ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 05.09.2011
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 05.14.2012
WRITTEN BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
DIRECTED BY: Andy Mikita
GUEST STARS: Mike Dopud (Varro), Jennifer Spence (Lisa Park), Patrick Gilmore (Dale Volker), Peter Kelamis (Adam Brody), Julia Benson (2nd Lt. Vanessa James), Vincent Gale (Morrison), Anna Galvin (Mrs. Armstrong), Lou Diamond Phillips (David Telford)
Lt. Tamara Johansen removes the bandages from a hopeful Lisa Park's eyes ("Blockade"). As MSgt. Ronald Greer and Colonel Everett Young watch, Park tries to see, but she's still blind. When she starts sobbing, Young steps out of the Infirmary.
Meeting Camille Wray in the corridor, the Colonel acknowledges her observation about his needing some sleep. Before he can rest however, he is summoned to the Control Interface Room where Eli Wallace and Dr. Nicholas Rush share some bad news. They have isolated the sub-space link the command ships use to communicate with the drones, which allowed them to plot the locations of drones and command ships along Destiny's path. The enemy ships have blockaded every Stargate. There is no way to refuel or resupply safely.
Via the communication stones Rush and Young meet with Colonel David Telford at the Pentagon back home on Earth. Destiny has a month's worth of supplies, and not much more power. Although Richard Woolsey has continued to negotiate with the Langarans ("Seizure") for the use of their Stargate, there is currently no way Earth can provide a supply line. Destiny is on its own.
After a brainstorming session, Rush, Eli, Adam Brody, and Dale Volker concoct a plan for the crew's survival. While in battle Destiny's shields cycle through numerous random frequencies to protect the ship from a variety of energy-based assaults. By tuning the shields to block only the energy signature used by the drones, they may be able to fend off the drones long enough to use Destiny's weapons to destroy the command ship.
The crew executes the aggressive plan, which is mostly successful. Although the command ship is destroyed, drones still inflict significant damage by simply crashing into Destiny.
Once the shuttle returns with the few available supplies and Destiny is safely back in F.T.L. flight, Young heads to his cabin for sleep. On the way, though, Eli approaches him with an idea. Destiny is only a third of the way through this particular galaxy. Using continuous F.T.L. flight, it will take three years to traverse the remainder as well as the expanse of emptiness before reaching the next galaxy on their path. If the crew uses the stasis pods ("The Hunt"), Eli suggests, they wouldn't need to consume any resources. Power levels would be sufficient to see them into the next galaxy -- far out of reach of the automated enemy ships. Rush points out that if anything goes wrong, Destiny would eventually run out of power and simply drift. The three years could become a thousand.
Young approves the desperate plan, giving the skeptical Dr. Rush 24 hours to come up with a better solution. Meanwhile, Camille insists that everyone on the ship be allowed to use the communications stones to say goodbye to loved ones on Earth.
As the first group (which includes Varro) enters the stasis pods, Eli visits his mother back home. She is content with whatever happens. Despite the struggles, she knows Eli is happy being on Destiny. He realizes that he really has found his place.
This time when Young tries to sleep, Volker interrupts with the news that they are eight pods short. And without palladium hydride, the pods cannot be fixed. But the plan requires that life support on the ship be disabled; eight people will have to kill themselves so they don't consume the power that Destiny needs to reach the next galaxy.
While Lisa is telling Greer that he must not volunteer to be one of the eight, she has an idea. Greer guides her to the Bridge. Using a shuttle whose shields tune out drone-based attacks, they could lure a command ship away from the planet that has the palladium hydride they need to fix the damaged stasis units. And if the shuttle engines are rigged to overload, they could destroy another command ship in the process.
Colonel Young approves the plan and the shuttle is soon launched. When the drones and command ship respond as predicted, an away team uses the Stargate. While they gather the palladium hydride, Rush and Eli remotely pilot the shuttle, successfully destroying the command ship.
