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Review: SGU’s ‘Life’

Thursday - November 26, 2009
Category: OPINION | Tags: , ,


SGU "Life" - Camille and Sharon 2“Life” was not an episode of Stargate.  While it had all the potential in the world to be a really good episode, it faltered.

As much as the start of “Life” was a warning of things to come with the catchy music (something that was actually enjoyable, despite its message), I was hoping that this episode would remain fairly Stargate-oriented despite what was shown during the preview. Instead, viewers were treated to a show that somehow seemed more like an episode of The O.C. or Days of Our Lives. From Lt. Scott’s revelation that he had a child to the triangle between Colonel Telford, Colonel Young, and his wife, this episode was just way too much drama.

“Life” had such great potential, with the discovery of the Ancient chair/repository.  I really hesitate to put it this way — but if this was SG-1 or Atlantis, that’s what the show would have been about, with a possible B story.  Even the character development with Wray and her partner back on Earth felt right because it was still, in a way, dealing with what was going on on board the Destiny.  If that had been the entire B story with the chair being the A story, “Life” would have been a completely different episode.

Instead, Scott and Wray’s lives on Earth became the A story (or stories) with the Destiny and the chair becoming a partial B story.

Rush’s discovery of the chair was important, and what little the writers did with that story was so interesting that it left me wanting so much more.  You could see Rush’s complete lack of care for other people’s lives, played so well in his desire to obtain the ship’s master code.   In contrast was Young going against him trying to do the right thing.  Everything happening on board Destiny was interesting: the chair, T.J. doing psych evaluations, and Spencer going crazy because of withdrawal from his medication.

SGU "Life" - Ancient chairThis is what SGU should be focusing on — not the characters’ lives on Earth.  It’s good writing when you have your medical officer doing psych evaluations on the crew when they are billions of light years away from home.  That’s good drama.  Having a man go crazy because he’s taking pills and all of a sudden has none left is good drama. Who’s sleeping with who back on a planet that is now so far away … well, it’s not.

An episode like “Life” makes it evident that SGU is catered toward a new audience. While I can say that I do like drama (and watch some really bad TV on occasion), in the end, what Stargate fan cares whether Lt. Scott has a kid or not? Even the Telford/Young/Emily triangle got a little less interesting.  The producers could have put a great sci-fi twist on that — if Telford was, in fact, pretending to be Colonel Young — but instead they turned it into a weird love triangle.

The episode was close to being a complete disaster, but “Life” had a couple of saving graces in Colonel Young and Dr. Rush.  Both are very powerful men.  Young is a complete force to be reckoned with, which came out a lot in this episode.  Hopefully, the chair room will have some prominence in future episodes — which would make a lot of Stargate fans happy.  “Life” also had a hint of more I.O.A. scheming with Strom’s brief appearance, which was one more minor saving grace.

Unfortunately, nothing mentioned above redeems “Life” from being the worst episode of SGU to date.   Next week is the mid-season finale, and one would hope that SGU makes some kind of impact before a long hiatus.  While the show has been pretty reliable and enjoyable thus far, “Life” was a step in the wrong direction.

Episode reviews represent the opinion of the author, and not necessarily that of GateWorld or its owner.

Julian Landau Brown is a GateWorld contributor and a former writer for He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and fellow Stargate fan, Karyn. (More)

COMMENTS (77):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • @Julian: I agree on just about everything you said. The chair should have been the A story and Wray the b story and nothing else. This instead turned out to be an episode of just character development and the science ended up being the E story. I don’t mind character development but they tried to develop EVERYBODY in this episode! That could never ever work! They should always have a sci-fi story being the A story and have ONE character develop, maybe two if their stories intersect. Like LOST, they concentrate on just one character per episode, everybody else might develop if they are involved with the story of that particular character, otherwise there in the background.

    Life was like a cook trying to make a dish and decides to throw in EVERY SINGLE ingredient he’s got. Can you spell DISASTER? Hopefully “Justice” will put SGU back on track

  • I agree that the scenes on Earth tainted the episode.I’m personally not a massive fan of this ”drama on Earth” idea that the LRC stones have brought up, however in saying that I did think that these Earth scenes were more bareable than the Earth scenes from the episode ”Earth”.
    I thought that the going-ons onboard the Destiny were the highlight of the episode. I feel that the discovery of the chair could pull SGU back into being ”Stargatey”.
    IMHO I found this to be on of the best episodes yet. To put this in perspective this is only the second SGU episode that I’ve rewatched thus far apart from ”Air (Part II)”.
    And Yes because of the chair.

  • I really find this the first review for SGU that I flat-out disagree with. To me, this was one of the best episodes yet, and I didn’t mind for a second that the “In your face science” moments were taking a backseat to more subtle uses of technology and character development.

