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The Making of SGU Season 2 | Stargate Universe

Featured image of SGU season 2 - Robert Carlisle

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Editor’s note:

With the second issue of our all-new digital magazine SciFiNow+ coming next week on The Companion, we dug deep into their archive to bring you this on-set exclusive from way back on the second season of Stargate Universe. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past as much as we did for those unexpected glimpses into what was on the cards for SGU Season 3.

“I think that the overriding thing of Season 2, in addition to the ongoing tensions aboard the ship, is the gradual recognition of what Destiny’s mission ultimately is,” said Brad Wright, Stargate Universe’s executive producer, when SciFiNow spoke to him on the Vancouver set of the show. “We are going to find out as the season unfolds not only what the mission is but how important it is and how we may be the only ones around who could do it. The truth is, were not unpeeling the whole onion at once, but it is profound enough that it captures the imagination and more importantly the hearts of the people on the crew, so it’s not just about going home anymore. It’s now, ‘Man, weve got to do this!’” 

For many fans, of course, it’s a question of simply having to see it. 

Stargate Universe started out shakily, to say the least. Resentment was high among the support base over the fact that Stargate Atlantis was cancelled in favor of producing the show. The switch to a darker, grimier feel induced accusations of being too similar to Battlestar Galactica, and the slow nature of the show drew criticism as well. Now that it’s finished a full season and has just started to air its next batch in the US, its support is more or less solid, the show having demonstrated unique qualities and built its own personality on top of its predecessors. Indeed, Wright is unconcerned about those who persist in vocally disliking the show, even as it is changing slightly. 

“I know that people who watch this franchise like seeing our characters running around and being quippy and exploding things, so we‘re doing some of those, and we always intended to do some of those,” he said. “The pace has increased in our storytelling in Season 2 and people who have criticised us for that are going to be… well, we’re not asking what they are saying. We are making the show the way we intended to make the show.” 

This bullish defence of Universe, typical among its cast in particular as well as its crew, also comes with a promise for a third season. “We always intended to make that gear change, and we have a gear change planned for Season 3, if we are lucky enough to have a Season 3, that is significant and may bring in some of our older fans too. But I think [the show] will be completely accepted by our new fans, because they know our characters now, and I think it is a character-driven show.

Conflict and Interest

The characters are, certainly, the heart and soul of the series, and Universe is unique for having such a large ensemble of main and recurring ones to draw from. The two most interesting by far, however, are Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert Carlyle, and Colonel Everett Young, played by Louis Ferreira. 

“Where he is going in his head is towards ascension,” said Carlyle, in attempting to explain the motivations and destination of his character. “Which is what the whole Ancients thing is about, that eventually we no longer have any use for the human body and the spirit itself becomes immortal and I think that’s what he wants, that is what he is heading for, he wants to know how to do that.” 

Known as being something of a Machiavellian archetype aboard the ship, Rush further ensconced himself within his own secrets in the next season, taking his obfuscation to a new level. “He has found the bridge and he is now steering the ship, flying it and stopping it and stuff like that, but he hasn’t told anyone,” Carlyle revealed. 

“Floating along, suddenly we come out of FTL- and usually when that happens the countdown clock comes on and there is a planet in range – but the ship is stopping in the middle of nowhere and when this happens Rush keeps leaving the room. He is keeping this secret that he is not alone on the bridge. This secret, of course, may have severe repercussions on board. His dead ex-wife and his dead scientist pal are both there, so that is Louise Lombard playing [Gloria] again and Franklin is Mark Burgess. And the ship has either sucked these people into itself in order to communicate with Rush or he is completely delusional, he’s lost his mind. And you have to watch and see what the answer actually is.” 

Brad Wright’s take on the character is a different one, however. “Well sometimes, especially with Rush, the end justifies the means. And if the end is noble enough, then the means can be fairly dark, and we have tried quite hard in this show to have strong arguments, both of which are valid, between the two camps,” he said. “I think there’s a great scene between Rush and Young in an episode called ‘The Greater Good’, and the title gives away what Rush’s whole agenda really is: if it’s for the greater good then it’s okay. And when his own ego is involved, that’s when he gets himself in trouble, but when they go at it again – to the same extent as they did in ‘Justice’ last season – the two have to figure out how to make this work. That doesn’t mean in Season 3 they aren’t going to hate each other again.”

Dr. Rush  (Robert Carlyle) in Destiny’s Gateroom in ‘Twin Destinies’ – S2, Ep12. | MGM, 2011.

Indeed, the conflict between the two is going to have to reach some level of resolution, as opposed to the Cold War-style détente currently in place. 