Once back in the safety of F.T.L. flight, Lt. Matthew Scott debates whether to return to Earth to see the son who doesn't know him as a father ("Life"). Wray has just returned from her home visit -- but because of the suddenness, her partner Sharon was away at a conference in Brussels. They could only talk by phone.
With everyone else now in their pods, Young, Rush, Eli, Scott, Greer, Park, T.J., and Chloe Armstrong share a final meal of their store of perishables. Most enter the pods. Only Rush, Eli, and Young are left. Young makes his final visit to Earth, where his friend Telford reassures him that they will be there waiting when the crew awakens from stasis in three years' time.
Returning to Destiny, Young is confronted with one final problem: one of the eight pods could not be repaired. Someone will have to remain conscious and try to fix the pod. If he is successful he can enter stasis with the others; if not, it is a death sentence. Rush volunteers, while Young himself is determined to remain behind. But Eli volunteers and is finally chosen: Young has no chance of fixing the pod, and as a scientist Eli feels it is time that he stepped out of Rush's shadow. He feels up to the challenge. Rush and Young enter the last pods and fall into a deep slumber.
Just as the power came on room by room when they first boarded Destiny two years ago, so now the power goes off, room by room. Eli stands alone on the Observation Deck watching the stars stream by. He is content with his personal journey ... but perhaps less than certain he will be able to repair the last pod.
Meanwhile the ship flies ever onward, pursuing her own Destiny.
- "Gauntlet" brings something of an artificial end to the SGU storyline. The writers hoped that they would get around five years to tell the story, so that much of what has been only revealed so far -- especially the purpose of Destiny and its mission to find the source of intelligence detected in the universe's cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang -- would have been paid off in full in future seasons.
Syfy Channel cancelled the series in mid-December, several weeks after filming on Season Two had finished. The writers did not write "Gauntlet" to be a series finale, and hoped to get a DVD movie (or two) to finish off this epic storyline. Series co-creator Brad Wright eventually pitched to MGM an all-in-one Stargate movie that would have tied together elements and characters from SGU, Atlantis, and SG-1, to properly tie up loose threads and say goodbye. The studio, having recently emerged from bankruptcy under new leadership, passed on the idea.
- "Gauntlet" is the final episode produced not just for Stargate Universe, but for the current Stargate television franchise. It seems likely that MGM will bring the franchise back in some form down the road, but for now, Syfy Channel's cancellation and MGM's decision not to make any DVD movies means that Stargate has vacated its sets and production offices at The Bridge Studios in Vancouver, B.C. for the first time in 14 years.
- "As was the case in every other season, the script for our season finale will be written by the time a decision is made on a pick-up [for a third season]. In fact, I suspect that by the time we do hear, we will have already wrapped production on Season Two." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- Looks like "Gauntlet" likely won't be the final title of the season finale: "Some discussion on the as-yet-untitled (or, more appropriately, once-titled-and-subsequently-untitled) episode 20. Paul is slated to assume the writing duties on this one but that could change depending on how busy he finds himself in the next few weeks." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "['Gauntlet'] IS a sweet title -- but no longer applicable." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "We finally finished breaking episode 20 today. Formerly titled 'Gauntlet,' then untitled, now retitled 'Gauntlet,' it's a fitting end to SGU's spectacular second season. I've been tasked with outlining the story and -- depending on Paul's schedule -- scripting it as well. I'll get right on that as soon as I finish work on 'The Hunt' that goes to camera next week." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "'Gauntlet,' episode 20, the script I'm working on will be a satisfying and surprising season finale." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "My sleep patterns are all wonky while I'm in Montreal so last night, I was up until 2:00 a.m. working on my script for episode 20, 'Gauntlet,' the Season Two finale. I hit the 16-page mark and, if all goes as planned, should have it half completed for my return to the office on Wednesday -- by which time I'll have to set it aside for a couple of days while I tackle my producer's edit of 'The Hunt.' I'm feeling the pressure because, at this point, it's the only script outstanding -- and the episode begins prepping October 26th. That new set should be built by then and I'm looking forward to checking it out." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "Paul finished up his pass on 'Gauntlet' over the weekend and, today, heads prep on episode 20. Boy, that last scene ... Dare I say it? Not a dry eye in the house!" (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "We're all focused on episode #20, 'Gauntlet,' which starts shooting next week. This one'll raise (and singe) a few eyebrows -- and set the stage for some major Season Three developments." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "I know it's horrible to tease so far in advance, but you guys are going to love the SGU season finale we're shooting right now. Very proud." (Actor David Blue, in a Twitter message