  • I totally agree with the review. IMO, this was one of the worst episode of all three Stargate series. The whole time I was hoping for the chair to be something, but it never was … they only focused on the relationships back on earth. Maybe by season 4 I would care about things like this, but so far I don’t even like these characters. If this was SG1 or SGU then someone would have sat down in that chair and some big things would have happened. My favorite episode of the season so far has been “Time”, but all other ones were just so-so. I hope the next two before the break will be better; I so much want this to be a good show. I’ve been very disappointed so far. Give us some science fiction!

  • I completely disagree with this review. I will contend that it may be the weakest ep of the series but it was still a great ep with plenty of character development, exploration, intrigue and drama. I quite liked Life.

  • Yes, it was bad.
    One thing I have to disagree with is “Rush’s complete lack of care for other people’s lives”.
    Rush never said anything about forcing someone on the chair. Someone might have been willing to take the chance, Greer even offered it although possibly in jest.
    Imho Young has shown himself as quite an incompetent military leader.

  • What I like about SGU:

    – new camera style
    – high budget digital effects
    – great new sets and set pieces
    – The kino which allows for a more direct interaction with characters
    – The premise of a crew that is not ‘up to par’ stranded on an incredible ship many light years away

    What I loathe about SGU:

    – Lack of any sense of adventure
    – Constant drama
    – Incessant ‘hooking up’ and body swapping rape
    – Lack of action
    – Molasses like pacing

  • A good review of a terrible episode. The Sci-Fi really has taken a back seat to the drama. Personally, I think they’re trying too hard to create drama even just on Destiny itself – let alone all this garbage on Earth. The sheer fact that government actually allows all these people (inc civilians) to use the stones to go out and mingle and get trashed in public just blows my mind. It reeks of desperation to create extra drama that’s completely unnecessary for what’s apparently a Stargate show.

    It’s very disheartening to me knowing that they’ve already finished with Season 1 because that means this sort of drama is just going to continue. At best, all I can hope for is that the negative feedback is noted and taken into consideration if and when they begin writing Season 2.

  • Kinda disagree on this review. I would agree that it is one of the weaker episodes of SGU thus far but it wasn’t bad, there were some aspects that I liked.

    We got an insight on what the day to day life is like on the Destiny, the beginning of formations of “camps” for control of the ship, the introduction of the chair etc.

    Would agree that they really should stop going to Earth so often though, if they do I hope that there’s larger gaps between visits that we see on screen. I would rather have more time seeing what’s happening on the Destiny.

    As far as I can tell the next episode is going to be on-board the Destiny, don’t see character drama on Earth happening much in it.

  • Way the writers trying to force all the “character development” meh nonsense thing is not boring at all. I’m curious what else they can so easily put out of their… closets.

    I’m still care about the one frikkin’ person – Dr. Rush. No more, no less.

  • This episode would have been great if not for the hopeless amount of time wasted on Earth drama scenes. Maybe one day someone will show versions of all the SG-U episodes without the Earth scenes, then it would probably be an extremely enjoyable program to watch.

    Short, but very entertaining.

    There is so much potential in this series, but it is being so badly wasted with the plain boring teen drama angle.

  • I have to admit I find your review rather ironic considering fan complaints of both SG1 and SGA largely centred around a lack of character oriented storylines in the past.

    I agree, the chair is an extremely interesting and important discovery, but spending an entire episode focussing soley on it, and a debate on if someone would sit in it/who would sit in it would have soon become trite. SG1 already did more than one episode involving the consequences of sitting in it, so that would have been repetative and then fans would be complaing about recycled plot lines. Not to mention at the moment they have no logical way of dealling with the effects. It would also have wasted the chair’s potential in my opinion. Because they used it with a little more subtlety in this epsisode they will be able to keep using it in the future.

    The juxtaposition between the immediacy of Earth represented by the stones and the actual, physical distance and limitations is facinating and well explored in this episode. It also showed the variety of issues the crew and their family’s faced. Also by focussing one episode on the “earth” storylines the stones can, hopefully, fade more into the backround and the new character story threads can be woven into the season with the more classic scifi oriented episodes finding a balance between the two.

    I love Stargate in all its forms, from the movie to SG1 through SGA and SGU does feel different. From its cast to its premise it is different, but that doesn’t make it less. I do not think Stargate has ever had a character as complex or ambivilent as Rush. Stargate has always been about the ‘right’ people on the job of tring to save humanity. Now we have the wrong people on the job, simply tring to save themselves. With a total of 15 seasons and three movies between SGA and SG1 most of the sci fi plots have been thouroughly explored. If I want to watch regurgitated plot lines occuring in the same formula as in the past I will simply re-watch my favourite episodes rather than be annoyed with SGU for trying to recreate pale imitations. In order to keep the franchise fresh and invigorated formulamatic change is inevetable. I do not begrudge the show for trying to draw in more viewers because it means the franchise will continue to go on. If SGU continues I think there is a better chance of seing more SG1 and SGA movies, doing what those shows do best, while SGU finds its own ‘path’. It is more of a cousin to the original series than the sister show Atlantis was? Absolutely. Does that have to be a bad thing? No.

