outlook in the face of overwhelming odds, looks stricken, not only at the loss of Riley but at hearing of what TJ thinks has happened to her child. Unlike a great many other science fiction shows, Stargate Universe doesn’t throw great numbers of red-shirt characters into the mix. There are no meaningless empty deaths. Each and every one is painful, to someone. The weight of Riley’s death is sure to play out in future episodes, especially when Young discovers that Rush should have known what was about to happen.
Throughout all of season one and continuing in season two, Young has developed a paternal care for those on the ship, military and civilian. In essence, the survivors on Destiny have become his children and he’s taken them all under his wing, shepherding them through the ordeal of being stranded.
Those times when Young has become his most volatile is when his children are threatened. His violent reaction towards Spencer. His repeated incidents of anger at Rush who, in addition to stranding them all aboard Destiny in the first place, continues to put his own desires over the well-being of the others. His anger at Wray who continues to threaten a split in the crew, as well as putting her loyalties to the IOA above the well being of the crew. His anger at the LA, for obvious reasons. Last but not least, his anger at Telford, a man who, like Rush and Wray, is willing to put his own wishes above the safety of the crew.
After watching this episode, I was struck by a comparison between Young’s character and Mel Gibson’s character in “The Patriot”. Here you have this man who has left his war behind him, a man that wants to settle into a quiet normal life, be a good man, raise his children. A man who, if events hadn’t gone the way they had gone, would likely never harm another person as long as he lived. The one thing that does incite the character to fight is when his children are threatened. I see a lot of Young in this model. Young would gladly leave war behind him but it doesn’t want to leave him so easily. Events continue to return that threaten those Young has taken in, in effect his children.
In this episode we get another glimpse of this when, upon entering the hold where the LA are being kept prisoner, Young rushes to the aid of one of his soldiers being attacked by a member of the LA. Not content to merely pull the LA man off, Young proceeds to batter the man’s head against the deck, followed by choking the man. To death? It’s unknown. It would be very easy to see such a thing, as Wray has just witnessed, and write off Young as a brute, but when taken in the context of a man defending his child, it becomes understandable.
It is in this context, of a man protecting his child, that the mercy killing in the episode is couched. Riley serves under Young but when the paternal nature of many of Young’s relationships is factored in, Young didn’t simply ease the suffering of a dying soldier, but of a dying child. As a parent, I can’t imagine a greater pain than this. Compounded upon “Intervention” with Young losing a child, the amount of pain this man must be under is unimaginable.
It was hard to watch Riley die, which is the point. It was supposed to hurt. Riley served on the Destiny with a quiet grace that hasn’t been matched in the same way by any of the other characters. Shown without any soundtrack or dramatic lighting, his death was stark, raw and painful. That Young tends to this with his own hands, despite the pain it caused him, made this a personal death. Literally hands on. In many years of being witness to death scenes in various science fiction shows, this affected me deeply in that I cared about the character, about both of them. I felt for Riley and I felt for Young. Even now, this scene has stuck with me.
It will continue to stick with Young. While the others raise a toast to Riley, they do so together. Young drinks alone and suffers alone. This can’t last forever. Much like Riley, there is a quiet nobility in Young that can’t survive what he’s going through. He is driven by his compassion but it’s that same compassion that’s killing him.
In “Incursion 1″, we saw that Telford’s brainwashing was undone but I wonder just how much of Telford’s behaviour was what the LA did to him and how much was Telford himself? We currently have no way to know at what point Telford was brainwashed. Was it before the base mentioned in “Subversion” was attacked? Or after? Was the brainwashing merely a failsafe on the part of the LA? Something done in addition to what Telford may have already believed? In any case, I have my doubts about Telford’s agenda. Much like Wray, Telford continues to place his faith in Earth and the IOA, rather than in the crew on Destiny and I fear that we may soon see a repeat of the episode “Earth”, that Telford will set in motion events that will threaten the Destiny. I don’t believe that Young fully trusts Telford in any case and that may be why Telford continues to be housed with the LA and why Young did not authorize Telford’s use of the stones. That Telford and Wray are working together, and dealing with the IOA, is something that will surely come up again in later episodes. I’m not willing to give up the notion of an LA/IOA collaboration – something about Carl Strom really sets me on edge. The LA certainly don’t have Earth’s best interests at heart but I don’t believe the IOA does either. And none of them have the Destiny’s best interest at heart. Given that very dangerous smile when Telford is at the door, and how far Young is willing to go when the Destiny, when his crew, is threatened, I think Telford may be putting his own life at risk by continuing down this path. It’s interesting that, brainwashing or not, I still don’t know what side Telford is truly on.
“How ugly are you willing to let this get, Camille?”
During the “Incursions” I had hoped that Wray would use what influence she had and stand beside Young. They worked well together, I thought. She was a balance to him and, no less important, he was a balance for her. With Telford now being available as another colonel, Wray has returned her focus back to Earth and specifically the IOA, and away from the Destiny crew. I believe that in siding with Telford, she is continuing her behaviour of placating those who will give her the most control, power and prestige, with the promise of getting home being held just out of her reach. Watching Young possibly kill one of the LA men right in front of her is only likely to make Telford seem like the more reasonable choice but, as Young asks, how ugly is she willing to let this get? By continuing to press for a choice that will leave the LA on board, or Telford on board for that matter, Wray is the one pushing for their future to get pretty ugly. Considering that Wray doesn’t have the stomach to deal with it, and will condemn Young for dealing with it, she will share at least some of the blame for what’s about to happen.
