Today marks the latest of many Stargate anniversaries we are celebrating in 2019. Stargate Universe made its worldwide premiere 10 years ago today — October 2, 2009.
The third TV show in the Stargate franchise was unceremoniously cut short just two years into its run, with the rest of a planned 5-year story arc left untold. Sure, we got a nice comic book continuation last year. But what did the show’s writers have planned for SGU Season Three … and Four … and Season Five?
As we celebrate SGU 10 years later, we’re looking back on these 40 hours of epic television with 10 questions that the show left unanswered when the good ship Destiny sailed off into the void between galaxies. This includes the big, mythological questions, of course — but also several mysteries that are more specific to individual characters.
Happy Birthday, SGU! Let’s get started …
(10) Where did Franklin go?
Dr. Jeremy Franklin (played by Mark Burgess) was among the Icarus evacuees who faced new survival challenges on board the Destiny. He was a capable member of the science and engineering team, often seen working the problem of the day alongside Brody, Park, and Volker.
Then they discovered the ship’s chair interface system. Then Rush. Then Dr. Franklin got himself talked into sitting in the damn thing. Then … poof.
It’s not inconceivable that the ship’s systems needed an organic component. When the room was unsealed Franklin’s body was nowhere to be found (“Sabotage”). His decision to plug in to the computer either got him killed, or perhaps his consciousness was uploaded into the system. When he reappeared to Rush several months later (“Aftermath”) — alongside visions of Rush’s late wife — there isn’t much reason to think that this is actually the real Franklin we are seeing, and not a ship-generated hallucination.
So did his mind get uploaded, so that he still has some form of conscious existence? Or did Destiny actually … kill him? (There’s an unsettling thought.) And where did his body go?
(9) Can T.J. be cured of ALS?
One of the show’s most gut-wrenching revelations late in the second season concerns Tamara Johansen, a Lieutenant and the ship’s favorite medic. The crew finds the planet Novus, with an archive of the lives they lived in an alternate timeline. Long story short: the crew was thrown back in time, created a new civilization, got married and had kids, grew old, and died (“Epilogue”).
T.J. learns, however, that her alternate self went on to suffer horribly from ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease. Because the illness is genetic, it means that our T.J. has it too. It is only a matter of time before she too begins to manifest the symptoms.
The episode “Epilogue” dangled the hope of a cure: in subsequent generations the advanced Novans seem to have learned how to cure ALS, and the knowledge would be stored in their vast database. Destiny only managed to download part of it, but the surviving Novans would also have a copy. If only we could go and find them, instead of being chased out of town by vicious drone weapons.
As the show headed into a third season, T.J.’s future illness would have weighed heavily on her character and those who loved her. And that includes the audience.
(8) Will Destiny continue to manifest as familiar faces?
Season Two of the show not only saw the discovery of the bridge and the crew gaining a measure of control over its systems. We also came to realize over the course of the first six episodes that the ship itself has a form of artificial intelligence. It spoke to Rush through the faces of his wife Gloria, as well as Dr. Franklin (unless, of course, these finally prove to be only his own fractured mind). And the ship put Colonel Young to the test, subjecting him a brutal scenario of the ship’s destruction in order to see if he was really up for the job of commanding this mission (“Trial and Error”).
Whether we can call any of this “consciousness” or not, who is to say? But Destiny was emerging as a character in her own right — one with a will, intentions, and many faces.
But after Rush shared his newfound discovery with the rest of the crew, the visions suddenly ceased. No more Gloria. No more Franklin. Now Rush had a crew, a team committed to seeing through the ship’s mission. It leaves us wondering: Is Destiny herself alive? Does she have an opinion about how to achieve the mission? Would we ever have seen the ship itself speaking to the crew through other familiar faces?
For that matter, what about Amanda Perry and Ginn? These two are real people, uploaded to the ship’s computer, and not Destiny‘s VR hallucinations. But thanks to Dr. Rush’s recklessness, the two women are now quarantined in an isolated part of the computer’s memory (“Hope”). We would have loved to see one (or both) of these characters become a fixture on the show and function as a sort of conscious, embodied mediator between Destiny and the human crew (not unlike Rommie on Andromeda).
(7) Who built the obelisk on Eden?
The crew visited numerous planets along the ship’s route — some more hospitable than others, but none populated by intelligent life (before Novus). When they stopped for a month at a planet the crew designated “Eden,” many decided to stay permanently (“Faith”).
Eden was uninhabited, but it did have a gigantic structure someone had left behind — a huge obelisk reaching from the surface of an extinct volcanic caldera 2,000 feet into the sky. More incredible still: Rush has reason to speculate that the aliens who left it there actually created the planet and the star itself.
In case this possibility was not mind-blowing enough, we saw more of their handiwork when those left behind on Eden showed up months later on a perfectly restored shuttle (“Visitation”). Evidently they found the human survivors dead, and rebuilt both them and the shuttle and brought them back to Destiny. But while the shuttle works perfectly, the re-built people began to die … in the same terrible ways they did back on Eden. Whoever brought them back is either limited in their power after all, or simply didn’t understand the human organisms they had found.
Who was this race? Why did they put a paradise planet along Destiny‘s path, and does that suggest they are still around and aware of the ship and its mission? Is there any connection between this race — “the number one all-time advanced civilization,” in Eli’s words — and the cosmic microwave background radiation that the crew ended up chasing?
(6) What did the Nakai learn from Chloe?
Among the crew’s most dangerous foes is the Nakai, the blue aliens who captured Rush and Chloe (“Space”) and tried relentlessly to seize control of the Destiny. As the weeks rolled by following their ordeal, Chloe realized that she was changing. The aliens must have done something to her.