  • What Stargate fan cares? I do. You obviously have never watched the O.C. or Days of Our Lives. Unfortunately I’ve been subjected to them repeatedly, especially the later when I lived with my sibling. If you watched them at all you wouldn’t make that comparison, not about this episode. There’s no accounting for taste but an untruth is an untruth. By the way, I didn’t think someone on psych meds could be in active duty military, at least not front line combat, nor special forces, and definitely off world (if it was real). @Bemused: You see the right of it.

  • I largely agree with the above review. Although I liked LIFE, and, in its own way, thought it had outstanding moments, I also thought the CHAIR or something like that should have been the focus.
    I really like SGU,and while the various backstories exploring each character have been important and good, this last episode has really hopefully finished that strong emphsis and, indeed, it’s time that SF things and STARGATE things return to the focal point. So, while I thought LIFE was good, it was also my least favorite episode to this point as well. Acting was great, nice to exfoliate the gay relationship, Greer is developing to be one of really favorite characters so far… but lets move away from character development now and back to what SG is so good at.
    (Of course, since all the episodes for the first season are already filmed, one can only hope that the Producers have the same feeling).LOL!

  • I disagree with the review in almost every respect.

    The episode was called ‘Life’. It’s goal was to show life aboard the destiny. The way the episode was bookended with the song and brief glimpses and everyone was doing was the whole point of the episode. And ‘too much drama’ is a silly thing to say.

    It seems that when people don’t get character development everyone complains. Then when they do it’s ‘too much’.

    I thought the revelation of Scott’s son was a good way to develop his character as it impacts him on the Destiny (he now has someone back at home to think about). The Young/Telford thing was hardly an A plot, and is something that has been brewing for quite some time (and after Earth needed to be dealt with).

    And the reviewer seems to have completely missed TJ’s contribution to the episodes, and the look into the —lives— (hence, ‘Life’) of all the other characters on the Destiny.

    Life was great because it gave us development and showed us what the Destiny is like, plus it moved things forward (the chair, Spencer, Young v Telford, developed Scott) and so on.

  • Horrible review, it read like the rantings of a bitter Atlantis fan, since when did Gateworld stoop to posting this kind of crap? Over-opinionated, full of mistakes, ew, I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come…

  • I am a loyal fan of Stargate, have bought both boxsets… I am so sorry, even as a most loyal fan, I am bored to death and cannot continue watching this series…. perhaps I don’t like so much drama, and miss the adventure. There are a few likeble charachters (Young and Eli), but even they can’t keep me watching this every week. For the first time in my life, I have fallen asleep during 2 episodes and where Stargate is concerened, that is seriously a problem for me. I used to be so excited for SG, waiting anxiously for the next episode…. now… zzzzzz Sorry, But I really tried…

  • Finally, a review that flat out came and said “this was garbage” (okay my words, not his). I had always wondered if people associated with Gateworld was hand tied in expresing actual sentiments about an episode, for fear of reprisals either in loss of freebees (backstage passes, meet and greet offers, Presskits etc.,) or complete cut off from getting any info via the show runners. I would think first and foremost, if one runs a website such as Gateworld, there has to be some affinity to Journalism. so unless one writes to a gossip rag, Journalistic integrity has to come through, at least once in a while. After listening to the Life Podcast, and reading this review, I see a glimmer of hope that their journalistic license is not compromised.

    On the other hand there’s always a few people like Tanith (for hitherto unknown reasons), who always likes to convey the message of “this Episode was great, but wait, AFAIK, the next episode is even better.” and This, this person garners from a 15 second clip? or perhaps is a mole working for someone or IS someone who has knowledge of what’s to happen in a future episode?

    @jenks; this is not the only review/er that had given a blackeye to this episode, over 95% of ALL reviews on the ‘net for this episode gives it a thumbs down.

    I think the “Time” has come for us to get back to “Earth”, and get on with “Life”. I amost ran out of “Air” with that rant, let me go get a glass of “Water”. :D

  • Forgot to add my 2 cents on the chair. After watching SG for well over a decade, we only knew the “Ancient Repository” to be a face grabbing, brain munching device. so how come Rush with his “clearly ancient” (and he probably wasn’t referring to the pile of dust on it) dentists chair, which we the viewers were made to believe on all previous episodes, to be some kind of Control Chair (Weapons, Star Navigation etc.,)? To me it was almost like walking down a corridor of Destiny and finding a candy bar (if one could identify a hundreds of thousands year old candy bar), and saying, “Oh look, a candy bar. Sure we don’t have any food, but we’d better leave that alone” and just go on walking whistling a merry tune.