- "It's been a long few days on the cool new SGU set. I hope you guys love watching the last episode as much as I love shooting it!" (Actress Alaina Huffman, in a Twitter message
- "Production on episode #220, 'Gauntlet,' the BIG season finale continued today. How BIG a finale? Well, let me put it this way -- the booming bass of the thunderous happenings on Stage 5 were reverberating all the way up to the writers' room ALL AFTERNOON." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog
- "'Gauntlet' is definitely more epic [than 'Incursion'] ... and gut-wretching a cliffhanger." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "Both Carl and Brad came up with some terrific potential Season Three stories. Let's just say the second season finale sets up a VERY INTERESTING scenario." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "At the end of every season, we'll look back and take stock, discuss what worked and what didn't from a creative standpoint, consider what the fans responded to and what didn't work for them, receive input from the studio and network, and move forward. Suffice it to say that provided we get that third season pick up, Season Three will see some shocking, monumental developments." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "Most would probably consider ['Gauntlet'] a cliffhanger while I would consider it a touching, bittersweet end to the series (if it comes to it)." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "It is a true cliffhanger along the lines of a 'Camelot,' 'Incursion, Part 2,' and 'The Siege, Part 2.' The kind that, once it ends, will leave you asking yourselves: 'How the hell are they going to get out of this one! Can't wait until the next episode!' Except there won't be a next episode, much less a next season.
"Also, in response to a question several have posed: Unfortunately, the last few episodes build upon each other so simply switching the airing order wouldn't have helped. You could consider 'Epilogue' the series finale and move on to some other show (I hear great things about Breaking Bad) but that would rob you of two truly awesome episodes in 'Blockade' and 'Gauntlet.' Both deliver action, adventure, humor, and some terrific character moments. 'Gauntlet,' in particular, is very touching and its conclusion will no doubt you leave you -- among many other things -- frustrated, incredulous, outraged, offended, annoyed, vexed, saddened, distressed, bitter, aghast, irritated, unsatisfied, pissed-off, melancholy, miserable, confused, furious, dejected, riled, shocked, heartsick, angry, surprised, exasperated, indignant, enraged, despondent, bewildered, dismayed, incensed, stunned, and grief-stricken. Fair warning." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "We wanted it to be both [a season finale and a series finale]. I had pitched the idea of putting the crew into suspended animation -- with someone having to stay behind because one pod didn't work -- because I thought it made for an interesting reset of the earth side of things. A three year time cut would have been interesting. The story of the person that was going to be left behind was also a great opener for Season Three.
"But when we saw the Tuesday night ratings on Syfy we knew it might be the end. By having our leads come together for one last meal before going off into the void, we got a chance to see them as a team in the way we were always working toward. And by making the person left behind Eli, it brought the series full circle. Those two elements make it feel like a finale."
"... We all went down to watch the dinner scene. It was the last thing we shot main unit. Nobody on the crew or in the cast wanted it to be the end. But we knew if it was, it was a fitting end. And I think the final shots of the series are very moving." (Executive producer Brad Wright, in an interview with AOL TV's Mike Moody)
- "After the episode aired, many fans expressed their satisfaction with series finale. Although there are a number of questions left unanswered, the consensus was that 'Gauntlet' offered a bittersweet conclusion to our crew's adventures. I don't know if I totally agree, but I do recognize three scripted elements that certainly lent this episode a sense of closure.
