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Stargate Universe – Cloverdale

When idyllic paradise turns into a twisted version of hell

This article may contain spoilers.

Turning the tale on its head again, “Stargate Universe” throws us immediately into a hallucinogenic world.

It seemly appears to be a peaceful world with Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian Smith) and Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) riding a bus into the sleepy town of Cloverdale. From the moment that they step off the bus and are greeted by dad Col. Young (Louis Ferreira) and soon to-be brother-in-law Eli (David Blue), we are clued in that this is not Earth as we know it. This is no trip home using the communication stones — it is simply not real. So while Matt goes through the motions of preparing for his wedding to Chloe (Elyse Levesque) in an illusionary haze, we are then given glimpses to what is really going on: Matt was bit by a hostile organism on a planet which they were exploring. The infection rapidly spread leaving him a nearly comatose host and stuck in a fantasy world in his mind.

Fearing that whatever had infected Matt was entrenched, the rest of the Destiny away team debated amputating his arm or worse yet, leaving him behind to die. In a dramatic, if somewhat foolish move, Chloe refused to leave Matt insisting that she had been exposed and possibly infected too. Then in an eleventh hour miracle, Chloes blood was used to cure Matt of the infection and everyone returned safe and sound to the Destiny.

This all sounds dramatic and fairly typical of Stargate Universe storylines. What was more interesting though was what was going on under the surface. Matts hallucinations revealed his subconscious feelings about his relationships with his fellow comrades and friends — and how he really felt about Chloe. He saw Col. Young as a dad-like figure, he viewed Greer as his closest friend, he saw Eli as a brother to Chloe and he saw Chloe as his destined bride.

Yet the longer we saw his utopian world, we also saw the cracks in it. One, Matt was still plagued by the fact that he has commitment issues which was demonstrated when he flirted with his ex-girlfriend, and right in front of Eli who was videotaping it. Two, it was too perfect. Matt knew instinctively that it could not be real. His real reality was just awaiting him and he wanted to get back to it — whether or not reality was really that great of a place. After all, being trapped across the universe on an out-of-control ship chased by aliens and living amongst the enemy with the Lucians on board — real life is certainly not paradise in Matts real world. Three, Matt also subconsciously feared that Chloe was turning into an alien.

So the trip into Matts brain was a fascinating world. It revealed so much and made us wonder about what is really going on his head most of the time.

The other interesting aspect of this episode was the reveal that Chloe is infected — but not by the organism they thought. She is still infected by the aliens who captured her. Her newly enhanced blood may be able to heal her and help her fight off other infections, but she is not the same Chloe she used to be. She is a new and improved version — and yet the new Chloe is something they are now all afraid of. Chloes denial about her alien aspects is understandable, but even she must worry about the potential threat she could pose to those she cares about and loves (interesting that they have not yet cast a suspicious eye on Dr. Rush yet as he too had been in alien-captivity and could be a threat as well).

Ever since it was revealed that there are aliens and they seem rather obsessed with both the ship Destiny and those which reside in it, the show has been in an unconscious count-down mode. Will the aliens return? When and what will they want? Who will they want and why? From the looks of it, this is what is ultimately going on. It is not just a matter of survival and finding a way home, the Destiny-ites need to figure out what is up with the aliens tracking them. That is the next chapter.

What Worked

Chloe was particularly cool in this episode. She had dual roles to play with being the perfect fiancé in Matts hallucination world and the terrified girlfriend willing to do anything to stay with the man she loves — including stay and die with him, or reveal that she was not cured from the alien infection. Yet she rose to the occasion and showed that she will do anything to be with the man she loves. This revealed a depth of character that really had not been seen yet. Chloe is no longer the terrified daddys-little-girl or the unsure third-wheel amidst a journey she never volunteered for. She has turned into a full-fledged strong-willed woman who not only wants to survive, but who is willing to fight for what she wants no matter what the cost — which in this case may have been her own freedom.

Eli too had a dual role being in Matts dream world and it was interesting to see that no matter whether Matt cast Eli as Chloes brother, Eli was still protective of Chloe. Eli may be a super genius, but his one really endearing trait is how he has bonded with Chloe. He may be carrying an unrequited love torch for her, but he always puts aside his feelings and makes sure that she is protected and safe. That is his first priority. So when Chloe refused to leave Matt and was willing to die with him, Elis protective nature was to get her to leave. The internal battle waging within his soul at that moment was powerful. He wanted to protect her, yet he also sensed that what may ultimately be best for her was to let her stay. He was conceding to her wishes because he still wanted what was best for her — even if it cost Chloe her life. That moment of duality was beautiful portrayed. That will always be the toughest choice for Eli — does he protect Chloe or does he honor her wishes?

Finally, it was one of those rare occasions when Young and Rush seemed to be in agreement. They both agreed that leaving Matt behind to die was an acceptable cost to protect everyone on board Destiny. It was those brief moments of clarity in which their primary goal of survival outweighs their constant bickering. Makes us wonder how much more powerful they would be if united more often.

What Didn’t Work

It is getting tiring being thrown right in the midst of some alternate reality without an explanation of what is going on. So many TV shows are using this as way of trying to get the audience invested quicker in the episode. They throw you in the middle of the action and then slowly telling you what happened before to explain how everyone got there. It is confusing, disorientating and kind of aggravating. It would be much better to stick with linear storytelling rather than forcing the viewer to struggle to figure out what the hell is going on. Once in a while this is not a bad way to tell a story. But it is being used to frequently now that it feels gimmicky and needs to be avoided. The writers need to trust that we will patient enough to take the journey with them and they do not need gimmicks to keep us watching. Plus, it only guarantees to turn off new viewers who also wont get what is going on. It is time to stop messing around with the timelines and let us just watch the story.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Cloverdale was written by Brad Wright and directed by Alex Chapple. Stargate Universe stars Robert Carlyle, David Blue, Brian J. Smith, Alaina Huffman, Ming-Na, Lou D. Phillips, Jamil Walker Smith, Elyse Levesque, and Louis Ferreira.

Stargate Universe airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.

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