Human offered a wonderfully skilled and nuanced performance by Carlyle and offered him a chance to delve deeply into the mind and torment of the brilliant yet grieving scientist Nicholas Rush. Carlyle’s work with Louise Lombard (if only she were a regular on this show) as his dying wife Gloria Rush stunned and moved the audience in a poignant concerto of a man losing his wife while searching for the key to his universe aboard the starship Destiny.
From its surprising opening, Human suggests, we’re witnessing Rush’s memory of his past as a cruelly absent husband distancing himself from a wife dealing with cancer. Barely listening to Gloria whom he claims to love, we see Rush looking at her through a tunnel vision of swirling numbers and symbols.
As the episode progresses, we learn Rush is actually sitting Destiny’s neural interface chair that is the key to getting control of the ship. This is the same type of interface device that in the original SG-1 series caused Col. Jack O’Neil to turn crazy-genius— burning so brightly it nearly killed him. Earlier this season, Rush manipulated one of his underlings, Franklin, to try out that chair and the guy’s still in a coma. This time Rush decides to test the chair, and the entire episode created life or death tension as we wondered if Rush would finally meet his doom.
As Rush worked out math problems in his vision, we also get a welcome visit from SG1 alum Michael Shanks asking thought-provoking questions that finally make Rush fit the puzzle pieces together. The answer to the chair is beautifully simple—a lesson that the show runners could learn from.
Had Human stuck to the simple eloquent of heart-breaking character piece with the magnificent Robert Carlyle, I would have given it an A+. After all, the episode’s title alone suggests that a focus on the complexities of what makes someone a true person. We learn more about Rush and his inner and past life that make him understandable, flawed and admirable. This was more than enough. And Carlyle is gold. True gold.
The “hey we’re trapped in a tunnel so rescue us” back-story should have been cut out entirely. When are episodic shows going to realize that you don’t need to muck it up with false complexity when you have one truly mesmerizing story? Four people have six hours to explore ancient ruins on a strange planet. Two of the younger members of the away team insist on going underground…uh what’s going to happen? Hmmm… We simply didn’t need this storyline to create more tension. It detracted from the poetic and deeply affecting and Human storyline of Dr. Rush and his wife.
Seeing Michael Shanks reprise Daniel Jackson made me long for a return visit by Samantha Carter for a worthy female role model to send on away missions. If there’s one criticism I have of this otherwise quality show, it’s the lack of stronger women. Thank goodness Ming-Na’s Camille Wray has finally been allowed to be a competent leader if only in an advisory capacity. TJ the medic still has hope though she has been saddled with a pregnancy that will no doubt make her less viable as an explorer. Lt. James just seems like she wants to shoot her gun or blow things up. Chloe, though young is still too goofy and unqualified to be going on any away missions. Case in point…the four people wouldn’t have been trapped in the tunnel had she not A) insisted on it with Eli backing her up because he’s still crushing on her and B) freaked out over running into cobwebs.
But despite the forced complexity of stranding four people on a planet, Human is one of the best episodes second only to Time this season largely due to Robert Carlyle’s exquisite performance. Watching him go through his deepest fears and regrets was surprising particularly when he admitted Eli was the genius he’d never be.
His final gut-wrenching scene with his wife foreshadowed a change about to happen as she tells him… “I know how much you loved me… stop taking it out on everyone else.”
The fact Rush can come out of that scene immediately into an effort to help save the stranded shipmates shows that at his heart. Rush is a true hero that needs to get back to his path. My advice to Stargate Universe, don’t focus so much on creating needless complex plotlines but focus on strengthening the other “Human” characters in this powerful show.