"The Goodbyes. One by one, the characters we've grown to know and love over the course of SGU's two seasons bid farewell to one another (and, by extension, of course, the audience at home), until only our core trio remain. Then, it comes time for them to say goodbye, first Rush, then Young, leaving Eli (our viewer proxy) alone on the bridge heading into the unknown.
"The Final Supper. Which, interestingly enough, wasn't in my first draft or Paul's pass. Well, not quite anyway. In the original script, the last supper sequence was a simple beat in a more expansive montage -- no dialogue, just a shot of the crew enjoying their last meal together. It was changed at the suggestion of Syfy's Erika Kennair who requested an actual scene, a moment for our characters to pause and reflect on where they've come from and where they're headed. In retrospect, a brilliant request. I wrote the speech, then handed it over to Paul who made a couple of tweaks (one of which was nixing Young's toast: 'To three years!' which, in story terms, referred to the best-case-scenario three year journey they'd be facing but, in my mind, was a reference to the show's expected three year run).
"The Bookend Visuals. Paul added these in his pass, a call back to the opening moments of the series premiere. Nothing but stars, then -- Destiny approaches the camera. We CUT INSIDE and bear witness to Destiny's awakening, PANNING UP the ship's levels as its various chambers light up. In 'Gauntlet,' it's the same sequence in reverse. Destiny goes back to sleep as we PAN DOWN the ship's levels, it's various chambers going dark. We CUT OUTSIDE to the ship making the jump to F.T.L. and then -- nothing but stars.
"Yes, I can see how many would view 'Gauntlet' as an appropriate series ender but, as much as I love the episode, it still leaves me frustrated. More to the point, it leaves me frustrating knowing that, after 11+ years of resolving cliffhangers, this is the one time I won't be able to come up with the answers.
"Does Destiny make the jump to the other galaxy? How long does the journey take? Does Eli manage to fix the damaged pod(s) or find a way to extend the ship's life support long enough to ensure his survival? Does T.J. find a cure for her ALS? Who does she get together with in the end, Young or Varro? Does Lisa ever regain her sight? I could provide some insight into what we discussed, possible answers to these burning questions but, ultimately, they'll serve as little more than interesting footnotes to greater canon. In the end, the answers are what you choose them to be. In those final moments, we fail to make the jump to F.T.L. with Destiny and, after two years of following its journey, we are left behind to wonder. Maybe they do make the voyage in three years and our crew's adventures will continue, only we won't be privy to them. Maybe, sadly, they don't make it and that final glimpse of Destiny was a true farewell. Or, maybe, Destiny is still out their, still journeying, its crew in stasis, destined to outlive all our questions." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- Someone on the set of SGU left a personal message that is visible, written sideways in chalk on a corridor bulkhead, as Chloe approaches Rush down the corridor just past the 16:00 mark (excluding commercials): "F*CK THE FRENCH". (The U is smudged out.)
Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi apologized to viewers for the oversight sooner after the episode aired, and eagle-eyed viewers spotted it: "As one of the show's executive producers and the one on the front lines of the Internet, it falls on me to offer an apology to all of our French fans who have been nothing short of fantastic in their support of the franchise. ... How the hell did we miss it? No excuses. I don't know. In the past, certain things have gotten past us. There was the infamous Snickers bar in SGA's 'The Ark.' There was the boom mike in SGU's 'Space.' And, most memorable of all, was the camera operator in the SGA Season Four premiere that we only noticed during the Day 2 mix -- and only because eagle-eyed Martin Gero was the one to suddenly notice -- in the opening scene, a bunch of medical equipment sweeps by followed by Weir on the gurney and, finally the camera operator bringing up the rear!
"In the case of this incident, we missed it and I'm sorry. Paul suspects that the reason it got by everyone is that the shot is actually a visual effect and that, whenever we watched it, rather than taking in other aspects of the room, we were focusing on the set extension behind the approaching Chloe to make sure it worked -- thereby missing what was right in front of us."
