The cliffhanger season finale, when done well, is the hallmark of a great science-fiction series. Just over 24 hours ago, Stargate Universe, the latest instalment of the franchise, proved that it deserved to be among such luminaries as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Perhaps what is even more amazing is that SGU has done this by the end of their first season, while it took TNG and DS9 at least three seasons each to achieve a worthy cliffhanger season finale.
Not for a single moment did the first two parts of this feature length episode “Incursion” feel like plot filler or the pace was forced to slow down. Director Andy Mikita recreates the frenetic pacing of the opening episode “Air”, which also was a three parter he directed, yet is once again able to fit in moments of character growth with Chloe (Elyse Levesque) and Eli (David Blue) and ensure that most of the main cast, especially Camille (Ming-Na), is given an almost equal opportunity to shine. Ironically perhaps, the two who truly stole the limelight were the guest stars Rhona Mitra and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Proving that villains do make or break a show, the introduction of Commander Kiva, of the Lucian Alliance made for a compelling thriller of an episode. There was no lapse in her chilling, emotionless, driven character, who, as the leader of the group that attacked the spaceship Destiny, was really little more than a terrorist. Yet actress Rhona Mitra did not for one moment allow Kiva to feel like a caricature or a two-dimensional baddie. Interestingly enough, the Lucian Alliance being an old enemy from Stargate SG-1 did not stop Kiva from being a fresh, undeniable force to be reckoned with. Take note, Star Trek, not every new villain has to come from a new alien race.
Lou Diamond Phillips turned in the most surprising performance of all when his character, Colonel David Telford was revealed to have been brainwashed by the Alliance in last week’s episode. Now taking advantage of his role with the Lucian Alliance to deliberately sabotage the incursion from within, Phillips encapsulated the understated nature of his deception throughout the episode.
That being said, I will miss the times when Telford has been at once antagonistic, at once empathetic as he carries on his professional and personal rivalry with Colonel Everett Young (Louis Ferreira). At moments, you feel for him, seeing how his military career has been usurped by fate, and at times you simply cannot understand how a man could have become so disillusioned with his ideals that he would betray his own people. Yet sacrificing that nature of his character gave Telford the redemption he needed by letting him turn on the Lucian Alliance, and suddenly became the Destiny crew’s only chance at surviving the siege. Telford’s redemption might have come too little too late, though, as he probably did not survive the shootout with Kiva. I’ll explain my conclusions later.
It will be interesting to see where the series can go from here though. There are lots of plot devices that have yet to be explored – the chair, Franklin’s disembodied presence, and the blue aliens are three of the more glaring ones. There’s also the possibility of some of the Lucian Alliance joining the crew – the season finale surely developed the secondary characters of Koz and Varro (the two Alliance men in the sickbay) sufficiently to pave the way for more regular appearances. Kiva and her bald bodyguard Dannic, on the other hand, will probably not last beyond the next season’s opener.
As for Telford, it does look like he’s on the way out. With Young quite clearly established as the military leader on Destiny, it will not make sense to have yet another leader, especially when Telford’s antagonistic nature, which made him such a dramatic force, is no longer present. It’s a pity because Lou Diamond Phillips has been an incredible addition to the cast, and brings more than enough gravitas in his role.
Stargate Universe returns for its second season on September 28th.