Stargate Universe: “Pain” Review and Analysis


Welcome back Stargate Universe fans!


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In full disclosure, if you have not watched “Pain” yet and do not want to read any spoilers, turn back now as this article is full of them.

Click to visit Stargate Universe on MGM Dot Com Carl Binder is wonderfully wicked. The same writer that brought you beautiful character development in the episode “Life” turns the crew’s life upside down in “Pain.”Will Waring helmed the director’s chair. The speed at which everything occurs is so fast, it is akin to commentary at a hockey game, so it does not surprise me that this episode earned Brad Rines a 2010 Leo Award nomination for editing.

We are treated to two different musical selections, the first song, “What You Want Me To Do” by The Heavy, on an album which has not been released yet (thus the lyrics are not commercially available). The intensity of the music and the lyrics set the tone of the scene perfectly.

After observing act one, I suspected that Joe Mallozzi’s blog would be on fire with comments about the torrid sexual encounter between 2nd Lt. Vanessa James (Julia Benson) and 1st Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian Jacob Smith).  The scene was intense both actors were fantastic.  That would be a difficult thing to do–act out a scene like that with an entire crew watching you.  That is why they are the actors and I am not; it goes with the territory.  There are many who do not like this new direction the Stargate franchise has taken for a variety of reasons. I am in the thumb-ups box on this. Say what you will, controversy is GREAT for ratings.

James and Scott standoff

Returning through the Stargate after an off-world mission with Scott, James, Airman Dunning (Darcy Laurie, previously on Stargate SG-1, BSG, V), Cpl. Barnes (Leanne Adachi, previous on Stargate Atlantis, Fringe, Defying Gravity), and Dr. Volker (Patrick Gilmore) were these alien reverse-tick-like creatures. Instead of sucking blood out of you, as a tick would, these creatures injected venom into our Destiny crew that caused hallucinations. In fact, they brought back enough to share.

Julia Benson brought in a stellar performance which garnered a 2010 Leo Award nomination for Best Supporting Performance by a Female as 2nd Lt. Vanessa James. Her hallucination involves making mad, passionate love to Lt. Scott but as soon that is over, Scott is headed back to Chloe (Elyse Levesque). James confronts him, telling him he must choose between the two of them. Evil Scott (the hallucination) says there IS no choice (yep, that is about as used as a person can get). A brawl breaks out and Scott throws her to the floor. She picks up a lantern and smashes him in the head, blood oozing out from his skull. He is dead which obviously freaks her out as she crawls back into bed.

Patrick Gilmore’s performance in “Pain” brought him a 2010 Leo Award nomination as Best Supporting Performance by a Male as Dr. Dale Volker. His hallucination perhaps it started out that doors weren’t being opened for him, symbolic for perhaps what should be going on in his life because of his brilliance as an astrophysicist, only to be outperformed by a MIT drop-out, Eli Wallace (David Blue). It was more well-defined when he took a turn in a corridor, saw a wall that didn’t exist, then turned around to leave and was trapped in a doorless corridor.

He realizes something is very wrong and goes to lie down in his quarters. He opens his eyes and goes ballistic as he is trapped between two heavy stones with no room to move whatsoever.

It is so frightening that TJ (Alaina Huffman) has to strap him down and sedate him in the infirmary. I can still hear his screams in my head as I write this review.

Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) with hallucinations is like a cross between someone amped up on crystal meth and anabolic steroids that pump up the testosterone lightly tossed with major paranoia. He believes Rush (Robert Carlyle) and Camile (Ming-Na) are plotting another coup. He goes from vigilance to hunter to almost the final step of crushing his prey (Wray). His father, making a guest appearance in his hallucination, eggs him on to “do it.”

Airman Dunning rubs his arm which begins his hallucination that involves a fear of snakes. Soon thereafter, he tears open the flesh of his arm to get the snakes out.

Lt. Scott sees his son running in the halls of Destiny, but bumps into Chloe and momentarily snaps out of it. He sees him again and realizes that it cannot possibly be his son, but the feelings of abandonment of his son are strong. I feel for Scott; he feels guilty for not being there for a son he just found out he had. He is always the person who is hardest on himself. The pain is written on his face.

Riley (Haig Sutherland) is an unaffected crew member; however, since he has come out of his coma from his injuries sustained on “Earth”, he has become akin to Eeyore. I liked some gems as, “The stress of life on this ship day after day of not knowing what’s ahead, it’s no wonder more people aren’t cracking up.” And, regarding Greer, “I always figured he’d be the first to snap.” And let’s not forget his line at the end, “Just remember the bug spray.”

Others not affected appear to be Colonel Young (Louis Ferreira), Eli, TJ, Camile Wray, Dr. Brody (Peter Kelamis), Dr. Lisa Park (Jennifer Spence), Becker (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), Cpl. Barnes.

James is rattled when she sees her dead Scott walk through the doors in the infirmary.  Scott informs them that he, too, is having visions.