- "That's what I wanted to play on in this episode, the fact that things are catching up with the seemingly tireless Colonel Young. He's exhausted and, right off the bat, Wray notices and admonishes him, suggesting he get some sleep. Well, at episode's end, he finally does get that long-awaited opportunity to rest his weary bones." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "The ending to 'Gauntlet' that aired was different from the one originally conceived. Before the script was written, hell, even before the writers sat down to spin the actual story, the original pitch had Young and Rush as the last two men standing. With one, lone serviceable pod remaining, they argue, then make the decision to let fate decide. They flip a coin. Winner makes the sacrifice and stays out; loser goes into stasis. The coin flip is made and, as it descends, we FADE OUT, not knowing the results.
"One of the possibilities this particular ending set up was a Season Three opener which finds Rush, three years later, a little loopy from his time alone. As he goes through his daily maintenance of the ship's systems, he converses with members of the crew who, it turns out, are hallucinations. Suddenly, the gate activates. A bewildered Rush hurries to the gate room in time to see Telford lead a rescue op through. Turns out, after several years, Earth finally acquired a means to dialing Destiny. Of course, the rescue turns out to be short-lived as it ends up being a hallucination as well when, in the episode's final turn, we discover Rush in stasis (he was the one who lost the coin toss), evidently dreaming, while Young maintains the solitary existence as Destiny's caretaker.
"As cool as the idea was, it was problematic for a number of reasons. First -- sure, someone might go a little batty after spending three years with no human contact, but Rush? Even though it does turn out to be 'all in his head,' I have a hard time imagining our antisocial Rush minding all that much being alone to explore Destiny, free of outside interference. The second problem was that, essentially, the episode was one big stage-weight -- the equivalent to the 'It was all a dream' short stories your third grade teacher, Mrs. Haversham, used to love so much. A third problem presented itself in the simple fact that this was to be the third season premiere and, as season premieres went, it was lacking in action.
"We discussed moving the stasis reveal to the end of the second act, then, maybe, the end of the first act, but this story still wasn't working until we finally found the solution -- which was to not do the story at all and make Eli the one who stays awake. After all, who better than Eli, the embodiment of our fans and viewers, to make the sacrifice and leave us with that final sense and wonder?" (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "The scripts would come out and we wouldn't know [if our characters were going to be killed off]. We'd get the script hot off the copy machine and flip to the last page, then just work backwards to see if we were alive. That's what it was like all of Season One. I guess it was like halfway through Season One and the producers approached a number of us and gave us a guarantee for Season Two. So we knew, at the very least we were going to make it at least close to the finale of Season Two. So that took the pressure off.
"... So anytime a producer said, 'Can we have a chat for a minute?' I'd panic and run down the hallway. So I was always waiting for that knock on my trailer door, which thank God, never happened." ("Dale Volker" actor Patrick Gilmore, in an interview with MediaBlvd Magazine)
- "Had we gone with the 'three years later' scenario over my preferred '100 years later' scenario, then, yes, Woolsey would have negotiated for access to the Langaran gate which would have been used to mount a rescue mission. As for the fate of Atlantis -- had the movie, Stargate: Extinction, been made, Atlantis would have found its way back to the Pegasus Galaxy within a month of 'Enemy At the Gate.'" (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "We would usually receive news of a pick-up near the end of the season, wrap production, then spend a month or two breaking stories for next season before heading off to write. In the case of SGU, we never got the chance to do any spinning so no stories were written. However, I do know that Brad had a plan for many of the outstanding storylines – as well as answers to a lot of the show’s questions, big and small."
So was there an end point for the mystery of the pattern in the cosmic microwave background radiation? "Yes, definitely. Brad revealed it to me on one of the last days, after the cancellation, and I promised not to reveal it until he got the chance to do so – hopefully in a new Stargate series." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a July 2020 post at his blog)