Until recently, lyrical music in the Stargate franchise was something almost unknown to fans — that is, until Stargate Universe premiered and ended its 3-part opener, “Air,” with Alexi Murdoch’s song “Breath.” After the struggle to find something that would help replenish the Destiny‘s air supply comes to a close, Murdoch’s song is strategically placed at the end of the episode to remind the new crew to re-gather themselves and take a deep breath.
Music with lyrics has up to this point been scarce in the sci-fi genre, left to weekly dramas like Friday Night Lights or One Tree Hill. Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica took a stab at lyrical music with Bear McCreary’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” quite successfully. While this is yet another new step in trying to branch SGU out to a wider audience, bringing songs into the world of Stargate has come as a pleasant surprise.
Unlike a lot of television programs on the air today that randomly throw a song in the middle or end of a show, the tunes that have been featured on SGU are all strategically put into place — like the aforementioned “Breath” — each having something relevant to do with what is going on during an episode.
Take another Alexi Murdoch song, “All My Days,” featured in the episode “Faith.” This particular song was played in a few different points during the course of the episode, contrasting the members of the crew who are left on this beautiful planet for a month and the ones left to tend to daily duties aboard the Destiny. “All My Days” becomes both a song of joy and of sorrow, but in the end brings the crew back together as they feast over newly-found food.
In “Human,” Dr. Rush interfaces with the Ancient chair device aboard Destiny and is stuck in this very lucid dream like state as he tries to figure out just how to unlock control of the ship. The song featured in “Human” is a piece by English rock band The Jam titled “English Rose.” Without even listening to the lyrics, the title of this song is already connected to Rush with his Scottish background. But more than that, the lyrics tell the story of exactly what Rush is trying to accomplish.
A portion of the lyrics go like this:
I’ve been to ancient worlds
I’ve scoured the whole universe
And caught the first train home
To be at her side.
This portion of the song is inserted perfectly into the scene it is played in, as Rush desperately tries to figure out how to unlock the ship’s systems and get control of Destiny … while also painfully reliving the death of his wife. These are not just random songs thrown into the show last minute, but music that helps tell the story of the episode.
For some, music in a sci-fi drama like SGU might take some getting used to. But if you listen carefully, you might be surprised at how much of a story these lyrics can tell. Hopefully, this will be something that is continued as the series goes on. Maybe SGU is a way for other sci-fi series to breakout and start putting songs into their episodes. If there is one thing in the world everyone can relate with, it’s music. Music can sometimes tell whole stories about peoples lives or events in history and so far, it is as much a character in Stargate Universe as the Destiny herself.
The songs mentioned here — “Breath” and “All My Days” by Alexi Murdoch and “English Rose” by The Jam — are available on iTunes.