Chloe’s slow transformation was a major plot point through the first half of Season Two. Her transformation gave her new insight into Destiny and its systems, but also began to transform her physically. Colonel Young faced the reality that she might become a danger to everyone — and so he might be forced to put her off the ship.
In the end Chloe went voluntarily back to the Nakai (“Deliverance”). On board their ship they performed some sort of extraction procedure, and then returned her to her friends — apparently none the worse for wear. Now she’s back to normal.
So … um, what happened there? What did they put in her, and what they take out of her? Was she a sleeper agent gathering information about Destiny? Did the aliens get what they wanted? The show never had the chance to come back to this one, leaving the year-long storyline deeply unsatisfying.
(5) Where are the Novans today?
One of the most interesting things that Stargate Universe did near the end of its run was to seed new stories by introducing a new race of humans, living in a galaxy far from Earth. The Novans are in fact descendants of Destiny‘s own crew, who in another timeline were thrown back two millennia to start a brand new civilization (“Twin Destinies,” “Common Descent”).
In “Epilogue” we see the Novans depart their home planet on board ships, and learn that they were bound for one of several planets they had previously scouted. The entire civilization was evacuated, fairly recently, in search of a world that can sustain them. But their ships are not F.T.L. capable, and so the journey will take the colonists hundreds of years.
Destiny hoped perhaps to use its own F.T.L. capability to find this convoy en route, perhaps securing the medical knowledge required to save T.J. But under attack by the drones, Destiny had to flee the galaxy instead.
So was that the last we ever would have heard of this advanced race? After SGU was cancelled executive producer Joseph Mallozzi revealed that one possible idea for rescuing the crew was to have the Novans show up, now further evolved with more advanced ships. (The more militarized Novans could have possibly even become the Big Bad for Season Three.) But whether we ever would have seen such a thing in the third season premiere … well, that’s a question that will never be answered.
(4) Will Earth go to war with the Lucian Alliance?
Stranded millions of light years from home, the crew of Destiny owes their original predicament to the Lucian Alliance. The alien attack on Icarus Base forced the evacuation that stranded them on the derelict vessel (“Air, Part 1”) — thanks, Rush — and in the years since things only went from bad to worse.
Commander Kiva led a Lucian invasion of the ship, nearly seizing control of Destiny (“Incursion”). While Alliance members like Varro tried to integrate with the crew, others like Simeon met the crew’s mercy with cold-blooded murder. And back in the Milky Way, the Alliance continues to escalate matters — even crashing a dirty bomb into the Pentagon in what can only be described as an interstellar terrorist attack (“Alliances”).
It seems likely that this attack was merely the prelude to a larger conflict. The Alliance seized a whole lot of Goa’uld ships and tech when the System Lords fell, and now that they are getting organized they pose a serious threat. More than a ragtag gaggle of mercenaries, the Lucian Alliance now has the ability to bring a very dangerous — and very public — conflict to Earth itself.
(3) How will the crew be rescued from stasis? And is Eli alive?
Here are two questions for the price of one — since they are so intricately related. The final episode of the series left a giant question mark on the crew’s future. In order to escape from the drone fleet, Destiny faces a long journey across the vast emptiness between one galaxy and the next. But the ship’s power is running dangerously low. Their solution: stasis chambers left on board by the Ancients, with enough in working order to put the entire crew into suspended animation.
… or almost the entire crew. Eli Wallace is the last one standing at the end of “Gauntlet,” and he knows he has a ticking clock. He is using up the ship’s valuable power. So he either has to repair the final pod and go to sleep himself, or eventually shut down life support to save everyone else.
How long was the crew going to stay asleep? A matter of weeks, or months, or many years? When they woke up and made contact with Earth again, would they find that General O’Neill and Colonel Telford are long since deceased?
Producers considered a number of options for rescuing the crew in Season Three. But which solution would they have gone with? The final fate of this unlikely family remains one of the series’ biggest unanswered questions.
(2) Will the crew ever return home?
We have a vibe of a Star Trek: Voyager crossed with Quantum Leap going here. On the one hand, SGU can be a very hopeful show. Destiny is manned by a crew who, as of the end of the second season, actually want to be there. And they now think of each other as family.
On the other hand, though, this mission to explore the origins of creation might very well be a one-way trip. Everyone knows it. But Everett and Nicholas, Matt and Chloe and Eli, Ronald and Lisa, Camille and T.J. and Adam and Dale and Vanessa and the rest … they are committed to it anyway.
That might have ultimately led Stargate Universe to a Quantum Leap-style ending where, infamously, the time-hopping Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home. There was an ending to that show — and it was “happy,” after a fashion. But the hero’s story ended up being a tragic one. So too, Destiny‘s crew might never have returned home.
(1) What’s at the end of Destiny‘s road?
The team discovered early on that the ship is not simply exploring the deepest reaches of the galaxy, but actually following a programmed course. The Ancients sent Destiny to discover the source of a pattern detected in the universe’s cosmic microwave background radiation (“The Greater Good”). This fingerprint seems to imply some kind of intelligence, present at the beginning of the universe.
So what was it?
Of course this was SGU‘s $64 million question, and the writers probably wanted to pay it off only at the end of the series. It’s an incredibly intriguing proposition. What (or who) is at the end of the journey? It seems likely that the answer was going to be more profound than simply “really old aliens!” Why is there a pattern in the very fabric of the universe itself? And how could this discovery have changed the course of human existence?
What questions did Stargate Universe leave you with? Or which one of these do you most want answered? Post below!