“Well the dynamic between Rush and Young, and the lack of trust that is fairly well established, is this two-headed monster that they have become in terms of how they run the ship, having to essentially just put up with each other as opposed to be a genuine partnership,” said Wright. “He doesn’t trust Young, he doesn’t trust him at all, and certainly not with the information he has. He believes wholeheartedly that he is the only one capable of understanding the depth and breadth of what can be understood on this ship. He’s wrong. And he will be proven wrong. But his lack of faith and trust, in Young especially, is the biggest motivating factor for that. Ultimately, we are going to have to work together, again. And Young is going to, throughout the course of the season, provide more and more reasons to be trusted even by Rush. And while we will always pull them apart and make them go at each other, we don’t want the theme of the entire series to be just this ongoing schism – we need some cohesion among these people.” 

The Stars my Destination

Launched over 50 million years ago from Earth, Destiny was an automated Ancient vessel sent to explore planets seeded with Stargates. The Ancients planned to board it when it had reached a certain distance from Earth, but presumably ascended before this happened. 

The ship itself is solar-powered, literally, in that it flies more or less into a star to recharge its batteries before continuing. It travels at a faster-than-light speed, but not using the traditional hyperdrive prevalent through other iterations of the Stargate franchise.

The Stargate that it contains is considered to be a prototype of the ones seen in the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies, or at the very least, one of the first created. The ship automatically drops out of FTL when a connection is made to it, allowing the vessel to be boarded. 

Young himself has his own problems to deal with this season, other than Rush.

“I will say that Young found the bar. That definitely happens in Season 2,” said Louis Ferreira. “He does start sinking a few, on Earth it would be escapism… there is a trigger that happens in the very first episode so you understand as to why and I think after a point, as tough as one man can be and as militant as one can be, there are certain things that just will break any man and one of those things happens to Young.”

The actor also revealed that his character motivations change as the season goes on, in reference to the conflict between Young and Rush. “You have two different camps thinking two different thoughts: you have the science guy who is here to explore and wants to be here for his own personal reasons, whereas I think Young’s intention was always to get everyone home. There are a lot of people on the ship who don’t necessarily a) want to be here or b) had the choice, so his bigger picture was to try to get everyone home, but in season two what starts to happen is that he gets seduced by the idea of what he is possibly here to discover. The ship itself becomes its own historic revelation sort of thing.”

One character that has certainly changed since the start of the show has been Eli Wallace, played by David Blue. At first, he was little more, in some views, than a conduit for the fans, a Mary Stu invention that placed those who watched the show in its context. As the season has progressed, however, Eli has developed into a rounded character, and it’s something that continues in the second season. 

“It’s crazy because whenever I step back and look at Eli now as opposed to Eli in Season 1, I feel like he is completely different,” said Blue. “Not in a bad way, he still looks at everything humorously and tries to find the good in people, but in a way these people and this situation has really put him through the wringer. I think a lot of that starts coming into fruition in Season 2, it starts making him take responsibility and grow up a little bit, and have to come into his own and really contribute instead of just sitting around and letting everyone else make all of the mistakes for him. And that includes this wonderful new love interest that he has. It is him taking, not accountability, but taking responsibility for his life and saying, ‘I deserve to be happy’.”

Alien Nation

Outside of the main characters, fans can also rest assured that the science fiction aspect of the show will be enhanced, with Destiny’s crew meeting even more aliens this season. 

“Well, we promised ourselves that we would make it more about the people and their interactions, but we are going through the universe and we are encountering other species, it’s just that those species are so otherworldly and so not human,” said Wright, before adding: “For the most part, I mean the Lucian Alliance are human – but these creatures when we encounter them are completely CG and very unique. And the Blues that we met last season are going to return, and we will meet more CG aliens, several times this season.”

The Blues, aliens we previously saw in the episode ‘Space’ (S1, Ep11) were distinctly hostile to the ship’s human crew, abducting both Rush and Chloe. Some of the new aliens won’t have such crystal clear intentions, however. “They’re cool. They have their own spaceships, some of them. There is one we are going to meet in the second half of the season that is quite horrific and quite monstrous, but has a respect for intelligence that is going to hopefully help save one of our lives.” 

Carlyle reinforced this aspect of the unknown, saying that the show has raised the bar for weirdness. “The aliens this season are really interesting actually because they are not what you imagine or what you’d expect, I think,” he said. “Some of them, one set of them are really quite kind, they are nice people. They look horrible but they are actually quite good. But there is another bunch that are still fucking with us right now [episode 12, filming on set as we interviewed him] and we don’t know what they are and they make strange things happen, which is weird. In the Stargate Universe world so far these are the weirdest aliens we have come across, they are strange people.”

James Rundle and Sarah Lucy May

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