  • Darren

    @US06154: We not only have a good amount of studio support for the site, but we count many of TPTB as friends, to greater or lesser degrees. So it certainly puts us in an awkward position to run an occasional negative review, and talk on the podcast about those elements of an episode we didn’t like as viewers.

    I hope that folks on both side — the fans who love SGU and think it can do no wrong (as well as TPTB and the cast), and those who hate SGU and think it can ‘do no right’ — recognize that we try to do everything with integrity. Sometimes the vitriolic complaining needs to be smacked down, and sometimes we’ll have a review that is more negative than positive.

    The issue of fans’ attitudes and how they post, both on GW Forum and here on the news comment threads, is at the top of our list heading out of the first half of the season and toward 2010. The standard to which I would like to hold everyone who comments here, and posts at the forum, is something I thought Julian did rather well in this week’s review: Express your criticisms constructively, with tact and respect for those fans who are enjoying the show and for those who are creating it. An occasional bad review from fans is inevitable; what is important is how it is expressed.

  • I’ve seen a lot of Stargate episodes in my life. I’ve watched all of SG1 and all of Atlantis and both had good, bad, and downright awful episodes. But SGU’s “Life” was just plain garbage with 1 good nugget in it: the chair.
    I agree with the reviewer that the chair should have been the primary storyline with more debate and characterization around it. And the psych evaluations could have been a great way to look more into the characters, even ones that aren’t the main cast. There was a little in it, but not that much, which was a bit disappointing since they set it up to be “relevant.” I hated Scott, Young, and Camille’s storylines because they did feel too… soap opera-like and way melodramatic. From the mom “dancer” paying the bills, to the freaky love-triangle I just wanted to get back to the conflict over the chair and the debate and morality of whether to use it or not. Instead, we get 80% drama and 15% sci-fi intrigue. The other 5% (IMO) was the characterization I felt we learned about the characters themselves from the psych evals, mostly the doctor with the hydroponics, Greer ‘s dad, and the… easy, shall we say, scientist. Why didn’t we get more from them than the other storylines I don’t care about? Why are they stretching out “the chair” storyline so long from now? i don’t get it.
    I actually was probably more disappointed by the fact the previous episode “Time” was the best SGU episode yet. It dealt mostly with the gate (finally), had a lot of shooting, actually had aliens that ripped through people (shocking and kinda gross, but cool), and it had just enough comedy and intrigue to keep things interesting. It felt the most like Stargate than any other time during the season. Sure, it had the deus-ex-machina with the time thing, and we knew something would reset the timeline, but it really was like Stargate, even if it was mostly through the eyes of a Kino.
    In short, the episode “Life” was a huge step back after the solid step forward that “Time” made 1 week before it. And in general my patience is wearing thin with the show. It has to get on track for me by the end of episode 10 or else its adios “Stargates of Our Lives,” I mean, SGU.

  • @ Darren Sumner: I understand that you’re friends with some of TPTB at SGU and you feel weird telling them an episode was bad. I feel weird telling my friends when they stink at something too. BUT, you have to say they’re bad at something when its true. This episode, for example, was awful. The acting wasn’t good, the storylines were boring, and the most interesting thing in the episode was a chair. Sure, its a cool Ancient chair, but its a chair. Not the people around it discussing it, not the drama around it so much, but the chair itself. I liked the chair because I wanted to know more about it than what Scott’s “baby-mama” did for money. Who cares? I’m watching Stargate not 90210. As a friend to TPTB, as a viewer of the show, and a fan of Stargate in general, I think you owe it to your “friends” at SGU to say “hey, I think this episode wasn’t great. It needs to have more of the following…” and not just be a suck up and say every episode was great. Because there have been a lot of bad episodes of Stargate over the years, not just SGU.
    And I think fans get mad because I for one feel we’re not getting heard by the studio enough. I think the general feeling is: less drama, more sci-fi. And when we see so many overly-drama filled episodes like “Life,” we have no choice but to go “WTF was that?” and to vent our anger. We all want to be heard and more often than not, anger is the best way to get someone’s attention. I’ve done it before and many on GW probably want to do so too.

  • Darren

    @dauntless: See, I think that “garbage” is not constructive or tactful. The rest of your post was specific and engaging the content of the episode. It didn’t need the pejorative, and in fact the pejorative made the rest hard to read with an open mind. You invited prejudgment and dismissal in the way you opened.

    I don’t mean to pick on you in particular, but it demonstrates what we will be addressing in comment threads and on the forum between now and the end of the year.

    I feel no responsibility to ring up Bridge Studios and tell them what I thought of each week’s episode. But my opinion is not the barometer of whether or not the show is “good.” GateWorld exists to cover the franchise, to offer news and occasionally opinion, so that’s what we strive to do — even when we have criticisms.

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