In almost all previous scenes between TJ and Young, there has been a certain closeness in the characters that goes beyond their previous relationship. Frequently in scenes since she informed him about being pregnant, that closeness has taken the form of an actual physical closeness. The amount of distance between the two characters when they spoke was lessened as their pregnancy literally brought them together. Now that their child is gone, there was a palpable feel of more distance between the two characters. While I’m quite sure that it was written that way, the feel from the characters is that they don’t know how to deal with this huge thing that has expanded all the space between them and that just to talk about it by name could unleash something more painful than either one can handle. He continues to ask her if she’s okay and the question feels less like asking her if she’s okay to travel and more if she’s okay with what she’s lost. And neither can say it. Both need to, at some point, or it could destroy them both. With the weight on Young’s shoulders, it’s definitely destroying him.
In dying, Riley asks if TJ has ever had to do this before, treat someone she knew would die. We have only seen this once, when she tends to the base doctor in “Air”, when she has to leave him. I don’t know if this is the first time that she’s had to do so but unlike Dr Lee, Riley is someone we know, and someone we’ve seen TJ grow close to. Losing people has been a subtle thread woven through this whole series so I’m wondering how this loss will affect TJ?
You’re not going to *tell* anyone, are you?
If the previous episode had as much to do with beliefs as interventions, this episode has as much to do with mistakes as aftermaths. Where Young’s mistakes tend to arise out of a desire to protect ‘his children’, Rush’s desires have a far more selfish origin. There is a moment when he is standing at the rail on the bridge, arms spread out as though he is taking it all in that reminds me of his first moments on the Destiny, with him standing at the rail and looking over the rest of the survivors. This is something he has sought out, possibly long before he ever set foot on Destiny, and he doesn’t want to share it with anyone. When I think of Rush in this state, one word comes to mind – “Mine!”
Destiny is not as easily controlled as that however. It doesn’t appear to be a simple matter of push this button, enter this code, or even a matter of which manifestation to speak to – Gloria or Dr Franklin. Whether it is these manifestations, or Dr Jackson in Human, the ship appears determined to hold Rush to his oft-spoken ‘greater good’, it’s just that Rush’s notion of a greater good tends to put Rush first, as opposed to the Destiny’s version of greater good – where rest stops along the way, no matter whether they serve Rush’s purpose or not, are served along the way.
I’ve always believed that the ship had some sort of near-sentience and, in this vein, what is required to truly unlock Destiny is to be found in the mind. While I fully believe that Rush is intelligent enough for the task, I don’t believe that his head is in the right place. His emotional intelligence is lacking and requires the balance of other crew members which is something the Destiny appears to be pressing for, demanding that he seek help – or continue to make grievous mistakes.
Further, I believe that the Destiny herself is testing him, and finding him lacking. It won’t be until Rush asks for help and is willing to receive it, that he stops making mistakes based on his selfish desires and owns up to his shortcomings, that he will ever truly unlock Destiny – provided he’s even the one that is fated to do so.
On some level, I believe that Rush has seen a glimmer of this. He can’t hold eye-contact when trying to shift blame, perhaps aware that the manifestation the Destiny has offered – that of his dead wife Gloria – would see right through him anyway. It isn’t only Gloria that he can’t hold the lie to, it’s Young as well who, although he may not know exactly what Rush is up to, knows that he’s up to something. In short, unless Rush changes, not only is he going to be found out, but he may fail whatever test the Destiny is putting him to and he’ll never gain what he wants, which is not only control of the physical ship but also of the deeper mission, something hinted to with Ginn’s comments to Wray – gaining control of time and space.
Lastly, I have to say that for a guy who is talking to his dead wife, lying about the existence of the bridge and risking everyone on that shuttle’s life over a mistake, I’d say that Rush has some gall saying that Young is unstable and unfit for command. It would be funny if Rush wasn’t so serious about the matter.
How we treat prisoners of war says everything about us as a moral and civil society.
–They’re human beings. They have rights. How we treat prisoners of war says everything about us as a moral and civil society.
–I don’t think this has anything to do with the proper treatment of P.O.W.s and you know it
–”I was just following orders” is a claim that I’ve heard before.
Lastly, the importance of these statements by Riley and Young can’t be lightly considered. It shows a strong moral center and genuine decency in both characters. Riley’s sincerity comes through so strongly in such a simple statement that there is no answer to it. Dr Jackson made a statement about rights in “Subversion” but for me, the weight of it missed its mark, perhaps because it came off as being lighthearted where with Riley, it comes off as completely and utterly sincere. This is a simple truth that he believes.
Further, I don’t believe it’s a belief that exists in a vacuum. Scott also contains this basic decency and so does Greer, in his own fashion. At its heart, I believe these beliefs, while perhaps not stemming from Young, were certainly nurtured by him and are echoed by his statement about the proper treatment of POW’s – which acknowledges that there IS a proper treatment for POW’s. I believe that Young has to juggle that proper treatment with the safety of his crew and he’s not willing to overlook his beliefs for the sake of Earth and the IOA’s desires, put forth by Telford and Wray. Telford and Wray too are “just following orders” but I have the sneaking suspicion that they may not know exactly whose orders they are following.
In any case, I admire when such statements are brought out in popular culture. We can be better.