Major spoilers ahead.
With a title like Pain, it’s obvious that there’ll be some heavy drama in this episode, which may put some viewers off. Right from the opening scene, in which Lt Scott (Brian Smith) is having sex with Lt James (Julia Benson) emotional tensions are running high. Lt Scott tries to leave and Lt James takes it rather badly and bashes him over the head, leaving him dead on the floor.
In another part of the ship, Dale Volker (Patrick Gilmore) gets trapped in his room when his door doesn’t function, and it’s only when Sgt Riley (Haig Sutherland) opens his door from the outside that he can get out. However, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that these are illusions, as we see Lt Scott alive and well, and being entirely bewildered by his son appearing on board.
When it turns out that an alien tick has bitten into the heads of certain members of the crew, including Lt Scott, Dale Volker, Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque), Dr Rush (Robert Carlyle), Sgt Greer (Jamil Smith) and a few other members of the crew, the hallucinations become more of a problem.
Sgt Greer believes that another mutiny is about to occur, and under what he takes as orders from Col Young (Louis Ferreira), he takes unprovoked action.
All the while, Dr Rush gets increasingly freaked out by the fact that he thinks aliens have taken control over the ship, which has to be at least a little unnerving.
This is one of those classic sci-fi staples that has made appearances in many shows over the years including Buffy, Stargate Atlantis and Star Trek Voyager, and that, if you get right, can be brilliant.
Unfortunately, this episode is a little lacking in ingenuity and thought process.
For instance, the first scene in which Lt Scott gets murdered would be increasingly more effecting on the viewer if we didn’t see him a few scenes later alive and well. Dale Volker’s hallucinations, however, become more and more terrifying as the episode goes on, and it’s only a shame that they work out what’s going on early in the episode.
It’s in situations like this that a ‘red-shirt’ would come in handy. It’s something that Stargate Universe has done once before, in the episode which introduced them to the altogether different kind of alien life form they have come across in this series. The ‘dust devil’ in that episode was responsible for the loss of Cpl Gorman early in the series and made the threat to the crew all that more real.
Now, I know that, with a limited number of expendable background characters like we see on Destiny, you can’t afford to kill off a member of the crew every time there is an unknown threat. However, in situations like this, that very thing can sell the threat of the unknown so much more than it can without it.
Still, given that the ticks don’t take anyone’s life, and, in fact, only cast the illusion of doing so to a very limited number of people, the threat becomes relatively infantile and the impact of the hallucinations falters because of it.
Only in the first scene do we really feel like there is anything to worry about as, with a crew full of smart people and relatively good technology, they’re going to find a way around it within the 40-minute runtime.
However, we already know that the rules of the show can be changed, as in the episode Time, and that people can die from alien threats, as in the episode Water. So, the fact that this feels like a step down is disheartening.
It’s not bad, though. The quality we see here is higher than you can get in a lot of other shows on television right now, which is a testament to just how good this team is at making the show.
Even at their lowest hour, they can still make a good episode, no matter if the quality of the writing dips. It’s by no means a good reason to stop watching. In fact, the episode only goes to prove why it is worthwhile viewing.
By giving us this rather poor episode in comparison to the excellent standard we have become accustomed to, we see how this show could be weekly, and if it were at this standard every week, viewers would re-consider their fan status. As it is, this only goes to strengthen the efforts of Time and Human, which are arguably the show’s finest hours.
Of course, I would have preferred that the episode hadn’t been this weak and that this truly brilliant germ of an idea hadn’t went to waste as it has. However, I do still have faith that the quality will pick up, and that it’s only because this idea came from a wealthy pool of great sci-fi that it feels worse than it actually is.
In conclusion, probably the worst episode of the season to date, but given that it has some good points, it’s still worth a watch.
Check out our review of episode 16 here.
Stargate Universe is showing in the UK on Sky1 and Sky1 HD every Tuesday.