TJ discovers that there is some bug on them that may be injecting venom. Lt. Scott becomes a guinea pig as they try to do the routine medical treatment for removing an Earth tick, removal with tweezers which puts him into cardiorespiratory arrest for which they do CPR. I prefer to think of him as putting himself again in the hero mode. Function returns, but he remains unconscious for awhile.

Chloe talks to her hallucinated father, Alan Armstrong (Christopher McDonald).

Later on, after Eli sees her talking to air, she pleads with Eli not to say anything because nothing is being harmed and she realizes it is a hallucination.  Eli placates her for awhile but after Scott comes looking for her, knowing the tick jumped to her, he shows Scott where she is.

Hallucinations invade Rush. His posttraumatic stress is amplified feeling closed into a clear box, being filled with water, him fending for his life. He then sees the aliens.  Later on in the episode, he believes Wray is one of those aliens and inflicts wounds upon her shoulder.

It was so touching to see Young’s concern for TJ and the baby, and I think she liked it, too. Since removing the bug did not work, TJ considers using the alien venom they have been using for anesthetic to apply topically and remove it; it works.

In another very emotional scene, Chloe shows the deep loss and grief over her father. She is willing to put herself at risk in order to just be with her father once again, to share one last conversation, something she was denied when he sacrificed his life on Destiny to save the crew. She experiences that loss once again as she has to say goodbye a second time. It broke my heart.

After Dr. Volker recovers, he theorizes the venom impacted the limbic system. He tells the group that it controls fear, anger and remorse. That is a simple way of putting it for the audience to understand.

The limbic system is much bigger than that. It controls emotion, memory, motivation, hunger, sex, aggression, depression, stress, hallucinations, flashbacks and posttraumatic stress disorder. Interestingly, the bug only heightens those thoughts already there in the mind. The thought that Greer would actually kill Camile offers great insight into his psyche; the same can be said about James.

In the aftermath of the crew readjusting to their lives and adjusting to the actions of themselves and the actions they took towards others, they realize that the individuals are truly capable of performing those actions in extreme circumstances.  For example, Greer would absolutely shoot Wray if she tried another mutiny and Wray realizes this.  While the civilians were upset about the way Young treated Rush, leaving him stranded on the planet, and were willing to stage a coup to do it, Wray now sees there were consequences of her actions in that mutiny.

The whole montage is set to another great song, “Agony” by the Eels:

Am I gonna be all right?
No I’m not gonna be all right
Nothing is all right now
Am I gonna see the sun come up?
Or am I going down?
’cause every day I’m here
All I feel is sheer

Friends tellin’ me that maybe I need
Some psychiatric help
Yeah they’re always so quick to tell you
Just how to get on with it
But I look into the mirror
And all I see is age, fear
And agony

If I could just remember what it was like
When I was younger
Before all the joy and happiness
Was replaced with hunger
Now all I’ve got to show for the seeds that didn’t grow
Is agony

(By the way, I love how the Destiny drops out of FTL at the right moment in the song. Fantastic editing and sound mix.)

Another wormhole is opened (for 10 hours). After what our crew has experienced, no one would blame them for wanting to take a break for a few planets. Trying to be optimistic, Young says that their luck has to change, but I suspect that is more of an ironic statement than anything else. Space travel in unknown galaxies is a dangerous business. They have to travel to these planets in order to survive. It is that precise intrigue and the willingness to explore the unknown that makes science fiction great and this particular Stargate franchise succeed.

There is one element that would have made this episode even better:  Someone should have had a Sgt. Spencer (Josh Blacker) hallucination!  This would have been a perfect venue to bring him back.  Perhaps that would have been Dr. Franklin’s hallucination prior to sitting in the chair.

WormholeRiders. Click to visit & follow WHR on Twitter!A star-studded cast is on hand for the next episode. Some old favorites return — Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, and Mike Dopud (of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and BSG).  We finally see the return of Colonel Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips). Is Telford a traitor or is he being set up?  And we will get to see new characters emerge as we find out what the Lucian Alliance’s motivations are. I can’t wait!

I appreciate the time you invested to read this report and hope to see you back soon.

What are your natural fears that this bug might have exaggerated? My list is quite long! Share your thoughts below.

PBMom (Hilda Bowen)



2 thoughts on “Stargate Universe: “Pain” Review and Analysis

  1. Thank you. I am a worthless photographer, but better with this stuff. I guess people are “fearful” of telling us what their hallucination might be? Ha, ha. I’ll go first. I’m thinking maybe for me rodents. Bad experiences as a child with them. But insects and reptiles would be equally as distressing. We had a snake in our house last year and I was told it was this big (about 6 inches). When Jeff tried to use a broom to guide it out the door, and it started moving it was more like 2 feet long. I jumped over the love seat and screamed.

  2. Hey Hilda,

    As usual, a lovely review of SGU “Pain”. Most impressive and I especially loved the images selected. They are sweet. Great job!

    Best Regards

Comments are closed.

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